Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quantitative Description & Quasitrue



PURPOSE: To judge the frequency with which barriers interrupt the effective listening of college students.  Falling under this general aim were the more particular goals of identifying the barriers students thought were most frequent, the factors of the barriers themselves, and the way those factors differ over certain demographics.

SUBJECTS:  1200 students comprising three sections of a communications lecture at a southwest state university.  These lecture sections were then divided into 33 breakout sessions, each containing about 35 students.  The study randomly selected 10 of these sections, or 350 students.

COLLECTION:  Questionnaires were distributed to the students, comprising 279 different prompts.  They asked students to rank the frequency of listening barriers of a 5-point Likert scale.

ANALYSIS:  The original barrier factors were developed from a review of the literature and consultation with "several" professors.  Then a pilot study with 65 communication students refined the material used on the test questionnaire.  Answers to that questionnaire where then ranked and calculated for standard deviation.


PURPOSE:  "to record and understand the ways nanoscale science and technology continues to be represented in public examine the concepts and the process by which nanoscale science and technology was first represented in the public media" (147).

SUBJECT: Mr. Faber is proud, and he should be, of reading 885 articles on nanotechnology, covering the period between January 1986 and December 1999.  He framed that original population by using his university's ProQuest server to ferret out articles with the keyword of "nanotechnology."  From that large pool he then excluded popular publications and repeat article printings, leaving him with final collection of 203 articles.

COLLECTION: He came up with the marvelously precise and equally arcane method of separating sentences into themes (left of the verb) and rhemes (after the verb).  He then took those elements and examined them for topics of nanotech.  That yielded 39 topics, which he then labeled representations and returned back to the 203 articles to sift those representations (this last pass is the one that is most obscure).

ANALYSIS:  With his list of representations, Faber then could easily rank them temporally and discern the frequency of their occurrence.  He categorized these frequencies in three groups: high, average, and low-occurring.



PURPOSE: The study emerges from Norton's communicator style, especially its dimensions of Openness and Dominance.  It seeks to understand what effects these different communicator styles produce between salesman and customer.

SUBJECTS: 80 undergraduate business students at Bryant college.  No real indication was given as to how these subjects were selected.

COLLECTION: Two performers staged four videos.  In each the customer remained neutral while the salesperson shifted pitch across a four-step scale (Dominant; Dominant/Open; Open/Dominant; Open).  "A small group of subjects" was then asked to match the videos to the 4 step scale.  Everyone (testers and experimenters) were in agreement.  Groups of 5-6 subjects from the sample were then asked first to self-evaluate alla Norton's communicator style.  They then viewed the tapes and filled out a 42-question Likert-scale questionnaire.

ANALYSIS:  Many of the questions had been pre-determined to relate to similar ideas.  Thus, the raters were easily able to generate six composite scores: perception of salespeople in general, the product being sold, the interaction on tape, the act of buying in general, and the actual salesperson on tape.


PURPOSE: The overriding goal had a long reach: "to explore...patterns of thought and language that characterize growth in informative writing ability across junior- and senior-high-school years."  A little less broadly, the study looked at the capacities of students to navigate and communicate information change over grade levels by seeing how they pass on directions of a board game they have just played.

SUBJECTS: 24 5th graders, 26 seventh graders, 19 hs freshman, 27 hs juniors, and 27 college freshman were pulled from English classes at four schools from the same city in central Iowa as well as Iowa State University.  But the researcher eliminated those subjects who could not demonstrate a basic proficiency with the game (this is a little vague—plus, aren't they an important part of this range?).

COLLECTION: First, students watched a silent film showing a teacher and a student playing the game.  Three days later they watched it again.  Using a small card identifying the game pieces by name, students then had to write out the directions to the game as completely as possible.  A multiple choice quiz followed, which had been validated by administering it to college seniors unversed in the game; they didn't score much better than chance allowed.  (Yuck: why is it a quiz when kids are young and a survey when they get older?).

ANALYSIS: This was involved.  The game was broken into 10 elements, each element given a value depending on complexity, and then scored by two raters.  Extra points were given for extra clarity.  The experimenter evaluated the college student work and was checked against another rater (who didn't rate all the college submissions).  Two raters also checked for evidence of "orientating information" at the start of the instructions.  Again, two raters evaluated the mode of address the information used.  Finally the scores were adjusted for grade level, crunched for trends, and subjected to chi-square tests.


Ex 1

PURPOSE: To show why a minimal manual is better than the standard maxi-manual.

SUBJECTS:  19 people who "were experienced with routine office work" and had little experience with computers.  A temp agency screened them (!).

COLLECTION: Groups of two to three were plugged into a simulated office environment, some with maxi some with mini manuals, and given a task list to perform on the computer.  For help they could phone a fake hotline.

ANALYSIS:  Efficiency (key strokes), correctness and timeliness were the qualities prioritized in rating the task performance.

Ex 2

PURPOSE: Same as EX 1, this one adding the variables of "learn by the book" or "learn while doing" to the maxi and mini manuals, yielding four categories to test.

SUBJECTS:  32 people were chose by similar means as EX 1, only this time they were distributed into the four groups to control for age.

