Composing Inquiry

Allyn & Bacon
Margaret J. Marshall  
Total pages
February 2008
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A reader/rhetoric for the first-year composition course or any undergraduate course with a focus on research and investigation.


The first composition text to present in-depth primary and secondary research methods, disciplinary readings and writing instruction to facilitate authentic investigations.


Composing Inquiry

is a reader/rhetoric that takes seriously the call to engage undergraduates in intellectual work. All of the readings included here serve to illustrate methods of research and investigation used in various academic disciplines, and all inspire similar projects that can be done by undergraduate students as they learn to work on their writing. Unlike traditional readers, Composing Inquiry also includes chapters meant to help students understand methods of inquiry commonly used by scholars to collect data or test theories. These method chapters can be used in conjunction with the readings or independently, depending on the program/course goals or the preferences of individual teachers.


A special, interactive online instructor's manual provides many class-tested techniques and insights into teaching composition with Composing Inquiry.


  • Part I presents four common methods used across a number of different disciplines - observing, interviewing, working with numbers, and working with texts.  
  • A selection of 25 scholarly yet approachable readings from across the disciplines illustrates how the investigative endeavor and writing work together.  Twenty-three themes assignment sequences connect the readings to investigative opportunities and to each other.
  • Chapter 2 provides an overview of writing issues using a rhetorical frame of audience and purpose and highlighting issues of analysis and argument, disciplinary forms, arrangement, clarity and style.
  • The book includes four sample projects (The Water Project; Local History; Public Space; Organizational Needs Assessment) that invite a class of students to collaborate on an extended investigation. These projects can be used in combination with the readings or alone as a term's worth of work.
  • An interactive, online instructor's manual provides many class-tested techniques and insights into teaching composition with Composing Inquiry.

The methods chapters are structured in similar ways to include:

  1.  a general explanation of the method, including how it is used in the academic world and how to use the method to further an inquiry;

  2. examples of special cases, that is, modifications of the method or specific kinds of materials that researchers work with using a version of the primary method;

  3. a discussion of ethical considerations connected to the method;

  4. practice activities that can be done independently or with classmates;

  5. highlights of rhetorical issues that often appear as students work to present their research in writing;

  6. samples of student writing featuring that method; and,

  7. links to the readings and assignments that appear later in the book.

Table of Contents


Preface             ix

Acknowledgments        xiii


CHAPTER 1:   Introduction      1

What is Inquiry?           1

            Why Inquiry: Why Composing?            3

                        Literacy            3

            Reading and Writing Together   6

                        Strategies for Active Reading                6

                        Posing Questions          11

                        Using This Book           16

                        Inquiry and the Internet 18

            Internet Resources        18

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   19


CHAPTER 2:  Presenting Inquiry: Rhetorical Choices and Writing Issues           20

