Methodography

I haven’t looked very far into this, but I wanted to register this first
entry under EWM’s newest category: Method.  Method: what a fine
category label, eh?  That’ll put a Full Nielson on Unsuspecting’s
attention, was my thought.  Beats Mothoi…Methodoosies…Meth(odd)inks….

What brought this on? Well, I’m studying methodology this semester; it’s the
only class I’m taking that meets (the way conventional classes convene, I mean). 
By and large, we’re reading inductively (is it conductive?) for methods and
methodologies, extrapolating ways of doing the work from the work itself. 
This isn’t a hard-cast certainty; it’s more of an early observation from the
four-fifteenths (.267) moment in the semester.  An I feel a stance
coming about
.

My plan for this category is to accumulate various bits and ends
(wander-methodically: metal detector at the beach-style).  And although
we’re not spending as much time with meta-method (reading about methods
as much as reading enactments of methods, re-enacting them on a small
scale), I want to use this category to play through the possible reaches of
method.  What are the limits to history, discourse analysis, ethnography
and theory (these, our four categories)?  What do these methods
(method-orientations) conceal or domesticate? What do they feature? excite?
intensify?

This brings me around to the faintly recurrent warnings I’ve stored up
relative to the dissertation.  Common challenges: (-1-) haven’t read enough
and (-2-) method/ological haziness.  I’m not trying to stockpile
dissertation-related anxieties yet, but in light of these thoughts, noting
possible methods just might be a productive turn.  Where, in terms of
method and rhet/comp, do we meet up with mapping, network analysis, documentary,
the computational and the visual (the protocular method)?

Quickly to close: I’ve had the nagging sense that something is shared between
genre and method.  If method, then, is a procedural way…a
protocol, then our naming of it (under the roomy rubric of history, let’s say)
likens it to a genre–genre as social action (C. Miller).  The activity–a
manner/attitude/work-pattern–is sufficiently generic that we can hold it up (a
suspension) and name it.  That’s what I think, anyway.  Our formal
study of method is pretty darn close to expanded theorizations of genre (beyond
the bucket, the boxy treatment of text-only). 

3 Comments

  1. You said: “I’ve had the nagging sense that something is shared between genre and method.”

    Carol Berkenkotter and Thomas Huckin agree with you. 🙂 On page one of Genre Knowledge, they say (emphasis mine):

    “Knowledge production is carried out and codified largely through generic forms of writing: lab reports, working papers, reviews, grant proposals, technical reports, conference papers, journal articles, monographs, and so on. Genres are the media through which scholars and scientists communicate with their peers. Genres are intimately tied to a discipline’s methodology, and they package information in ways that conform to a discipline’s norms, values, and ideology.”

  2. See there, I’m in good company. Thanks for this, Clancy. It confirms the faint sense I had that our study of method/methodology is apples-apples with Miller’s concept of genre as social action. Maybe we could call it genre as methodical-disciplinary action or disciplinary method as generic action. Not that we have to call it anything. It just never occurred to me until early this semester that the terms share this chord.

  3. Happy to help! I’ve always found that “packaging information” metaphor to be useful as a way of thinking about both genres and methodologies. I’ve encountered people in several disciplines who cannot (will not, rather!) understand your projects unless you can break them down into a Research Questions, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion format. If you don’t present your work to these people in exactly this way, it’s like to them you’ve just been speaking or writing in Tlon.

    Take dissertation fellowship proposals, for example. The message I’ve been getting about those is that if you can’t write about your project in THAT FORMAT, your chances of getting a fellowship basically diminish.

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