Readings for November 22 in 8011

We had four readings for this week, focused on feminist criticism and theory in technical communication research:

MacNealy, M. S. (1998). Qualitative Research with Special Lenses: Feminist and Teacher Research (Chapter 12). In Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing. Longman.

Schuster, M. L. (2006). A Different Place to Birth: A Material Rhetoric Analysis of Baby Haven, a Free-Standing Birth Center. Women’s Studies in Communication, 29(1), 1-38. doi:Article

Schuster, M.L. (writing as Lay, M. M.) (2002). Feminist Criticism and Technical Communication Research. In L. J. Gurak & M. M. Lay (Eds.), Research in Technical Communication: Ablex Publishing.

Discussed in a previous post: Propen, A. D., & Schuster, M. L. (2010). Understanding genre through the lens of advocacy: the rhetorical work of the victim impact statement. Written Communication, 27(1), 3-35. doi:10.1177/0741088309351479

I read MacNealy’s chapter first, because she is often helpful and seems a little less partisan. She uses this chapter also to discuss “teacher research,” which is interesting in its own right. Each of these stances emphasizes involvement of the researcher in the research study, as opposed to the “traditional stance of the researcher as an outsider who objectively” performs the study (p. 232).

MacNealy devotes some time to feminist criticisms of “traditional research paradigms” (233-236). She reaches the same conclusion I would: that both traditional and critical research perspectives have something to offer. This is something of a neutral stance.

Question: As her book is about empirical methods, which some feminists shun as being androcentric and gynopic, would the be called a partisan just by claiming a neutral stance?

Question: MacNealy characterizes the interview as the most popular means of collecting data in feminist research; are feminist researchers uneasy at all about the validity and utility of observations that arise out of what is likely to be a complex social give and take between interviewer and interviewee? (I would be without some kind of triangulation.)

More useful stuff in this chapter, but I want to leave time to talk about the other pieces.

Mary Schuster’s chapter on feminist criticism in TC research describes some features of feminist research:

  • “Feminism is a perspective rather than a method.
  • “Feminist researchers use a ‘multiplicity’ of research methods. [D?]
  • “Feminist research ‘involves an ongoing criticism of nonfeminist scholarship.’ [G?]
  • “Feminist research is guided by feminist theory. [tautology]
  • “Feminist research is often ‘transdisciplinary.’ [D?]
  • “Feminist researchers identify social change as one goal. [D?]
  • “Feminism ‘strives to represent human diversity.’ [D?]
  • “Feminist researchers acknowledge their personal traits and the impact of those traits on their research. [D?]
  • “Feminist researchers may ‘develop special relations’ with the people they study. [G?]
  • “Feminist researchers may establish or define special relationships with their readers.” [??]

I marked some of these characteristics as [D?], wondering if they actually distinguish this perspective from others; [G?], wondering if they are really desirable; and [??], wondering what the heck it means. I’d like to hear more about the philosophy that underlies these characteristics.

Dr. Mary Schuster discussed the “Baby Haven” and “Understanding Genre” articles in our class on November 22. The Baby Haven study arose in the context of other research Dr. Schuster did on midwifery in Minnesota. The Understanding Genre study arose out of volunteer work that Dr. Schuster did with a group called WATCH, which monitors court proceedings in certain types of cases.

As for the Baby Haven study, I’d offer much the same questions as in the Propen and Schuster study that I posted on earlier.

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