            What Does Audience Have to Do With It?        20

                        Discourse Communities and Genre Expectations            22

            Framing Your Work     25

            Developing an Argument Through Analysis                    29

            Including the Work of Others: Paraphrases, Quotations, Citations          31

            Arrangement     33

                        Foregrounding              33

                        Headings          34

                        Transitions        35

            Clarity and Style           39

                        Sentence Length           39

                        Word Choice               39

            An Eye Toward Revision          42

            Internet Resources        45

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   46


CHAPTER 3:  Observing         47

            Special Materials: Visuals          53

            Special Materials: Artifacts        63

            Ethical Considerations in Observing                   67

            Working on Writing Observations         69       

                        Summary Descriptions to Generalizations          70

                        Vivid Details versus “Objective” Language        72

            Student Essay: Observation of a Place   74

                        The Fields of Dreams Hattie Wellington           75

            Student Essay: Visual Analysis  78

                        Web Pages in the Automobile Industry Christopher Perin       78

            Internet Resources        82

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   84

            Links to the Readings    84

            Assignments Using Observation            84

            Assignments Working with Visual Materials                   85

            Assignments Working with Artifacts                  85


CHAPTER 4:  Interviewing       86

            Ethical Considerations and the 4 C's of Responsible Interviewing           88

            Staging the Interview                 90

                        Stage One Thematizing: Crafting Two Kinds of Questions          90

                        Stage Two Designing: Practical Matters 92

                        Stage Three Interviewing: Semi-Structured Conversation           95

                        Stage Four Transcribing: From Oral to Written Form     96

                        Stage Five Analyzing: Paying Critical Attention  98

                        Stage Six Verifying: Evaluating Your Findings    98

                        Stage Seven Reporting: Shaping for Audiences  99

            Special Case: Focus Groups     99

            Special Case: Oral Histories      101

            Working on Writing Interviews  102

                        Form of Presentation    102

                        Quotations        103

            Student Essay: Case Study Interview                 106

                        A Sociolinguistic Interview Bryan McLucas                106

                        Sociolinguistic Interview Transcript                    109

            Student Essay: Oral History      114

                        Columbine: A Day to Remember Samantha Sanderson           114

            Internet Resources        118

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   118

            Links to the Readings                118

            Assignments Using Interviewing 118

            Assignments Working with Focus Groups         119

            Assignments Working with Oral Histories          119


CHAPTER 5: Working with Numbers  120

            Part I: Interpreting Numbers: Some Basics        121

Types of Numbers: Raw Numbers, Percentages, Measures of Central Tendency (Mean, Median, and Mode), Rates               121

            Reading Survey Reports           124

            Data Analysis               130

Data Analysis Example: A Survey of Students Attending Large and Small School                       136

            Part II: Collecting Your Own Numbers: Surveys            136

                        Steps for Conducting a Survey  138

            Ethical Considerations   144

            Working on Writing from Numbers       145

                        Acknowledging Limits   146

                        Incorporating Graphics 149

            Student Essays: Survey 152

Satisfaction Among First-Year University of Miami Students Kenny Rosina             152

                        Rosina's Survey            156

                        Rosina's Data Table     158

            Internet Resources        159

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   159

            Links to the Readings                159

            Assignments Working with Numbers                 159

            Assignments Working with Surveys                   160


CHAPTER 6:  Working with Texts       161

            Part I: Inquiry into Texts            162

            Part II: Close (or Critical) Reading        166

            Facets of a Critical Reading      169

            Special Material: Music and Public Speech        173

            Special Material: Archives         176

                        Informal Archives         176

                        Library and Institutional Archives          177

            Ethical Considerations   181

            Working on Writing from Texts 182

                        Summarizing for Your Own Purposes    182

                        Accuracy in Representing Others          185

                        Balancing Your Words with the Words of Others          190

            Student Essay: Textual Analysis of Literary Texts           192

The Freudian Uncanny in Ray Bradbury's “Something Wicked This Way Comes” Stephen Fuller                  192

            Student Essay: Analysis of Spoken Language    202

                        The Effects of Columbine Samantha Sanderson          202

            Internet Resources        205

            Web Sites Referenced in this Chapter   205

            Links to the Readings                206

            Assignments Working with Texts           205

            Assignments Working with Archives                  207

            Assignments Working with Music and Public Speech     207


Sample Projects           208

            Project 1: The Water Project    208

            Project 2: Local History            211

            Project 3: Public Space 214

            Project 4: Organizational Needs Assessment                 216

            Internet Resources Referenced in Sample Projects and Assignment Sequences 220


Assignment Sequences  221

            Between Writing and Knowing  222

            Collective Memory       226

            Considering “Public”                 231

            Constructing Public Spaces       235

            Cultural Politics and Public Discourse    239

            Cultural Politics and Public Discourse II: Shaping Values           243

            Direct Observation       247

            Ethnicity in America: Identity     250

            Ethnicity in America II: Defining America           253

            Examining Visuals         255

            Expanding a Trends Report       260

            Eye on Campus            265

            Gender Investigations                269

            Histories: Official and Unofficial 272

            Humanizing Numbers                275

            Investigating Artifacts                279

            Material Culture            283

            Reading Media 286

            Reclaiming the Past       290

            Representing Community          294

            Trying Out Interview                 298

            Visual Rhetoric: Photographs                301

            Working with Texts      305



            Robin F. Bachin            309

Courage, Endurance and Quickness of Decision: Gender and Athletics at the University of Chicago, 1890-1920

