(Fun fact for before I begin my blog: Every time I see or hear or read “Topsight” I always think of “Top Gun” and then I get excited because I feel like I’m on a cool plane mission instead of at school. Especially since the entire book is split into different “phases.” It all seems like an elaborate plan or mission or scheme that is playing out before my eyes. That’s all.)
Phase II Review
Phase II of Topsight picks up right where Phase I left off. Phase I discussed the basics of planning a study, from developing research questions to preparing all of the paperwork that is needed to conduct the study. Phase II continues this by addressing how to conduct a study, hence the phase is called “Conducting a Study.” The chapter titles are rather self-explanatory and I am assuming that my wonderfully intelligent and hard-working audience did the reading, so instead of summarizing almost 60 pages of text, for this particular discussion post I am going to hit my favorite topics covered in each of the sections.
Chapter 6: Introducing Yourself to Participants
A well-known saying goes, “first impressions can be tough.” This is why a proper introduction is so important. Establishing who you are and why you are in a place is extremely important if you want the people you are approaching to respect you and to work with you. In this section, the most interesting comment to me was the importance of how you move on after introductions. Spinuzzi suggests that one should not allow participants to be assigned, because then they will feel coerced and may not respond well to your questions. I have seen this in real life as an RA. When I do what we call “intentional interactions” with students, I get more luck having deep conversations with my residents when they approach me or the conversation is not forced; when I read questions off the proscribed list or have sign-up sheets for residents to come talk to me, the conversations are usually a little more strained.
Chapter 7: Observing
The Hawthorne Effect is real. I have felt it in my life and I am assuming you have felt it in yours. It makes me wonder how to get around this effect if you notice it happening.
I love that Spinuzzi makes a point to iterate that people are “weird.” This is so important to remember when working with other human beings. We are strange beings inherently and oftentimes we do not make sense to ourselves, let alone to others. This is imperative to keep in mind as an observer because it forces you to enter situations with grace and patience with others. It also allows you to look past what you are observing and see what is really going on. People are people. And people are weird. Once one understands this, the better off the research process will go.
Chapter 8: Interviewing
This chapter discusses the three different interview styles: structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. What kind of style one uses to research all depends on the type of person the researcher is, what type of person the interviewee is, and what the situation is. I am almost always a semi-structured interviewer because it is the most natural with my personality. I tend to always stray off my questions because I find people so fascinating and because what they say sparks other ideas into my mind.
I ran into trouble last year when researching peace communications in Africa with a friend of mine last year. We had to interview many different people over the course of a semester, and we came up with a solid list of questions. She thought the interviews were going to be structured; I thought they were going to be semi-structured. This led to a lot of confusion and awkwardness during our interviews, when I started asking questions that were not on the list and she did not know what was going on. I say this to remind you to go into interviews with a plan- know what you are getting into and what is expected of you. It will help.
Chapter 9: Artifacts
I honestly thought this chapter was so interesting because I had never heard or thought of artifacts before. Artifacts are “the information resource tools, and other physical materials that participants use” (115). The usually all have something that connects them so that they serve a bigger purpose in the study. They can be used in observation and in interviews and can be seen in the background. Spinuzzi talks about how to use artifacts, where to find them, and what to do with them. If by chance you forgot about this reading assignment and forgot to read (or just didn’t want to, I get it, it’s college) I would recommend reading this chapter because it covers topics that not many research classes cover.
Chapter 10: Collecting Other Sorts of Data
Sometimes life is busy or people need help, so research does not take its usual black-and-white form. This chapter (all two pages) is all about nontraditional research styles, whether that be social media or drawing. It is okay to think outside of the box sometimes. In professional writing, we are taught to be deep thinkers, and that oftentimes requires us to think of something other than what has already been done. We are supposed to be creative, innovate, and strategic. That is what this entire course has been about!
- If someone was studying you personally, what are some “artifacts” he or she might find and use? (pg. 116)
- How does proper interview procedure relate to our previous talks about ethics? (pg. 80-81)
- What does it look like to be an active listener? (pg. 107)