Spring 1999

Representing Educational Research in Written Reports

Education 208 CRN - 70766.

Units: 4

Hours: T: 2-5

Room: 2377 Academic Surge

Instructor: Jon Wagner

Overview: This course focuses on the rhetorical and substantive challenges of writing about educational research. Some of these challenges are faced by social researchers in general, but others are distinctive to educational research and are shaped by the abiding policy, practice and pedagogic contexts in which the implications of educational research are debated and deliberated.

Some of the topics we’ll examine include: rhetoric and genres of research reporting; the social organization of writing and publishing educational research; the relationship of writing challenges to research methods, theory and audience; and the different styles of discourse that characterize educational policy-making, practice and research. In addition to reading and talking, we’ll try out several text analysis strategies for examining published educational research and for analyzing and improving our own writing.

Format for class sessions: The course meets every week as a 3 hour seminar. Each session will involve some combination of lectures, presentations, discussion of assigned readings and exemplary reports of educational research that students find through their own reading; and a close look at student writing projects. Students are expected to attend all class sessions, to share their writing with other students, and to comment on the writing that other students bring to class.

Manuscript in process: If you are enrolled in this course, you are required to work on a "manuscript in process" for the duration of the course and to make progress in it. The manuscript you are working on will serve as the basis for a variety of directed reading and writing assignments. It can be any length and addressed to any specific audience. It can be a newly written draft or a draft based on one or more papers written for other courses.

Assignments: Apart from working on your own manuscript, you’re expected to complete one term writing assignment and several short writing exercises.

Term writing assignment: Research report rhetoric analysis: you write a paper that examines the rhetoric of two or more lead articles/books from a research area in which you are interested (we’ll read several articles that could serve as models for this assignment).

Short writing assignments: (1) A student writing critique (i.e. you review the written work of other students in the class as if that work had been submitted for publication to two different journals with which you are familiar) and (2) several Writing exercises that provide guided practice in writing educational research for different audiences. At the end of the class, all students also make an Oral presentation abaout their work for the course.

Grading: Students will be graded on timely completion of assignments, the quality of their written work, and their contributions to class discussions and presentations.



Becker, Howard.S. (1986). Writing for social scientists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gusfield, Joseph. (1990). Two genres of sociology: A literary analysis of The American occupational structure and Tally’s corner, in Albert Hunter (Ed.). The rhetoric of social research: Understood and believed. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, pp 62-96

Hunter, Albert. (1990). "Setting the scene, sampling and synecdoche," in Albert Hunter (Ed.), The rhetoric of social research, pp 111 - 128

Hunter, Albert. (1990). From: Introduction: Rhetoric in research, networks of knowledge, in Albert Hunter, (Ed.), The rhetoric of social research, pp 11-20.

Marshall, M. J. and Barritt, L. S. (1990). Choices made, worlds crated: The rhetoric of AERJ. American Educational Research Journal, 27 (4): 589-609.

McGill, Lawrence T. (1990). Doing science by the numbers: The role of table and other representational conventions in scientific journal articles. In Albert Hunter (Ed.), The rhetoric of social research, pp 129-141.

Miles, Matthew and Huberman, Michael. (1994). Producing reports, in Qualitative data analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, pp, 298-306

Nespor, Jan and Barbar, Liz. (1991). The rhetorical construction of "the Teacher." Harvard Educational Review, 61, 4: 417-433.

Reid, William A. (1987). Institutions and practices: professional education reports and the language of reform. Educational Researcher, 16, 10-15.

Richardson, Laurel. (1990). Writing strategies: Reaching diverse audiences. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

Shulman, Lee S. Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57 (1): 1-22.

Wainer, Howard. (1992). Prologue--How the following article came to be (pp 12-13); and Understanding graphs and tables (p 14-23). Educational Researcher, 21: 12-23.

Wolcott, Harry F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.


Note: Students will also review books and articles identified by other students as exemplars of particular formats and models of research reporting; and they will read and comment on manuscripts that students are currently writing themselves.

EDU 208

Representing Educational Research in Written Reports

A working list of tasks and choices


Designing the writing task:

Identifying and specifying the audience

Clarifying what you know

Clarifying what you want to say

Clarifying what you can say with confidence (and what you can’t, and what you need to do if you want to say more than you can now say and say it with confidence)

Scheduling your work

Designing feedback and support

Rhetorical and theoretical choices

Establishing credibility

Engaging the reader

Clarifying unfamiliar terms

Outlining the path you will take

Positioning your account

Linking particulars to generalizations (e.g., "casing")

Managing texture:

narratives and other forms of description

"chunks" and "streams"

concepts, examples, illustrations, asides, notes, and metaphors

your thoughts and other people’s thoughts

levels and kinds of confidence: observations, arguments, extrapolations, speculations, proposals, admonitions, cautions

Writing analyses of empirical data: represented social phenomena



attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, etc.


patterns of behavior

patterns of social organization

relationships between the above

Writing analyses of empirical data: representational forms





links and networks (e.g., lists, indices, labels, collections, collages, matrices, etc.)

recorded sensory data: sights, sounds, touch, smell, taste

other material artifacts (objects, arrangements, fabrications)

Designing the written package

Introducing the reader to your work

Rhetorical form: arguments, observations, proposals, reviews

Sequencing sections

Transitions between sections

Clarifying the "news" of your work

Achieving closure