            Rina Benmayor 326

Narrating Cultural Citizenship: Oral Histories of First-Generation College Students of Mexican Origin

            Leo R. Chavez             346

                        Developing a Visual Discourse on Immigration

            Leah Dilworth               357

Handmade by an American Indian:  Souvenirs and the Cultural Economy of Southwestern Tourism

            Janis L. Edwards and Carol K. Winkler            369

Representative Form and the Visual Ideograph: The Iwo Jima Images in Editorial Cartoons



Michael Frisch  391

American History and the Structures of Collective Memory: A Modest Exercise in Empirical Iconography

            Mark Allan Jackson      413

Is This Song Your Song Anymore: Revisioning Woody Guthrie's “This Land Is Your Land”

            Jeffrey P. Jones            433

                        Forums for Citizenship in Popular Culture

            Julie Eklund Koza         446

                        Rap Music: The Culture Politics of Official Representation  

            Maria Len-Rios, Shelly Rodgers, Esther Thorson, and Doyle Yoon             465

Representation of Women in News and Photos: Comparing Content to Perceptions

            Peirce Lewis     479

                        Common Landscapes as Historic Document

            Melanie Lowe              494

Colliding Feminisms: Britney Spears, “Tweens,” and the Politics of Reception

            Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins    510

                        The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes

            National Endowment for the Arts          530

                        Trends in Literature Participation, 1982-2002

            Julies David Prown       541

                        The Truth of Material Culture: History or Fiction?

            Paul A. Shackel            554

Public Memory and the Search for Power in American Historical Archaology

            Steve Spence               575

                        Van Gogh in Alabama, 1936

            David Thelen                597

                        Remembering the Discovery of the Watergate Tapes

            James Boyd White        625

Human Dignity and the Claim of Meaning: Athenian Tragic Drama and Supreme Court Opinions

            Judy Young                  642

A Bowlful of Tears Revisited: The Full Story of Lee Puey You's Immigration Experience at Angel Island


Photo Credits               625

Index                627


Back Cover

Encourage the habits of mind necessary for academic and professional life

                        Curiosity, flexibility, tolerance, precision, deliberation, self-reflection


Introduce students to research methods used in academic disciplines

                        Observing, interviewing, surveys, numerical and textual analysis


Promote work with different kinds of material

Artifacts, visuals, oral histories, focus groups, numerical data, archives, speech, music, and written texts


Teach common rhetorical strategies and issues of writing as a part of the process of presenting research for different audiences and purposes rather than in isolation

Discourse communities, genre expectations, framing, analysis and argument, quotations, summaries, citations, style and clarity, transitions, headings, graphics


Use readings from academic journals and books across disciplines as models for inquiry and presentation


Undertake longer inquiry projects structured to allow collaboration

Sample projects feature investigations centered on sustainable resources (water), local histories, public space and organizational needs and feature ways for connecting student research to on-going or local research projects


Help students understand strategies for critical and effective reading, posing appropriate questions, revision, and ethical research practice


Special Features:

·         Research methods are clearly explained with specific techniques described

·         Ethical issues highlighted throughout

·         Practice Activities in each chapter

·         Sample student writings included in each method chapter

·         Internet resources highlighted in each chapter

·         Methods chapters linked to readings and assignments

·         23 assignment sequences built around themes introduce methods alone or in combination

·         All assignment sequences encourage different kinds of revision and self-reflection

·         Final assignment in each sequence can serve to introduce a writing portfolio

·         4 Sample Projects allow for extended focus and collaborative investigations

·         20 readings, all published research that has not been previously anthologized

Instructor Resources