Let’s start this off with the news you’ve all been waiting for: our research team has received IRB approval! Our study has been granted exempt status, and we’ll now move forward with interviews and focus groups.
This past week in class, we had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Liz Angeli. Dr. Angeli is an assistant professor in Marquette University and works in technical communication, rhetoric and composition, and the rhetoric of health and medicine.
Using the handout that I have attached to this post, Dr. Angeli led us through a great discussion on Fear and Uncertainty in Writing Research—and given that most of us on the research team have never conducted research, we had no shortage of either. We came to the conclusion that most of our fear and uncertainty was rooted in a fear of failure, judgment, or being wrong.
After a long semester of stumbling our way through readings, project design, and IRB approval, it was nice to bond over our concerns, and especially comforting that Rachel and Dr. Angeli echoed our feelings, citing their own doubts and struggles in their research.
One of our readings this week was Dr. Angeli’s “Assemblage Mapping: A Research Methodology for Rhetoricians of Health and Medicine” from Methodologies for the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine. In the chapter, Dr. Angeli details the roadblocks and uncertainty that she faced in her efforts to get approval for research on the communication of EMTs.
In the course of our discussion, Dr. Angeli told us that it was not always clear whether or not she would receive approval to complete every aspect of the project she discusses in that chapter. In the midst of this doubt, she voiced her concerns to a colleague, who told her to keep every piece of communication between her and the various institutional boards with whom she had been interacting. These documents may have seemed like a means to an end, but in reality, they were part of the research itself.
Fresh off our IRB approval, this realization came at the perfect time.
For so long, it felt like we were simply ramping up to the “real” research. What I’ve realized now—and I’m sure some of my colleagues will agree with me—compiling all of these documents and working to get IRB approval was not just a precursor. We’ve been doing the “real” research all along.
Obviously, this is a class. At the end of the semester, we’ll be assigned grades, and many of us will step down from the project and go our separate ways. It would be easy to say that the work we’ve all put in was simply in the name of getting a good grade and picking up some new skills, but I see something more than that.
I see a group of people who came into this with very little experience and a whole lot of ideas, who, despite fear and uncertainty and a myriad of responsibilities outside of our classroom, dove in head first to unfamiliar and often overwhelming territory.
I think our efforts as a team have been so successful because there has been trust and support from the beginning—and this activity helped us to find even more common ground.
As Dr. Angeli said, we should have these discussions on fear and uncertainty more—in classrooms, at conferences, with colleagues. Fear of failure is something we all face, so why do we so often pretend it’s not? The confusion, the stress, the fear—they are all part of the process. It’s time to start appreciating that.
This week, we will be conducting interviews and holding workshops with participants to gain insight on their communication habits. Check back next week to see how our first workshop goes!