Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies: Using the DALN to Stimulate Inquiry and Teach Research Methods




This chapter offers a model for an undergraduate assignment sequence using the DALN as the source of data. Specifically, it highlights an assignment sequence based on an upper-level writing course that introduces students to primary research methods and enables them to engage in scholarly academic research—from project design and data collection to coding, analyzing, and writing up findings. In this project, students select literacy narratives from the DALN, apply a theoretical lens (rhetorical, narrative, feminist, historical, etc.) to contextualize and analyze their work, and compose a print-based or multimodal academic research essay. Ultimately, this chapter demonstrates how the DALN can build students’ research and communication skills while simultaneously adding value to student learning, undergraduate programs, and composition at large. By highlighting the DALN’s role in creating undergraduate writing scholars, the author demonstrates how faculty can use primary sources to stimulate intellectual inquiry and promote undergraduate research.




Undergraduate research (UGR) has developed significantly in the twenty years since the 1998 Boyer Commission Report argued for the focus of undergraduate education to be inquiry-based learning coupled with mentoring. In UGR contexts, undergraduate students are invited to contribute original intellectual or creative contributions to a discipline by engaging in processes of inquiry, problem solving, investigation, and discovery, both independently and collaboratively with faculty members.

This emphasis on UGR has also entered our discussions in writing studies, albeit at a slower pace than other disciplines (see Kinkead, 2011; Delli Carpini, 2007). In recent years, scholarship on the topic has expanded significantly (i.e., Enoch & VanHaitsma, 2015; Grobman & Kinkead, 2010; Hayden, 2015; Miller, 2005; VanHaitsma, 2015). Moreover, we now have a journal that solely publishes undergraduate research (i.e., Young Scholars in Writing, established in 2003). Our major organization—the CCCC—has a Committee on Undergraduate Research (established in 2011 and reconstituted in 2014) and, since 2012, promotes an annual UGR poster session at its national conference. In addition, CCCC’s position statement on UGR, published in March 2017, “Undergraduate Research in Writing: Principles and Best Practices,” outlines how writing scholars and teachers should best implement and contribute to UGR and is extremely useful for students, mentors, and institutions. Moreover, researchers Jenn Fishman, Jane Greer, and Dominic DelliCarpini are currently studying the impact of undergraduate research through a CCCC Research Initiative Grant. Numerous textbooks targeting undergraduates in writing studies also continue to emerge (e.g., Gaillet & Eble, 2016; Kinkead, 2016; Wardle & Downs, 2010). We even have a discipline-specific online archive: the Digital Archives of Literacy Narratives (DALN). The DALN is easily available to undergraduate researchers and contains thousands of texts in a genre unique to our field—the literacy narrative. Fishman and her colleagues are currently collecting individual narratives of the impact of UGR on students, teachers, and mentors curating them on the DALN.

In spite of this progress at the professional level, application at the classroom level lags behind. Few professors assign projects where students become independent scholars conducting their own critical investigations (Grobman & Kinkead, 2010). Popular texts like Fieldworking (Sunstein & Chiseri-Strater, 2011) and Writing about Writing (Wardle & Downs, 2010) indicate that primary ethnographic and case study research is occurring at the undergraduate level, but very little scholarship currently exists highlighting the results of these approaches. In addition, although the DALN seems like a prime candidate for use in undergraduate writing classrooms because of its emphasis on literacy, narrative, and culture—major topics in our field—the lack of scholarship connecting the DALN and UGR can prohibit instructors from attempting such work.1 In spite of this gap, instructors like Ben McCorkle (2015) and those studied by Comer and Harker (2015) demonstrate innovative ways in which such work can be done. McCorkle, for instance, one of the co-directors of the DALN, describes in Kyle Stedman’s audio podcast Plugs, Play, Pedagogy  how he uses the DALN in his courses as a way to engage students in “authentic work in English Studies.” He utilizes a series of assignments that serve as a “DALN apprenticeship” for students—allowing them to see the DALN from several different angles (writer, contributor, archivist, and researcher) and fostering technical, creative, pedagogical, and analytical skills. The instructors in Comer and Harker’s (2015) study engage the DALN in similarly unique ways pedagogically. Although composition instructors are beginning to value UGR and even invite their students to submit their literacy narratives to the DALN—just consider its many contributing partners as evidence of UGR practice—as a field, we have not yet fully recognized the DALN as an archive of materials available for study, examination, and analysis in UGR contexts.

Yet, the potential of the DALN to serve as a viable entry point into UGR warrants further examination. For one, the DALN introduces student-researchers to disciplinary concepts such as literacy, narrative, and identity. From examining what literacy is good for and sharing stories about learning to read and write, to exploring how literacy is defined and studying motivations behind reading and writing, literacy has long been an important subject in our field (Brandt, 2001; Delpit, 2001; Gee, 1996; Heath, 1983; Street, 1995). The DALN provides an opportunity to introduce students to these concepts and to reinforce them through its mechanism as an archive of literacy narratives.

The DALN also serves as a worthwhile access point into UGR because it invites students to engage genuinely with research through primary and archival research skills. Instead of students merely compiling “facts” or regurgitating secondary sources to prove a point or take a position, the DALN shifts student understanding of research beyond “conventional paradigms for literature-based research” (Delli Carpini, 2007, p. 29) that emphasize “going to the library and finding books and articles to use in my paper” (Ritter, 2005, p. 628) to a conception of research that is more inquiry-driven, original, pragmatic, and focused on solving problems (Bean, 2011; Grobman & Kinkead, 2010). The DALN accomplishes these goals by providing an archive of texts readily available for analysis by students who can then come to their own conclusions based on the data set they analyze.

Another strength of the DALN is that it expands students’ “archival literacy,” or skills in “reading” archives carefully, critically, and rhetorically, fostering “a deep sense of what a site does and, crucially, what it asks users to do” (Enoch & VanHaitsma, 2015, p. 217, 219). Archives function as “dynamic sites of rhetorical power” (Morris, 2006, p. 115) and prod students to understand how to search, navigate, and use archives to fulfill their own purposes and motives—to make the archive work for them instead of being a passive receiver of the archive.

On a practical level, the DALN is useful for faculty mentors and undergraduate researchers because, as an online archive, it is easily accessible on any computer, which according to James P. Purdy (2011) is a “gift” of digital archives. Researchers can visit the DALN website anytime they want, the archives are free to use, and very little up-front work is required to use them.

