In the “Tactical and Strategic: Qualitative Approaches to the Digital Humanities” chapter of Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities, McNely and Teston discuss the importance of carefully choosing strategies, as different strategies afford or limit certain tactics. As examples, they describe a WAGR approach to explore transmedia storytelling and a GT approach to collect and analyze data.

I had trouble with this reading, because my comfort level with methods and methodologies is poor, and adding the concept of strategies and tactics on top of that left me feeling like I did not fully understand the two approaches.

Despite my difficulty with this reading, research methods in the social sciences was a topic that really stood out to me this week. I was even a little surprised by Smagorinsky’s “The Method Section as Conceptual Epicenter in Constructing Social Science Research Reports.”

Clearly it’s important for people to understand how you conduct your research (validity!), but I guess I must have assumed that the humanities would kind of gloss over that section, whereas in the hard sciences, it sometimes seems like the method section is more important than the research question or findings.

Maybe I just had a brain lapse. Or maybe it’s because it’s not something that we normally talk about in our English classes.

It’s surprising that we do not talk much about methods, since we do apply research methods in most of the papers we write. We are often required to choose a sampling of readings from our field that will fit our research topic (annotated bibliography). We sometimes (carefully) use empirical evidence to back up our arguments. We use research methods, but the word method usually doesn’t come up.

The projects discussed or implied in the DH readings are often fairly different than the standard conference paper for a PWE grad class, but we still use research methods, and we don’t really refer to them as methods.

The only conference paper I wrote that required me to really think about my research methods as methods was for Catherine’s class last semester.

For my research, I collected a sample of images and text related to a popular meme of a fictional character on a TV show. I used Evernote to tag and organize my data and then I looked for patterns. I used Laurie Gries’ iconographic tracking method as a basis for my research, and although I employed a few methods, what would be my “methods section” was really weak, because I just don’t know the vocabulary.

Last semester in the grants class I took, Hawley asked us to pair up each week with another classmate to peer review sections of our grants. The week that I had drafted my project evaluation section, I was paired with a graduate student in a Sport Sciences program (I don’t remember which one specifically).

In the grant, I stated that after the project ended, I would write a paper to be published in an academic journal. My project evaluation section would influence my methods section of the paper more than any other part, because that section explains how I plan to collect data.

The initial draft had very simple statements. With the help of my very knowledgeable classmate (and a little help from socialresearchmethods.net), I was able to provide more specificity.

Research methods is an area that I get a little lost in, but I’m sure that will change through this class.

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