Gotta be RAD, dude. (Haswell)

Haswell, Richard H. “NCTE/CCCC’s Recent War on Scholarship.” Written Communication 22.2 (2005): 198-223. Web. 18 Dec 2009.

Haswell’s article is interesting in any number of ways–not the least of which is his description of the sorts of research that the NCTE/CCCC values (or fails to value) in publication and proceedings. The short version is that “The flagstaff organizations of a disciplinary field [have stopped] publishing systematically produced knowledge” (220); or, at the very least, they are on their way to such a stop–a stop that is quite the opposite trend to other research disciplines that use some of the same methods and ask some of the same questions composition has traditionally asked (215). Knowledge in composition “has remained unaggregated, remained dormant, unvalitated, unreplicated, and unreviewed” (205). One of Haswell’s closing quotations provides an image that is oddly (darkly?) similar to Smit’s assessment of composition in dissolution in The End of Composition. He shares the following line from Robert Connors: “We are already pursuing research paths so disparate that many thoughtful people have feared the discipline will fly apart like a dollar watch” (Connors qtd in Haswell 220).

Haswell’s study provides, among other things, an excellent (i.e. better keep it in mind as I’m crafting method in my own study) definition of and call to action for a particular kind of research: “RAD studies, or scholarly investigation that is replicable, aggregable, and data supported” (201). This is not simply ‘empirical’ research and it also doesn’t attempt to dismiss or implicate theory, but rather is inquiry performed, specified, and published in such a way that data can be compared meaningfully. RAD is “a best effort inquiry into the actualities of a situation, inquiry that is explicitly enough systematicized in sampling, execution, and analysis to be replicated, exactly enough circumscribed to be extended; and factually enough supported to be verified” (201). RAD scholarship (sometimes called “RAD methodology”) doesn’t necessarily take up the aegis of a particular method or theory, but rather is an approach to knowledge that offers the possibility of replication through careful description of data, sampling, methods of collection and analysis, contextual and historical data, and other factors.

Much of the data and argument of the article consist of an extended assessment of NCTE/CCCC’s failure to promote and publish RAD research on central topics to composition, concluding with a dark look forward to the results of such a failure

An uncheerful quotation:

That malaise is the field’s inability, as yet, to convince scholars outside the field that it is serious about facts, perhaps its inability to convince them that it is not afraid of what those facts might uncover about its favorite practices (Reynolds, 1990), perhaps the inability of its members—teachers and researchers alike—to rid themselves entirely of the suspicion that their scholarship, however defined, is maybe no more than a private epideictic, no more than “the way we reveal ourselves to ourselves” (Carter, 1992, p. 310). The situation does not bode well, appearing at best a downward spiral, protracted but downward nonetheless.

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