Finally, using the DALN for a UGR project can serve as a recruitment tool for graduate study in the discipline. Traditional writing courses typically allow students to write about any topic that interests them—and some even encourage them to write about topics from their own area of study—but a focused examination into literacy narratives exposes students to topics in our field, and it does so during the undergraduate years, when students are in the process of making career decisions. Whereas I personally was not exposed to these ideas until graduate school, undergraduate students who work with the DALN may be persuaded to attend graduate school in our field because they become interested in the subjects of inquiry. Although the primary goal of the DALN or UGR is not necessarily to recruit students to our “cause” (see Bullock, 2000, p. 21), when students mirror scholars in research questions, methodological approaches, and lines of inquiry, they develop insights, skills, and knowledge that will benefit them if they do plan to attend graduate school. This outcome can enhance our classes, programs, and field, thereby making it a valuable approach for writing studies.

In this chapter, I aim to connect UGR in writing studies to the DALN by demonstrating how the DALN can facilitate pedagogical projects that stimulate intellectual inquiry, archival literacy, and interest in scholarly pursuits, thus making UGR an even greater reality in writing studies. Specifically, I offer a model for an undergraduate writing assignment sequence that sits at the intersection of archival research and literacy studies and can be applied to a range of undergraduate writing courses, including advanced composition, research methods, argumentative writing, and even first-year writing courses.

The model I offer will be advantageous to instructors looking to integrate UGR, utilize the DALN or integrate archives into their assignments, or teach primary research methods. This model derives from an upper-level writing course I taught that utilized the DALN to teach primary and archival research methods, data analysis, and scholarly inquiry. I originally chose the DALN as the data source because it was not only readily available but also well suited for taking students through the process of research—from project design, developing research questions and data collection to coding, analyzing, and writing up findings. The DALN-based research project introduced students to disciplinary issues and questions regarding language, literacy, identity, rhetoric, reading, and writing and was beneficial to them in developing research skills. By highlighting the DALN’s role in creating undergraduate writing scholars, I aim to show how faculty can use the DALN to promote UGR and stimulate intellectual inquiry. This chapter ultimately demonstrates how the DALN is an excellent pedagogical resource: it builds students’ research, writing, analytical, and archival literacy skills while simultaneously adding value to student learning, undergraduate programs, and composition at large. Using the DALN to respond to the UGR imperative can give students the tools to engage as scholarly researchers in our classrooms and beyond. 

Assignment Sequence

My own interest in undergraduate research started about ten years ago when, as an assistant professor at Baylor University, I began to notice that very few of our undergraduate courses in the Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) major emphasized academic research. We did not have a required academic or research-based writing course at the time, and most of our courses were geared towards workplace or technical writing, professional writing and career development, creative writing, or literature. When students did write “research papers” in their classes, the results were often unoriginal arguments that strung together sources to support their claims rather than the deeply engaged and robust kind of research valued in the discipline. Moreover, perhaps because of our major’s focus on career preparation, the majority of our students wanted to enter the workforce after graduation. They enjoyed the practical, writing-intensive courses relevant and applicable to their careers and to helping them get a job. Most students did not consider applying to graduate school and those few who did went into journalism, public relations, or communication programs; no one entered graduate school in rhetoric and composition.

I also observed during this time that very few PWR majors participated in the annual “Scholars Week” that our university hosted in which undergraduate students presented papers and posters to other students, faculty, and staff; the handful of PWR majors who did participate presented papers from their literature classes. This lack of interest and involvement indicated to me that our faculty, our courses, and our program were not doing enough to mentor students about academic careers or expose them to the scholarly questions and lines of inquiry in writing studies that might interest them. As an empirical researcher myself, I valued primary research, and I wanted my students to experience the same thrill of discovery and making a contribution that I had experienced.

After reading more about UGR and attending a UGR workshop at CCCC in 2013, I decided to alter my pedagogical approach to stress primary research and scholarly inquiry.2 In the past, I had utilized a range of pedagogical methods to teach writing courses, including expressivist, service-learning, multiliteracies, feminist, and process-based ones (see Tate, Taggart, Schick, & Hessler, 2014). These courses often centered on a theme (literacy, literacy narratives, education, community, technology, etc.) and students composed multiple discrete assignments in a variety of genres, modes, and mediums. The research-based assignments tended to rely on library sources and did not require primary research or data collection. In this UGR course, however, I wanted all assignments and exercises to be connected to each other and to prepare students to conduct primary research that would foster content knowledge, writing expertise, original inquiry, and interest in research.

I chose to integrate the UGR project into an upper-level writing course I regularly teach, Advanced Argumentative and Persuasive Writing. This course is taken mostly by juniors and seniors from a variety of majors, including English, history, political science, communication, business, and PWR. Before the course began, I started examining possible methodological approaches, including ethnography, archival, case study, interview, survey, and think-aloud protocols. I considered my own knowledge and experience and ultimately chose a research subject on which I had expertise: literacy narratives. Much of my scholarly attention has been on literacy narratives (i.e., Alexander, 2011; 2015), and I felt that analyzing these texts would be an ideal way to merge my expertise and background with my first major UGR project. When I began to consider what literacy narratives students would actually analyze, I immediately looked to the DALN. I had been familiar with the DALN for years—my students had submitted their essays to the Archive in previous semesters, and I had even sat at the CCCC booth numerous times, collecting literacy narratives from conference-goers. I was confident the DALN would provide a rich and diverse source of data for students and that students could find topics within the database that interested them. I had not previously worked with archival materials prior to this project, but I decided that my knowledge about literacy narratives would outweigh my inexperience with archival research and therefore chose the DALN as the primary source material for this class project.

The UGR course contains several assignments: an audio literacy narrative (3-5 minutes), a rhetorical analysis of an artifact (10-15 minute oral presentation with a partner), an exploratory-reflective essay (4-7 pages), an academic research essay that asks students to use literacy narratives in the DALN as their data (10-15 pages), and professional activities, including a conference proposal and poster presentation. All assignments (and the homework exercises interspersed throughout) are heavily scaffolded—the assignments build on one another—so that, by the final assignment, students are prepared to conduct their own study. The assignment sequence largely mirrors my own research and writing process, and one of its aims is to increase student enthusiasm for scholarly research. In what follows, I describe the assignment sequence that helped students develop the research skills and content knowledge to act and identify as scholars making meaningful contributions to the discipline. I end with reflections on the capabilities and limitations of this approach.