COLLECTION: Subjects were given 5 hours to preform 6 tasks.   They verbalized their actions and an observer time stamped all recordings, intervening if the subject became flummoxed or stuck for more than 20 minutes.

ANALYSIS:  Time and success (the number of sub-tasks completed) were given priority.  Observers also tried to measure attention and effort durning the process (a slippery task, it seems).  Finally errors, of course, couldn't be overlooked.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ethnography Notes (or, blunt title, blunt blog)

First, the blog questions, answered by Lauer and Asher:

Ethnographies are distinguished from case studies by their emphasis on context.  Many variables are considered over substantial stretches of time, and thus interrelationships are easier to discern.  This can happen in case studies, but the key difference is the centrality of environment in the study of behavior.

Triangulation is the effort to incorporate a variety of approaches, sources, and  methods into the study.  In soccer, this is the way the ball is worked up the field and often the prettiest goals are scored.  The same applies for ethnography.  A single approach, a single method, equals single-mindedness.

To ensure their work is valid ethnographers must have an excellent understanding of the behaviors within an environment and be able to accurately interpret them.  This is a loose gauge of validity from Hymes, but it is the one the book offers up.  Reliability is determined largely from the selection of the environment.  A good setting will be representative of a number of other environments.

Onto the ethnographies...


PURPOSE: To call attention to the value of autoethnographic research, particularly the value of analytic autoethnography over evocative autoethnography (i.e., moving the reader to feel as the autoethnog. feels).  Analytic autoethnography should be 1) a full member of the environment/group being studied 2) obvious as such 3) focused on “improving theoretical understandings of broader social phenomena.”  

In sum: this is an argument for a particular methodology based on a review of the literature.

SUBJECTS: professional autoethnographers

COLLECTION: His data are previously published autoethnographic studies. The criterion used to select them, presumably, is their usefulness to Anderson's argument.

ANALYSIS: Anderson’s close readings of past ethnographies, supplemented by a survey of autoethnographic metacriticism.


PURPOSE: Not enough attention has been paid to writing in social settings, outside the classrooms.  D-F wants to know the ways writing factors into structuring organizations during their nascent phases.

SUBJECTS: Employees (5 executives, 2 managers, 2 consultants) engaged in the collaborative construction of a document at Mircroware, a software company founded by NSU students.

COLLECTION: 3-5 visits/week for 8 months at the Mircoware facilities, each visit lasting 1-8 hours, including formal and informal gatherings.  Sources include field notes, tape-recordings, open-ended interviews, and interviews based on drafts of the document being written. 

ANALYSIS: Data was reviewed chronologically, plugged into categories, each category in turn defined by properties.  The links between the categories formed the study's themes and sub-themes.


PURPOSE: To explore the connection between social roles and writing as well as the process by which novice writers and newcomers to a community advance within a social structure.

SUBJECTS: A non-profit organization located in an urban setting which offers ESL services.  The study involves four “informants” and a pool of “experts” (seemingly the executive directors and “experienced writers both inside and outside” the site), but focuses on the reports of only two of the informants, Pam and Ursula.  

COLLECTION: Weekly interviews (open and discourse based) with each informant, copies of the writing they produced each week, observations of a “full range of activity” at the agency.

ANALYSIS: Lots of looking over notes and texts for patterns.  Comparisons were made between complexity of texts and complexity of tasks.  Triangulation was possible via comparisons of interview responses, responses over time, and responses to the author’s own assumptions.


PURPOSE: To help others “work their way through” the trauma of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.  This includes encouraging others to tell their own story, to find companionship within her story, and to effect dialogue between those working in the social sciences (and, hence, the narrative’s appearance in an ethnographic journal; this begs a question: can we then say other tellings, like a film, like Greengrass’ United 93, could in fact be just as capable, if not more, of provoking this kind of dialogue?  What separates that film from ethnography?)

SUBJECTS: Primarily herself; also everyone she comes in contact with on her way to Dulles Airport.

COLLECTION: Her five senses.

ANALYSIS: She weaves into her account terminology and conclusions from social scientists, for examples, Karl Weick’s study of framing.


PURPOSE: To question standardization of writing in order to discover techniques of re-appropriation (i.e., how does idiosyncrasy reemerge through standardization?—ironic, me writing that here, in this way), and manners in which power is exchanged over modes of standardization.

SUBJECTS: 30 students from the seventh-grade class, working through a speech assignment based on the 5-paragraph essay. Also 3 teachers and an adult community organizer (aside: I’ve never thought of myself as a “Euro-American boy,” but I suppose that makes sense; also: does this include the British?).

COLLECTION: Sheehy admits she was not consistent as a participant observer, moving between roles of researcher and teacher.  She divided the pool up into focus groups “based on [her] rapport with some of the students in these groups.”  Methods of observation included field notes, taping, transcription, interviews, community surveys, student work, and classroom texts.

ANALYSIS...breaks down into two levels.  The first consists of charting the project as an event, broken into categories of production, consumption, and distribution.  The materials noted above for collection were then used to chart instances across the categories.  The second level attempts to isolate tensions in the chart and examine their centripetal (or “unifying”) and centrifugal (or “stratifying”) forces.