Last time I took a Greyhound bus, I was 21 years old. Suffice it to say, it’s been a while. I am composing the post on a bus between Milwaukee and Chicago listening to The Clash. I’m typing with my thumbs on my Smart Phone (See Arroyo’s “thumb writing”).
I remember my last trip on the bus because it was my senior year at Alma College. I was traveling to visit friends in Chicago despite the fact that I was writing an Honor’s thesis. On that trip, my backpack (a green Jansport and tres 90s chic) was full of printed JStor articles that I read furiously for hours. I scribbled in margins and took hasty notes.
My research process remains largely unchanged. I still prefer to print articles. I don’t start with JStor anymore, but I still search there. The biggests change is the ubiquity of Wifi. I can start my search anywhere.
For people who matriculated before the 1990s, their research processes may have changed drastically. The library has evolved from a physical warehouse to a multi-access-hub for information. But more than that, the sheer quantities of information available are staggering. How do we weed through all of this? Or, more importantly, how do we teach students how to weed through all of this data? As a writing teacher, I think I need to start paying more attention to information literacies. I usually cover Boolean search logic, but I’m not sure this is enough.
Then again, maybe I need to reflect on my own process. I often cast a wide net and refine. Is that always the best process? Does it make sense for the kinds of writing I ask my students to do?
Perhaps grounding the discussion of research in rhetoric would help. We need to move beyond ethos/pathos/logos and authority. Or, we shouldn’t stop there. Instead, we should look at how databases and websites categorize themselves. What do tags and search terms say about the author’s perception of audience and use.
This reminds me of DeVoss and Rodolfo’s rhetorical velocity. When we use databases, we access data created expressly for reuse. That’s kinda the whole point of research! What if we asked students to interrogate an article’s success at categorizing itself?