The Audio Literacy Narrative

The first assignment in the semester is a 3-5 minute audio literacy narrative (other media would also be productive), which I assign early so that students can be exposed to the literacy narrative genre and gain experience both composing in the genre and working with multiple modes since many of the literacy narratives in the DALN are multimodal.3 The audio literacy narrative assignment asks students to examine and reflect on their past and/or present experiences with writing, composing, language, schooling, and/or education and consider how these experiences have shaped their values, beliefs, identity/ies, and views today. Students are asked to tell a compelling personal story that helps listeners reflect on what they are hearing. The essay goes through peer review, and students upload their final projects to the DALN. This assignment helps students better understand the features and conventions of the literacy narrative genre, how the genre is discussed and critiqued in published scholarship, and how multimodal literacy narratives might differ from print-based ones. Moreover, it affords students a chance to interact with both the literacy narrative genre and the DALN early in the semester. See Appendix A for the assignment.

In preparation for composing the audio literacy narrative (and completing the semester’s work), students read and view alphabetic, audio, and video literacy narratives available in the DALN, including some my own students have contributed, like ones by Darius Streets, Lauren Elder, and Whitney Tennison. Like the instructors in Comer and Harker’s (2015) study, we compare and contrast student’s individual lives with the stories of others from the DALN. We also read exemplary alphabetic literacy narratives, such as Barbara Mellix’s (1987), “From Outside, In,” Mike Rose’s (1989), “I Just Wanna Be Average,” Sandra Cisneros’s (1995) “Only Daughter,” and David Sedaris’s (2001), “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” As a class, we critique these primary literacy narratives from both genre studies and literacy studies perspectives. From a genre perspective (Bawarshi, 2003; Devitt, 2003; Russell, 1997; Swales, 2004), we ask questions such as: What is a literacy narrative? What are the features of the form? What genre elements exist in literacy narratives? We also critique the texts from a literacy studies perspective (Barton & Hamilton, 2005; Eldred & Mortensen, 1992; Gee, 1996; Graff, 1991; New London Group, 1996; Shor, 1999), asking: What are the literacy practices of this person? How does this person characterize or portray literacy/reading/writing/identity/? How is literacy connected to identity or culture? What does literacy do? What is literacy good for? How is literacy contradictory or even violent (Stuckey, 1991)? What literacies are valued in this narrative? What does this person’s story communicate about issues such as race, schooling, success, social class, gender, education, etc.)? How might this story be representative? These questions begin honing students’ analytical skills and developing their subject-matter expertise on topics and questions regarding literacy narratives.

In addition to analyzing primary texts, we also read and discuss scholarship on literacy and literacy narratives by reading several prominent essays on literacy narratives (e.g., Daniell, 1999; Eldred & Mortensen, 1992; Fox, 1997; Rose, 1990, Soliday, 1994) as well as essays from Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll, & Rose’s (2001) anthology, Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook (e.g., Baron; Bartholomae; Brandt; Farr; Gee; Gere; Goody; Haas; Heath; Ong; Street).4 These readings provide historical and theoretical context, outline key questions and exigent debates in the field, and enable students to see exemplary models of scholarly research.

In order to develop the multiliteracies necessary to complete their audio literacy narrative, we also spend class time discussing affordances of sound, including accent, music, vocal delivery, special effects, and silence (see McKee, 2006). We read chapters from Selfe’s (2007) Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, and I teach the basics of Audacity, a free, open-source audio editor that allows for multiple tracks of layered sound. As students record their sounds and narrate their essays, they use the Audio Checklist I provide (Appendix B). Students create a script of their narration as well as a visual storyboard that sketches out the content and the layers of the sounds they want to use, based on one from Selfe’s (2007) book. We workshop students’ scripts and storyboards before students begin editing in Audacity. All in all, I find that students quickly learn the technology and are able to construct thoughtful, interesting, and technological-savvy audio literacy narratives that explore a range of topics and highlight varied perspectives, all while paying attention to the nuances of sounds.

As students became more familiar with the literacy narrative genre and with the modality of sound, they also begin to read the DALN rhetorically—to understand the construction, format, and mechanism of the site itself—and thus begin to develop archival literacy (see Enoch & VanHaitsma, 2015). At this stage, students begin to interact more deeply with the DALN by registering on the site, uploading and submitting their final essays, adding tags, keywords, and abstracts, and signing the online consent forms. Students come to understand the purpose and mechanism of the DALN on a broad scale and to appreciate the DALN as a repository of artifacts where their work can potentially become a subject of inquiry for others. They “paus[e] to attend to the rhetorical properties of digital archives,” including selection, exigence, narrative, collaboration, and constitution (Enoch & VanHaitsma, 2015, p. 219). As a result, they better understand the rhetorical complexity of the DALN—and other digital archives—and how site design both constrains and affords possibilities for research and knowledge making. This archival literacy aids them all semester as they work with the DALN and can aid their future work with digital and print archives.

Overall, the audio literacy narrative assignment accomplishes several course goals. It invites students to explore the literacy narrative as a genre; develop archival literacy; appreciate the DALN as a site where artifacts are collected, stored, analyzed, and used; begin to understand the language and discourse surrounding literacy, writing, and language; and consider disciplinary topics, subjects, and questions that interest them and that they may pursue further.

Rhetorical Analysis of an Artifact (Collaborative Presentation)

After the audio literacy narratives have been submitted to the DALN, students next collaborate with a peer to present a rhetorical analysis of a physical artifact to the class. In preparation for this assignment, we move into conversations about both primary and archival research. The goal at this stage is to enhance students’ archival research skills while augmenting their developing archival literacy skills so they will be prepared to analyze artifacts from the DALN. Drawing from Mary Sue MacNealy’s (1999) book, Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing, we discuss a range of primary research methods (e.g., archival, case study, ethnography, interviews, surveys, discourse analysis) and compare and contrast various approaches. We concentrate on archival methods specifically by reading articles about archival research and emphasizing research questions, context, and relevance.5 We also examine primary source materials found in archives, including diaries, letters, magazines, government documents, and photographs. Moreover, we continue to examine the DALN as a digital archive and explore how it compares to local archives.

Two colleagues in rhetoric and composition who conduct archival research also come and speak to my class about their entries into archival research, why archival research is a valuable research method, and specific archival research projects they have conducted. They emphasize establishing a research question and finding the right sources to answer these questions. Because these scholars’ projects specifically relate to writing studies, students are able to see different lenses of writing studies and to better understand different kinds of questions writing studies scholars might ask and the sources they might consider. This opportunity provides a valuable learning experience for all of us.

