Listening Up / Saying Back: The Secret Life of Research

ENGL 102 Monday and Tuesday: July 29 and 30

As researchers, we’re more than just words on a page. The articles we find through our research are more than just words on a page. We’re humans responding to the thoughts, beliefs, and interpretations of other humans. One of the greatest skills we can learn when we’re “writing in the middle” is listening. When we learn to listen closely to each other, whether the “other” is human or text, we are not only being fair and respectful, but we’re also setting ourselves up for ultimate engagement: we hear clearly and we respond with our own ideas. This is infinitely more powerful than dumping some random data into a paper where we think we already know the answers. Instead, we bring something unique to the table. And sometimes, as we’ll see with Brenee Brown, that something is more moving and more human than we ever imagined.

Part One: Living Sources – A Brief Introduction to Finding the Ethnographer Within

Groups: What tools does Brown use for her research? What are her sources? What does she seem to do with her sources – meaning: how does she incorporate what she finds as data? What surprised you about her talk and does that change how you look at research?

Individually: Answer the following questions in a Word document and email it to Lindsay at when you finish. Be prepared to share your questions about qualitative methods with the class.

How could you use ethnographic research (“living sources”) for your project? How can you use ethnographic research to “fill in the gaps” of your library research? Revisit Ballenger, Chapter 2, to see which of the methods he describes might be a useful way for you to gather more data:

Interview: pp.84-92      ~      Survey: pp.92-98      ~      Fieldwork: pp.98-100

Which one(s) do you think you’ll pursue? If none seem appropriate for your project, why not?

Finally, in the end, how do you think becoming a researcher/storyteller could enrich your essay?

Part Two: Listening Up / Saying Back

As Ballenger puts it, “the essence of writing in the middle [is] seeing information as the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one” (103). As good conversationalists, we must strive, he says, to really carefully listen to your sources in order to fully understand them. You demonstrate your understanding by “saying back” or repeating what the source said in your own words (103). As we know from ENGL 101, the best ways to do this are through summary and paraphrase. Once we know exactly what someone else is saying, by summarizing an article or paraphrasing a passage, then we can respond by offering our own ideas, interpretations, and analysis.

Let’s use our polished (rusty?) paraphrase skills to put Ballenger’s theory to the test by playing a good old fashioned game of telephone. While some of you will be working away on making your qualitative dreams a reality, some of you will be using your blog to start a conversation about intimate communication skills. Eventually, you’ll all get your shot at this “he said, she said” bit.

For Wednesday and Thursday’s Classes: Please bring to class (electronically or physically) a copy of an article that you’re pretty sure you’ll be using in your research essay.


2 thoughts on “Listening Up / Saying Back: The Secret Life of Research

  1. Hi Lindsey:
    I like the “writing in the middle” of Ballenger and the “note-taking” stage as I elaborated in by Blog # 3. It is very helpful and a guide to be better organized with our sources.

    • That’s great, Silvia! What Ballenger presents is often seen as unnecessary or counterproductive because it is such a new way of writing for many students. But it totally works and actually helps you write so much of your paper before the draft. Gotta love that!

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