Secondary Comp: Brainstorming Questions

I mentioned in a post from yesterday that I’m getting ready to take my secondary comp exam this semester and on qualitative research methods, and my focus is on workplace research. At Georgia State, we work with our exam director to help us craft the questions we’ll be answering for the exam.

The secondary exam is made up of 3 questions. In a 72 hour period, I’ll answer each question in the form of an 8-10 page essay, using the sources from my reading list.

So far, these are the common themes of questions I’ve come across during my reading and in my conversations with my director. Now, of course, we’ll need to narrow the list down to 3 questions, not 5, and each question will be a bit more concise. But it’s a start:

Question 1: Design a study to examine the production of new media texts. What would that look like?

Design a workplace study. Outline and justify choices for the design of the study. What kind of data are you collecting, how would you collect it, and how would you analyze it? Describe the role of the researcher.

Question 2: What does workplace ethnography look like? Trace the notion of workplace ethnography.  In what ways has it changed and evolved? Compare and contrast current techniques for data collection and analysis using digital methods that we did not have in the past. What has that done for the way we structure research and interact with participants?

Question 3: How can I repurpose the same techniques used in writing process research to understand the kind of work processes of interface designers and/or user experience designers?

Within the context of usability and based on what we know about process and what we know about writing products, how do we create a usability model that looks at the production of “texts” created by interface designers and/or user experience designers?

What do we know–theoretically and procedurally–from usability, writing process research, and digital writing research? What are the focuses,  what do they do, and how have we created these methodologies and what are the limitations of what we’ve created? [Looking back over my notes, I’m now not sure what I was hoping to understand by answering this question…]

Question 4: What sorts of methodologies and methods have we, within Technical Communication, supported in the past that have led us to where we are today? Within the scope of Technical Communication that has embraced usability and user experience explain our development from a research prospective? (Will probably have to narrow the scope of this question even further in order to write a solid exam answer.)

What are the connections between Technical Communication, in terms of method/methodology, to other parts of the discipline?

Question 5: In the context of Technical Communication and digital writing, how are our methods of research changing or how do they need to change? How are our preferences for research and tools changing?

Designing a Research Project is Like Shopping–but worse.

Image(image source)

I’m approaching the last few hurdles of my PhD. Calling my secondary comp exam and the dissertation “hurdles,” however, is a pretty sad comparison. It’s like telling Aries Merritt “I’m sorry. We’ve switched out your 42-inch hurdles. You’ll now be jumping over the Empire State Building. Good luck.”

But I digress.

I’m scheduled to take my secondary comp exam at the beginning of April. My focus for the exam is on qualitative research methods (specifically workplace ethnography), which will help gear me up for my dissertation prospectus and eventually my dissertation work. (Yeah… that big nasty D-word.)

One of my comp questions will essentially give me a jump start on the methods section of my dissertation prospectus. Sounds simple, right? All I have to do is figure out what kind of research questions I want my dissertation work to answer, then go about telling my committee what methods I intend to use to answer them. Yeh…it’s only simple if you’ve never tried it.

Continue reading