To apply the knowledge gained through course readings, lectures, and invited presentations on archival research, students complete an assignment in pairs where they must choose one archival text from one of our on-campus archives conducive to rhetorical analysis (such as an advertisement, a magazine or journal article, an op-ed in a newspaper, a letter, or a speech), conduct a rhetorical analysis (see Norcia, 2007; Selzer, 2009), and present this analysis orally to the class in a 10-15 minute presentation (see Appendix C for a copy of the assignment). As a class, we take a field trip across campus to Carroll Library where three archives are located: the Texas Collection, the University Archives, and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society.6 The archivists in these libraries serve as a great resource throughout the process: they describe the value of archives in general, speaking about selection of material, how to handle the materials, what kinds of questions to ask, and the importance of context in interpreting the material. They also emphasize similarities and differences between local and digital archival spaces, even showing us some of the digital collections at these libraries. The archivists next take us through “a day in the life” of scholars who use the archives, an activity that proves extremely valuable to students in terms of understanding the archival research process.

Finally, the librarians show us the various materials in the collections. In the Keston Collection, students hold letters written by Russian Christians living in the Soviet Union when Christianity was banned. In the University Archives, students examine founding documents, such as the University Charter and student handbooks from the early 1950s. In the Texas Collection, students view many of the more than 1,600 cookbooks housed in the Texas Culinary Collection. In short, these visits to the archives reinforce the value of delving deeply into texts and encourage students to begin to see themselves as being able to do something with these artifacts, not just passive recipients of them.

Once student pairs have chosen an artifact from one of three specified archives, they conduct a rhetorical analysis of it. They examine not just what is communicated in the text but how the text makes an argument. Because the archival materials must stay in the libraries, students spend time in the library poring over the text. With their partner, students gather information and conduct research on the context in which the piece was written (including information about the author, audience, larger conversation, situation, and purpose). They also analyze the claims, persuasive appeals, style, organization, and medium and genre. If possible, they digitize their artifact by scanning or taking pictures of it, thus enabling them to access the material while they are away from the archive and to show it to the class in the oral presentation. Finally, students present their findings to an audience, an important element in learning how to synthesize and articulate results and significance.

This examination into primary and archival research benefits students immensely in preparing them to plan and conduct their own research project using the DALN. They begin to understand archival research holistically, including similarities and differences between local and digital archival spaces. They develop a language for using archives and conducting primary research. They learn to read archives rhetorically, “gaining a deep sense of what [it] does and, crucially, what it asks users to do” (Enoch & VanHaitsma, 2015, p. 219). They come to understand how scholars participate and contribute in meaningful ways to a discipline and, by closely reading a text and making an argument about it—by using archives as a source of invention—they start to see how they, too, can make a contribution to the knowledge base of a field. Finally, by digging into a local archive, students are better able to conceptualize and interact with a digital archive, an important skill they will need when they begin their research project. As students participate in this kind of innovative work, they begin to place themselves in the position of a scholar with a real audience rather than a student whose only audience is the teacher.

DALN Analysis and the Exploratory-Reflective Essay

The next assignment in the sequence is a 4-7 page exploratory-reflective essay meant to hone students’ primary research skills, grow their understanding of topics and questions in writing studies, and deepen their experience with the DALN. Specifically, the assignment asks students to explore archival research and literacy topics by selecting three texts from the DALN, analyzing them, and making an argument about them; it also asks them to reflect on the process of engaging with the DALN as an archive, of “reading” literacy narratives, and of developing skills in archival literacy (see Appendix D for a copy of the assignment).

In order for students to write the essay, they must first work through several steps. The initial task asks students to choose three texts from the DALN to analyze—any kind of text is permitted (audio, video, image, collage, print).7 During class, I walk students through processes of text selection. We conduct numerous searches with a range of keywords to demonstrate how to use keywords, how to search the DALN, and how to broaden our searches to get more results. We examine keywords related to writing and literacy studies and look for synonyms for these terms to see if our search yields more results. We also search for terms not related to writing to understand the broad nature of keywords and of topics related to literacy. Students then pull out their own computers to conduct broader searches, ideally sharing what they learn with the class. At this point, the selection criteria remains broad. The only requirement is that students choose three texts that all contain at least one common keyword.

After they choose three texts, students bring these texts with them to class, along with three to five questions that the texts raised for them and why these questions emerged. In small groups, students give a brief summary of each text, explain why they chose each, and divulge the shared keyword between texts. Group members respond with questions and feedback. This activity invites students to read and evaluate texts more actively, look for questions that emerge from the texts regarding topics in literacy studies, and consider the meaning and implications of these questions. By working with others, students also get feedback on possible ways to read the texts and additional research questions the texts might generate. Reading actively and with an understanding of the ongoing conversation is often new to students, yet it is a significant aspect in research and one in which students need to be equipped. Additionally, this activity helps refine students’ skills in evaluation, explanation, and presentation.

Next, I teach students practices of coding and analyzing data, including the affordances of qualitative and quantitative data and examples of how to code in both ways. I bring in my own research to demonstrate possibilities for coding texts and creating categories that generate arguments. I show several actual literacy narratives that I coded and explain how I developed my coding schema. I also walk students through a process of coding one aspect or question in a literacy narrative at a time (e.g., whether the story occurred in school or out of school; the age of the author during the story; whether the author is writing about reading or writing; whether the story seems positive or negative or both). I emphasize how the coding process of a text is dynamic and recursive, and I highlight how there are many possibilities for reading and coding a single text. I also demonstrate how to use Excel to code and keep track of the data, and we also explore other online sites that allow for easy coding of digital texts. We discuss interrater reliability and the IRB. Finally, students read/view the three texts by answering the following two questions: “How is writing portrayed in this text?” and “How is reading portrayed in this text?” Although these questions are quite simple for literacy scholars, they provide an easy entryway for students to begin to code and analyze texts. Students are instructed to take note of aspects texts that intrigue, surprise, or challenge them.

Students are then tasked with analyzing their three texts, making a claim or claims, and reflecting on their research and analysis process. In their exploratory-reflective essay, they consider the following questions:


  • How does the text relate to issues of literacy, identity, writing, culture, or narrative?
  • What does the text reveal about literacy, literacy practices or events, or literacy values?
  • What might you infer about the speaker/writer? On what evidence do you base this assessment?
  • What do these narratives have in common? What are their key differences?
  • What “new” literacies did you observe in the texts you analyzed?


