Category Archives: Kynard

What Counts as “Evidence” in Kynard

It was largely through working with Elva that I began to question more rigorously the nature of the research paper in terms of what counts as “evidence.” The type of data that Elva was collecting and her attempt to write it up should not have been a new endeavor for her. She was in fact focusing in the social sciences and was well into her major. None of what she described as her previous research papers, however, seemed to fall outside of the typical library-go-fetch process. (135)

In the Kynard reading, I kept thinking about how often, when our students go and find “sources” for their research paper (sometimes an artificially determined number, for the sake of “sufficient rigor”), they come back with some of the weirdest things. I recall reading papers and thinking not just “How on earth did you find this source?” but also “Why on earth did you think that this source would be a good context, commentary, or voice to enter into a conversation with as you built your argument?”

And it makes me agree that we should introduce research as early as possible, but also its motivations– relevant research can help writers build credibility, understand the nature of a situation or problem, and insert their own original ideas into that gap between others’ voices. But it takes a lot of gathering and analysis and reading and fact-finding and synthesis of sources to effectively deploy sources as the log cabin-like foundation that we stand atop to make a coherent and interesting new argument. So how can we not only help students consult other texts, voices, and sources whenever they approach writing, but also use them effectively? I also have a feeling that primary research — whether ethnography, interviews, observations, or site visits — can also be very empowering in this way for students, since it puts them more in touch with what the research is for, and they are interpreting their own sensory experiences to find meaning.

This article ain’t no Kynard

“In this way, students not only become writers but also genre theorists, a process that can be well applied wherever they write. This to me seems the purpose and goal for the freshman research paper class.” (136)

This piece works well with Graff, especially considering the mentor texts. There’s rhetorical analysis in there, and so that’s helpful. Finding texts that push outside the boundaries of the traditional research paper that has personal meaning for students is one that I think all can agree with. Not using library sources would be a tough sell, but projects that combine various different kind of sources should be explored. This is a chapter from Writing across the Curriculum where you can find the bibliography.

Why do we Research?

Kynard’s article is very inspiring, very moving, very well-written and… I’m still not sure how I would get this to work in my own classroom. I definitely want to reread this, as I don’t have the time to study it as closely as I would like. The thing that strikes me the most is that we have students who are being asked to engage with their own lives as part of the scholarly world. That is, this is far from navel-gazing, but acknowledging that their own experiences are worthy of scholarly research. This is endlessly important.

WHY do we research anyway? Why are any of US scholars? I became a scholar because I got curious about one very dumb and weird question (“what is ‘boredom’ anyway?”) that I couldn’t shake. I’m a person who, when curious, reads and reads and investigates and asks questions until I find out as much as I can. I think the research paper is a way to tap students’ curiousity. In fact, that’s something I try to do in all of my assignments. And as far as transfer goes, if we can help students to look things up (and do interviews and other research) on their own, just because they are curious, we are sending them well on their way to becoming solid scholars in any field.

Okay, so, how to do this? Some clues I got from Kynard were that it seemed to help when her students were clear about their purposes. It also seemed to motivate them when they could relate their research to their own experiences, urgencies, actually. The place I struggle as a professor is getting students to identify the experiences that have that kind of urgency, that “writing the self,” of Malcolm’s prison experience, or Rhonda’s experience. These are very personal decisions, and many students with Malcolm’s or Rhonda’s experience are not yet ready to go there. And how does one walk the line between narrative and research, especially in light of such traumatic experiences? I don’t think it means that these things should not be the topic of research, quite the opposite (if the student is ready.) I guess I don’t really care about the “line” between narrative and research, but I would want to make sure they were, in fact, doing research and not only writing about themselves—integrating the writing about the self with the research. This is not easy.

Lastly,  the reader response questions Kynard asks seem good, but I have asked similar questions of my students, namely, “what is triggering your response to this text?” I have gotten very surface, not thoughtful answers. I’m not sure why. I don’t know, maybe I need to have my students read Gilyard (never a bad idea.)


It seems to me that what we often do in the name of the research paper buries more possibilities than it unearths.

I probably feel more passionately about the research paper as a genre and a practice, and how badly we teach and use it, than almost anything in composition (except maybe the 5-paragraph theme), and my copy of Kynard’s piece is all marked up with “yes!” and smiley faces and stars because of how much I agree with her. The truth is, my students hate the research paper, largely because they’ve learned it as a form of, as one student told me, a book report, a boring regurgitation of “facts,” and it’s hard to get them out of that mindset and start with questions rather than answers. Frankly, that mindset creates boring, error-riddled work and makes me crazy. However, if we’re honest, research is really about making meaning and creating new knowledge rather than presenting information. The problem is that the academic research paper has become so codified into what Elizabeth Wardle calls a “mutt genre” that it’s hard to push back against it. As Kynard says:

The one stock essay form seems to easiest to teach and grade, requiring thus only a mechanical reflex on the part of students and a counterreflex from the teacher’s pen.

The more I looked at this article, the more I got from it, not least the five goals that Ann Johns cites as her overall teaching goals (evoke student interest, draw from their own life histories, destabilize students theories of history and their theories of genre as static, and provide sufficient scaffolding or assisted performance). At the end of that paragraph, Kynard says, “This to me seems the purpose and goal for the freshman research paper class.” She goes on to talk about power imbued in genres, and also in the teaching situation although she is indirect about this, and suggests that we should, in fact, “destabilize” students’ notions of what research (and genre) is all about, Again, I couldn’t agree more. I’m looking forward to this discussion.