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Writing Project 2: Inquiry & Research in Higher Education

DUE DATE: February 27, 2013

In the first chapter of his book The Knowledge Factory, Stanley Aronowitz makes what are, for him, important distinctions between training, education, and “higher learning.” He does this to provide a framework for talking about the current university system. The “ends” of education have changed, Aronowitz argues in some detail, and in the course of this first chapter, he ends up calling the purpose of the university into question. “Why in America do we place such a high value on college?” he asks (3). “What does ‘higher education’ mean for its students and their families?” (3). Bill Readings, in The University of Ruins, similarly calls the university’s purpose into question, arguing that “the wider social role of the University as an institution is now up for grabs. It is no longer clear what the place of the University is within society nor what the exact nature of that society is” (Readings 2). He describes the current university as a “University of Excellence” in which no one makes any attempt to articulate what is meant by “excellence” or explain what it might mean in the context of a university education (Readings 12).

Laurie Grobman, in “The Student Scholar,” calls into question the research structure which separates Authors (usually the academic/teacher) from student writers (usually objects of study). She even calls for a change in the nature of research, encouraging teachers of writing to “see all scholarly authorship in composition studies on a continuum that extends from novice to expert, and it is fluid; scholarly authorship is not an all or nothing proposition but a matter of degree, and student scholarly authorship creates opportunities for varied modes and arenas of expertise” (W179, original emphasis).

The readings that we’ve completed so far in class offer alternative perspectives to these arguments by focusing not only on what it means to be a member of the university but also what it means to write and research in these institutions. David Bartholomae may not agree with Grobman’s perspective of a continuum of authority in research writing, but he does agree that student writers face dilemmas when writing in the academy, namely they are often unable to adequately (in Bartholomae’s estimation) enter the conversation because they lack the authority of expertise; thus, he suggests that “beginning students need to learn . . . to extend themselves into the commonplaces, set phrases, rituals, gestures, habits of mind, tricks of persuasion, obligatory conclusions, and necessary connections that determine the ‘what might be said’ and constitute knowledge within the various branches of our academic community” (278).

In Writing 2, I’d like you to explore the purpose of research and inquiry at SEU and in higher education at large. To do that, you’ll need to think about what issues are at stake in defining this purpose:

  • What purpose(s) does inquiry (seem to) serve at SEU?
  • How are professors and students engaging in acts of inquiry?
  • What role does inquiry play in courses? in learning?
  • What role do professors and students think research should play in higher education?
  • Should universities be involved in undergraduate research?
  • Should research be held by the “experts” and taught to the “novices”?
  • What might be the implications for SEU (depending on your perspective)?

As you’ve likely noticed, you can’t have all the answers to the above questions. This is a deliberate choice on my part. Yes, you’re expected to spend some time working through your ideas in Writing 2, making sure that you are as specific as possible and as clear as possible about why you think the way you do about the purpose of research and inquiry at the university level.

You must balance your thoughts and ideas against examples from your own coursework, which means the first thing you need to do is gather three (3) course syllabi and/or academic handouts you’ve received either this semester or in the fall semester.


Once you have your three syllabi or handouts selected, you’ll want to review the Keith Grant-Davie article we read during Weeks 1-2. Here are some questions you’ll need to answer about those artifacts:

  • What rhetorical situation does each instructor seem to be imagining?
  • Why do you think so?
  • Do the instructors seem to imagine their rhetorical situations differently?
  • If so, why do you think they do this?

Once you’ve gathered some ideas about the rhetorical situation being constructed in these documents, you can begin engaging with Bartholomae, Elbow, Sommers & Saltz, and Downs & Wardle. What connections do you see between the rhetorical situation of your course materials and the claims and ideas of the articles we read in class? Remember, your goal is to say something to other undergraduate scholars about the purpose inquiry and research seem to be playing in an SEU education. You are not making a judgment at this point; instead, you are using various pieces of evidence to make conclusions about what is and is not being valued.

Refer to specific ideas and arguments in your essay by choosing not only relevant, but significant, quotes from the readings we’ve done in class AND the artifacts you examine.

Make sure that you weave your quotes (or paraphrases) into your essay smoothly and meaningfully (you’ll be hearing more about this soon) and that you document them correctly.

And, most importantly, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR PAPER REMAINS YOUR PAPER. The ideas you bring in from other sources should connect to your beliefs and values (about who you are and who you want to be) and help you unpack their significance in terms of inquiry and research and your education at SEU. You don’t want to let quotations take over your paper, but showing that you are able to respond fairly, meaningfully, and accurately to the ideas of others will be an important indicator that you are able to engage responsibly in an academic conversation.

Page length: 4-5 pages + a Works Cited page + artifact analysis notes