  • How did you approach the task?
  • What research questions guided your search? Why were you interested in those questions? Did other questions emerge as you read/viewed/watched literacy narratives?
  • What were you initially looking for? Why? What did you end up finding?
  • Why did you choose these texts? What was challenging about finding texts to select?
  • How do the experiences in the texts you chose compare to your own experiences?
  • What was difficult about using the DALN to select texts? What was intuitive or easy?
  • What did you learn about archival research? How have you developed archival literacy?

Throughout the process of text selection and analysis, students read and respond to research studies on literacy narratives (e.g., Clark & Medina, 2000; Berry, 2010-2011; Fox, 1997; Launius, 2009; Ulman, DeWitt & Selfe, 2012). In their reader responses, students explain the research question the author poses, the conversation the writer is speaking to, the methods the writer uses, the data sources, and the argument. They also consider how they might conduct a follow-up study to the research. For instance, students choose one exhibit from the digital collection Stories That Speak to Us for analysis and consider how they might continue the research by creating a new study that answers questions the essay raised.

In addition to looking at this scholarship, we read an essay I composed in which I analyze print literacy narratives by first-year composition students (Alexander, 2011). In our discussion of this article, I explain how I collected and analyzed these data, showing the physical data I worked with, how I coded the data, and the categories and pivot tables I created to help me analyze the texts. Considering the conversations, methods, and argument of secondary scholarship on literacy narratives broadens students’ minds to the enormous possibilities and approaches to analyzing literacy narratives. It also fosters in students an appreciation for research and enhances their analytical skills. In sum, the scaffolding provided and the exploratory and self-reflexive writing students engage in proved beneficial in terms of instilling in students a confidence in their capabilities to participate in primary research and begin to identify as scholars making contributions.

Academic Research Essay

After completing the assignments described above, students are then more prepared to compose their final project: the academic research essay. This assignment asks students to choose at least 5 and no more than 15 literacy narratives from the DALN to analyze, apply a theoretical lens (literacy, genre, rhetorical, narrative, etc.) to contextualize their analysis, and compose a 10-15 page print-based academic research essay intended for publication in an undergraduate journal (see Appendix E for a copy of the assignment). Students work for several weeks to code and analyze their data and compose their essays. We examine moves in academic writing (Bean, 2011; Graff & Birkenstein, 2006; Swales, 2004) and practice articulating a research gap and writing a mini-literature review. I teach students the IMRaD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) model as a way to plan and organize their work (see Wolfe, Britt & Alexander, 2011). Students meet with me twice for individual conferences to discuss their work, and student essays go through processes of peer review and revision. Appendix F contains a copy of the grading rubric for the final draft.

Students in my class analyze a range of aspects of literacy narratives, most often through the lens of literacy studies or genre theory since these have been the focus of the course.8 Some of the topics the students have chosen included:

  • Stories of reading and writing in school compared to outside of school
  • Characterizations of standardized testing
  • Portrayals of literacy sponsors, including teachers, parents, coaches, and bosses
  • Narratives of failure with literacy, reading, and writing
  • How home-school students characterize their literacy learning and development
  • Narratives of “addiction” to literacy
  • Differences between “composed” literacy narratives and “recorded, oral-history interview-type” literacy narratives (such as those captured at CCCC)
  • The roles race, class, place, gender, and/or sexuality play in the stories told
  • A comparison of the affordances—opportunities and limitations—of literacy narratives when composed in different media
  • Narratives about motherhood and professional work
  • How religious texts, such as the Bible, Koran, or Torah, influence literacy and identity

This small sampling of topics reveals a wide range of possibilities afforded through the DALN in a research-based writing course. As the collection in the DALN becomes even more robust, both student and faculty scholars can continue to utilize the DALN in more innovative ways.

Other Scholarly Activities

While students are still working on their research essays, I ask them to engage in professional activities meant to further develop skills of synthesis, remediation, and critique, namely by writing a conference proposal and creating a poster presentation. Students are asked to compose and submit a proposal appropriate for an undergraduate research project. Some of my students apply to the CCCC Undergraduate Researcher Poster Session because the work fits so well there. Others, however, apply to national UGR conferences or a field-specific conference that accepts undergraduate work. Many of my students are accepted to conferences and oftentimes mentored by conference organizers. For those who do not get accepted, they often receive feedback on their proposals that encourage them in their academic pursuits, even if they choose not to proceed further with publication.

In addition to the conference proposal, students also must give an oral poster presentation during our “Research Showcase” that outlines their findings and highlights the significance (see Appendix G for a copy of the poster presentation assignment and Appendix H for a rubric). Poster presentations are popular at UGR conferences, and I choose to end with a poster presentation to expose students to a different way of making their work public. In preparation for the presentation, students write out a presentation “pitch,” a 2-minute elevator speech in which they briefly outline the elements of their project (background, methods, results, discussion). In class, we discuss how to “modulate” their pitch—or filter and adapt terminology and content—for various audiences (experts, people with some knowledge, laypersons). We also discuss content, layout, and design of the posters. Students’ posters typically include sections from IMRaD as well as visuals to support and enhance their argument. Modulation of content to specific audiences promotes memorability and facilitates discussion, and when students can learn to adapt and remediate their content, they can better meet the needs and expectations of various audiences. Overall, remediating their essay to a conference proposal and a poster presentation allows students to articulate their methods, findings, and implications in a more concise manner and to further clarify their projects, which in turn strengthens their academic essay.

In sum, this assignment sequence aims to engage students in data-driven inquiry that positions them as scholars and gives them the skills, literacies, and expertise needed to participate in original research projects that contribute to the field. Through this assignment, students develop a range of knowledge, including subject matter knowledge, genre knowledge, rhetorical knowledge and literacy, critical literacy, discourse community knowledge, writing process knowledge, and technological literacy (see Bean, 2011; Beaufort, 2007; Cook, 2009). Students move from surface learning to deep learning, ideally able to transfer these skills to a range of contexts and for diverse purposes. Additionally, the relationships faculty build with students through UGR classrooms may extend to other arenas as well, with collaborating on research ideas for independent studies, working on honors theses, and even to giving information about graduate study, thus stimulating professional interest in writing studies. Such projects are a valuable component of students’ professional and academic growth, and using the DALN as the source for such stimulation proves to be a valuable venture.


As the model I have outlined here illustrates, the DALN affords an excellent opportunity to teach and reinforce a range of concepts important to undergraduate research in writing studies. In this section, I highlight the benefits of utilizing the DALN to teach undergraduate research and include testimony from students’ reflective letters.9 I also reflect on some limitations to this approach.

