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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2009

E 388M • Research Methods for Online Environments

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

"We have three principal means: observation of nature, reflection, and experiment. Observation gathers the facts, reflection combines them, experiment verifies the result of the combination. It is essential that the observation of nature be assiduous, that reflection be profound, and that experimentation be exact. Rarely does one see these abilities in combination. And so, creative geniuses are not common." Denis Diderot (1713-84) "On the Interpretation of Nature XV," 1753.

Diderot's quote exemplifies enlightenment ideals for research in the sciences. Seemingly straightforward and unambiguous, each term of this quote presents its own set of problems for contemporary research, and most particularly for research in computer-based environments, from email to multimedia to social networks to the games. These environments are increasingly important not only as subjects for inquiry by researchers, but also as resources.

The double impact of technology on research challenges conventional research methods; ethnographies, surveys, case studies, discourse analysis and other methodologies must be reconsidered, new methods must be developed to address fundamental questions in this field. In this course we will focus on case study methods; we will also work toward reconceiving research from theory to method to practice. We will explore these environments not only as potential subjects for research, but also as potential resources for researchers. From word processed transcripts of an interview, to sophisticated programs for discourse analysis, to online publication of research results, to debates in scholarly computer forums, new technologies have dramatically altered the playing field for researchers. This course will explore case study research, drawing on a variety of approaches from different disciplines. In the process we will take a critical look at both conventional and electronic research strategies in composition studies and rhetoric. Consequently we will be concerned with epistemological issues surrounding the construction and sharing of knowledge, as well as issues in the rhetoric of inquiry.



Bentz, V.M. and Shapiro, J. Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. Thousand Oaks, Calif, Sage

Fleck, Ludwik. The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

Katzer, Cook, Crouch. Evaluating Information: A Guide for Users of Social Science Research. 3rd Ed.

Varela, The View from Within

Yin, R. K. (1984). Case Study Research : Design and Methods. Beverly Hills, Calif., Sage.

Yin, R. K. (1993). Applications of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.


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11. Polkinghorne, D. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany, State University of New York Press.

12. Resnick, L. B., J. M. Levine, et al., Eds. (1991).Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition. Washington, D. C., American Psychological Association.

13. Shore, B. (1996). Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning. New York, Oxford University Press.

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15. Syverson, M. A. (1999). The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

16. Wolcott, H. F.(1990). Writing Up Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.


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