1. The DALN stimulates intellectual inquiry and alters students’ understanding of “research.”

In the classes I have taught, the DALN transforms students’ understanding of research from being flat, stale, and boring to dynamic, invigorating, and fun. No longer do students view research as piecing together facts or borrowing the words of others; instead, they respond to research with genuine engagement and awe, as if they could truly discover something new and contribute knowledge to the scholarly conversation. For instance, one student, Mason, remarks, “Maybe the most surprising thing that I will take away from this class is the realization that I sort of like doing research and the process that goes into it. Although the reading and writing was often time-consuming, the projects ended up being very fulfilling. The original nature of the process and research was very appealing and made for a great sense of accomplishment.” Another student, Taylor,10 claims:

I found this entire process exhilarating. Not only was I gathering my own data and forming new ideas shaped by previous literature, but through my research in the DALN, I got to know about faith backgrounds different from my own. In reading the stories of my research participants, I didn’t just get to write an interesting paper, but I was challenged to examine my own personal and spiritual beliefs.

In addition to stimulating intellectual inquiry, students also observe how their understanding of research changed through this project. Student Nora, for example, writes:

The way you assigned each element of the project at various times in the semester allowed me to gradually put together my project rather than throwing it together last minute. The early introduction to the DALN allowed me to get comfortable with the database long before ever beginning the research essay, which aided me when the final project came around. […] Prior to taking this course, I would wait until the last minute to write my papers and I would still get a decent grade. This course has taught me that great things come when time is spent, when work is gradually put together and even paused over. I did a little bit of the project at a time and eventually worked my way into making my research paper something I am completely proud of.

Jasmine experienced a similar transformation in her perspective on research writing. She states:

I learned more than I ever thought I would in a writing class. I learned that there is more to research than the usual generic finding of information off of the Internet. I enjoyed learning about archival research and found myself mining the DALN looking hard until I found just what I needed, which is not something I normally do when I write a research paper. I was really proud of the work I did for this essay. I gained more insight into academic writing and the amount of work that goes into it. When I discovered that writers often cited coaches and church leaders as literacy sponsors rather than teachers or parents, I felt that in a small way I had contributed to our understanding of literacy.

Examples like these indicate that the DALN provides a route to inviting students to experience research as a form of discovery and inquiry, while demonstrating how it can stimulate new ideas and thinking on subjects. The DALN allows faculty to go beyond teaching the research paper to engage students in research in meaningful and consequential ways, thus developing expertise. Not only do they learn more about the subject, but they also begin to “ask sophisticated questions and grapple with complex matters of representation, context, and analysis” (Norcia, 2007, p. 100). Ultimately, when students engage genuinely with research, they move from passive learners to active creators of knowledge engaged in the real work of scholarly inquiry (Hayden, 2015; Norcia, 2007). Moreover, when they become active stakeholders in research, they are empowered to create and generate knowledge (Grobman & Kinkead, 2010) and “write with legitimate originality and conviction” (Downs & Wardle, 2007, p. 562).

2. The DALN expands students’ primary and archival research skills.

Using the DALN for a pedagogical project also expands students’ aptitudes in primary and archival research. From the DALN, students learn how to make online archives work for them—to find the materials they need, generate research questions stemming from data sources, and pursue diverse lines of inquiry. Students learn how to select materials, code data, generate categories, and analyze texts. They also discover how to form original arguments about data, which can be exciting for students accustomed to piecing together the words of others to form a coherent argument. Moreover, students grow in their awareness of the DALN as a mechanism for research, thus developing their archival literacy skills. Taylor reflects on the skills she learned:

Through this project, I learned the stages that go into planning and carrying out primary research. I learned how to find texts that interested me, take meaningful notes, analyze data, and situate my findings in an already existing scholarly conversation. In conducting primary research, I also had to consider ethical questions that had never come up in my previous classes and research experience…. Analyzing the data for this project was overwhelming at first. Dr. Alexander warned my peers and I [sic] that we would have much more information than we could use for the actual paper. I spent a lot of time reading through my notes and the texts, highlighting what I found most interesting and relevant, writing further notes to myself, commenting on patterns, inconsistencies, and any ideas or quotes that intrigued me. This process resulted in a lot of questions [and many meetings with Dr. Alexander] to discuss the patterns and ideas that emerged from my data. I found these conversations essential to shaping my jumbled ideas into a coherent essay, and helpful in discerning what information was most relevant and what ideas did not relate to my argument.

Justin likewise notes that the DALN projects taught him how to ask better questions. He writes:

This class has been extremely influential in my understanding of reading, writing and research. This course taught me to ask questions of what I read—to view every text as something I can respond to or engage with. When I was analyzing the literacy narratives from the DALN, I found that my questions were getting better and better. Now, reading or analyzing something without asking questions is no longer an option. I have discovered that the goal of reading or evaluating a text is not to find a “right answer” but rather to offer a different perspective that can help others understand better, too. I had never thought my opinion to be all that useful, but after seeing the opinions of others influence my own understanding of the topics, readings, and literacy narratives in the DALN, I see now how my opinion can do the same.

This project taught Justin an essential element in primary research—to pose and formulate questions. These questions guided his investigation and gave him voice as a scholar.

Morgan, a science major, also notes how she “learned a great deal about research.” She writes:

Before taking this class, all of the research I had participated in revolved around the sciences and human physiological processes. I had absolutely no clue how to conduct a research study pertaining to literacy, and did not realize how similar yet different the type of research I am familiar with is from the research we did this semester. I have always known that research is widespread in all fields, so I really enjoyed not only getting to learn about research in the English/literacy field but also getting to actually conduct a research study. I am very hands-on and visual, so being able to actively conduct my own research project really gave me the opportunity to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of what goes into archival research. Before taking this class, I had never thought to analyze essays or texts by others as the basis for my own argument. However, by conducting this type of research, I was able to learn a different approach to research and a great deal about family literacy that I otherwise would have never gotten the chance to learn.

These student comments indicate that the DALN-based research projects expanded their abilities in primary and archival research.

In addition to enhancing primary research skills, this project also expanded students’ archival literacies, or their abilities to read the archives as a rhetorical apparatus that both permits and constrains available actions. Students became aware of the affordances of the DALN when they could not easily find the topics they wanted to study or when trying to find simpler ways to discover potential literacy narratives to analyze. Students came to recognize that the DALN’s function as an archive determines possible outcomes, sometimes making it simple to select texts and other times constricting their actions. Ultimately, students learned to make the DALN work for them by working within its boundaries to fulfill their own intellectual and personal goals.

In sum, researching primary documents can help students develop a greater sense of academic authority as they bring these texts to the attention of wider audiences. Archival research and other primary research methods enriches student learning and aids undergraduates as they become active creators of knowledge rather than merely passive receivers.

3. The DALN increases understanding of the discipline of writing studies.

What makes the DALN stand out even more from other digital archives or primary research assignments is that its contents center on subjects and lines of inquiry important to scholars in rhetoric and composition. In fact, the DALN is one of the only primary source archives of our field. Through its focus on the literacy narrative genre, the DALN exposes students to a range of disciplinary concepts, including literacy, narrative, story, rhetoric, identity, amongst a host of other topics. Student Louisa notes that her knowledge of the field grew:

My understanding of literacy has been expanded on quite a bit in this course. Before this course, I had never thought about the concept of literacy. I just assumed that it was reading and writing, and I knew that somehow it helped individual people succeed in life. When reading the articles and thinking about literacy, I came to understand how it influences the culture around us and how different cultures practice different literacies and how literacy as I have always seen it may not be universally accepted. When drafting my audio literacy narrative, I came to understand how my experience with school-based literacy has influenced my development as a writer, reader, and thinker. It became clear that literacy as I have always known it—reading and writing mostly for the sake of school—was not its exact definition. After reading extensive articles on the topic, I became more aware of the different literacies that are among us and that there is not a universal definition. I now understand that literacy is not just about school or being smart; it is anything that allows us to better understand the world around us. This concept of literacy has allowed me to be much more open-minded and aware of different forms of literacy around me.

Another student Kaitlyn notes in her reflective letter that reading primary and secondary literature on the literacy narrative contributed to her success:

Spending the first half of the semester reading so many articles about literacy prepared me to work with the DALN for my final project. These articles provided me with plenty of background knowledge, and I was able to refer to these sources in my paper. This process of revisiting articles to find relevant research and determining how previous research fit in with my research ended up not being as difficult as I thought.

In addition to enhancing disciplinary awareness of subjects of inquiry, the DALN also presents students with an opportunity to learn about the literacy narrative. This genre contains individual and communal stories, histories, contexts, and cultures and is a distinct genre in our field. Asking students to write a literacy narrative—while reading exemplary literacy narratives—proves an effective entry into the genre. It makes students aware of the genre itself, as well as the varied purposes, motivations, and challenges writers of literacy narratives face. Students come to understand affordances of the genre—both its capabilities and its limitations—and are better trained to speak with authority on the subject. This exposure to literacy narratives also prepares students to interact with the numerous and varied literacy narratives in the DALN.

Finally, the DALN exposes students to the concepts of multimodality, visual rhetoric, materiality, and affordances—topics also of interest to scholars in rhetoric and composition. As an archive containing multiple kinds of texts, the DALN is not unique, but as a space that contains both alphabetic and multimodal literacy narratives, it is distinctive. The DALN’s commitment to viewing composing broadly buttresses our field’s broad views of writing and composing, which is then passed on to faculty, students, and others who use the archive.

Camden really enjoyed the multimodal and digital aspects of this course. He states:

I always thought of writing as words on a page, and I was amazed when we started using the DALN how many other kinds of texts there were. I ended up using only videos for the research project, and once I started analyzing them, I realized how many different possibilities I had for my project. I decided to analyze how video afforded certain kinds of performances, but I could have easily examined many other elements. My view of writing really broadened from this course and my project.

Not only did students learn about multimodality through reading and analyzing texts, they also discovered multimodality firsthand when they composed their audio literacy narrative. Through this assignment, students gained skills in writing a script and storyboard and recording, editing, and layering sound. Amy, for instance, reflects on how she was strategic in her use of music. She states, “One obvious affordance of the audio literacy narrative was music, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my story and my interests and form it around music, so I looked for musical tracks that mirrored what I wanted to say.”

Christina also gained skills in multimodal composition and reflects on composing the audio literacy narrative:

I really began to learn about multimodal composition during the audio literacy narrative assignment. Creating the narrative turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. One struggle in particular was my lack of access to the music my father and I composed. My dad actually had to play the music we had recorded through his computer and I recorded it on my iPad. Though a part of me was worried that the sound quality of the recording was going to be terrible, I didn’t know any other way to gain access to the file. I also had some struggles when I was recording my own voice. I noticed I sounded very performative when I was recording, which came across as disingenuous. To solve this problem, I recorded the voiceover track multiple times in hopes it would sound more personal and less performative…. My favorite thing about the project was being able to layer the story with sound. Doing so really enhanced the story of me and my father. Having the actual songs he and I recorded, and hearing my voice and his guitar brought the story to life in a way that an alphabetic text could not.

Overall, this exposure to disciplinary research questions, the literacy narrative genre, and multimodal writing increases student understanding of the myriad ways writing can be studied and composed.

4. The DALN is usable and accessible.

On a practical level, incorporating the DALN into a writing course requires a fairly low learning curve and proves efficient for the purposes of UGR. I mentioned before that archival research is not my area of expertise, but I found the DALN easy to use and navigate. Creating an account on the DALN takes very little time, and once you have access, the site is quite usable. Students were able to get started immediately, and they learned quickly how to browse archives. Although the keywords in the archive are user-generated rather than curated by the DALN archivists or curators, the students tended to be successful in their searches. Additionally, the accessibility of the DALN is a major strength. Since the collection is located online, students and faculty can visit the DALN website anytime they want from their own computers. Also, the DALN archives are free and require very little up-front work before beginning to use them. For faculty considering using archives in their courses for the first time, the DALN provides an excellent option.

5. Incorporating DALN-based projects provides a path to student professionalization.

Finally, the assignment model outlined above provides students with a glimpse of scholarly life, and it can serve as excellent preparation for an academic career in rhetoric and composition. Before I started utilizing the DALN for UGR, very few of our students applied to graduate school or considered academic careers. We are now seeing more and more students consider this option. Taylor, for instance, whom I have cited above, is currently pursuing graduate work in rhetoric and composition. She is the first PWR major to do so and plans to become a writing professor. Taylor reflects on how this project encouraged her career goals:

The opportunity to conduct primary research at Baylor also has been invaluable to my current success in graduate school and gives me confidence as I am writing my thesis. Having conducted primary research as an undergraduate, I knew how to choose texts that I would enjoy researching, and because of my research experience at Baylor, I also had the confidence to get involved in literacy centers and archival work during my first month of graduate school. This has allowed me to work ahead on my projects and have plenty of time to develop a research plan and get IRB approval for this project. My project in Dr. Alexander’s class made designing my thesis project much more manageable, as I already had an understanding of the research methods used in rhetoric and composition. The research I conducted as an undergraduate sparked a passion for primary research […]. Without the opportunity to conduct primary research as an undergraduate, I am sure my current research interests and methodological approach to research as a graduate student would be much different.

Other students are following Taylor’s lead and are now even considering a career in academia. Shannon, for instance, notes,

Before this class I did not know what I wanted to do for a career. I had no real set path to follow. This class, however, added a profession to the list of those to consider: becoming a professor. This profession intrigues me and I had never contemplated it before now. It’s definitely something to add to the list! Even if I don’t choose this career, I know that whatever direction I go the skills I have learned in this class will be utilized and helpful.

DALN-based projects can perhaps stimulate in students an awakening into a love for the discipline. This conception of professionalization “goes beyond vulgar careerism, developing students who are not merely training for future jobs, but for ongoing humanistic inquiry within those career fields” (Delli Carpini, 2007, p. 30). It is my hope that as UGR is integrated into more of our classes, a greater number of students will continue to consider graduate school in our field.


Although this pedagogical approach offers many benefits, it also has some drawbacks. First, this method can be quite time-consuming, sometimes even taking an entire semester to complete. Although the assignments and activities can be adjusted to meet various courses and faculty expertise, they utilize a sequence that continues to build on newly acquired knowledge and skills. Thus, this approach may be restrictive in what can be cut. Some courses may not have the time or flexibility to utilize all of the approach. Nonetheless, the approach can be adjusted and adapted so that the goals and purposes for UGR can still be realized.

Another limitation of this project is that it only emphasizes one realm of archival research—digital research—and does not delve into physical artifacts and objects. Though the assignment sequence encourages students to experiment with traditional archives, because it does not utilize such research in the same way as it does with the data from the DALN, students’ understanding of primary and archival research might be limited. Similar to this incomplete grasp of archival research, the DALN’s narrow focus on literacy narratives may be difficult for undergraduate students unfamiliar with the subject of literacy or literacy narratives. Students may have trouble understanding what specific keywords or topics to enter as search terms because of their own limited conceptions of or experience with the subject matter.

Finally, the narrow focus of literacy narratives or the DALN as the data source can be somewhat restrictive. Instructors who do not have expertise or experience with literacy narratives or the DALN may find the task somewhat daunting. Although the DALN is fairly easy to use and access, it is a digital archive that has no set outcome or path for students. The research process is messy, and directing students towards projects while also managing students’ emotions can be challenging. Moreover, the narrow focus on literacy narratives can also be frustrating and even tedious for students who are not interested in the topic. Even though students are typically able to find literacy narratives in the DALN that interest them and that they would like to study, after spending 10-16 weeks on a single subject such as literacy narratives or one archive, they may become tired of these topics or the DALN in general. Furthermore, using the DALN can be frustrating for some students who want to choose their own topic to research or to focus on a subject in their major this topic. Other students, like my student Andrea, may resist making their writing public or engaging in such work (see Alexander, 2017).

In spite of these limitations, using the DALN in the manner outlined above achieves valuable learning outcomes for students in terms of UGR. While the genres available in the DALN are limited to literacy narratives, it still provides students and faculty with enough angles to consider and diverse entry points into discussions on language, literacy, writing, and identity that faculty should not discount the approach. Moreover, the variety of narratives included and the varied interests students bring enable students to find and select subjects, topics, and ideas that can engage them and make research an even more enjoyable pursuit. The written work students complete provide ample opportunity for instructors to assess whether or not students have achieved these outcomes. Because of the variety of work produced, and the sequenced schema developed, instructors can work with students throughout the process to make sure that learning outcomes are being met throughout the process. In sum, the DALN is an extremely valuable resource for classes that emphasize undergraduate research. Assignments that utilize the DALN place reasonable expectations on students and what they can accomplish in a semester’s time, especially with limited knowledge and experience about the field. With the UGR imperative playing such an important role at this time, the model I have outlined here presents scholars and instructors ideas as to how to use digital archives like the DALN as a source for undergraduate scholarly inquiry.


  1. The work Fishman, Greer, and DelliCarpini are currently conducting through their CCCC research grant attempts to address this gap as well.
  2. This full-day workshop at CCCC increased my understanding of the history and current status of undergraduate research in writing studies and challenged me to get involved as a faculty member. One of the most interesting parts of this workshop was hearing from young scholars who had participated as students in undergraduate research projects. Many of them had even published in YSW and were now attending graduate school. Their stories highlighted how meaningful these kinds of projects were to them, and they personally encouraged me to attempt it myself, even though I knew it would be a challenging and messy process.
  3. Multimodal compositions are texts that employ multiple semiotic resources to purposefully convey meaning, such as a video essay, a visual poster, a collage, or an audio essay (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001; New London Group, 1996).
  4. Students are assigned readings throughout the semester that enable them to gain deeper understandings into the kinds of questions literacy scholars ask.
  5. Articles on this topic include ones from Buehl, Chute & Fields (2012); Ferreira-Buckley (1999); Gaillet (2012); L’Eplattenier & Mastrangelo (2012); Purdy (2011); and Ramsey, et al. (2010).
  6. The Texas Collection is an archive of materials on the history, heritage, and culture of Texas; the University Archives contains the archives of Baylor University; and the Keston Center contains materials related to religious and political persecution under Communist and totalitarian regimes. These collections include access to a wide range of books, journals, letters, paintings, photos, transcripts, and rare documents.
  7. I limit this assignment to three texts to sharpen students’ research skills in selection, analysis, and evaluation before adding more texts. Also, primary research can be a messy process and working with more texts at this point can overwhelm students who are used to relying on secondary sources in their academic work.
  8. Most students analyze the DALN texts from a literacy studies or genre perspective, likely due to the class’s focus and my own expertise. Another way I plan to teach this course in the future is to introduce students to a broad array of theories or theoretical frames (i.e., feminist, historical, Marxist, queer) so that students can analyze the DALN texts from a greater variation of theoretical lenses.
  9. This study was approved by the IRB of the Human Studies Committee. All student names are pseudonyms.
  10. Taylor’s response comes from an email she recently sent to me.


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