Gabrielle Stanley ’21
"Understanding How Students’ Conceptions of Writing Change After the First Year of College"
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Project Advisor: Meg Mikovits
Briefly describe your project.
My project consisted of designing/distributing a survey to first-year students about their experiences with writing after a year of college, analyzing those survey responses, coding the class of 2022 definitions of “good” writing (written in their summer assignments prior to starting college) using grounded theory, and assessing how well those definitions of “good” writing are applied to students’ InFocus essays.
Describe the origin of your project.
My project was a continuation of research I had been working on for a year prior (starting with my SOAR 2018 project!). I wanted to expand what I had been doing, and answer some of the questions that had come up during the process of analyzing other data. Meg Mikovits, my advisor, has been very involved in this research for a majority of this time, and together we discussed an idea of proposing a SOAR project so that I could be funded to continue my research.
What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?
Meg is a genuinely enjoyable person to work with, and is very understanding and nonjudgmental. During the Summer I work about 20 hours a week at my other job, and there were times when we would meet and I wouldn’t have as much done as I had planned. She was never upset with me for not having things done, and we were always able to talk about what we learned throughout the research thus far. She also guided me through the process of writing an article about my research for Young Scholars in Writing, which has been accepted for publication in its Spring 2020 issue.
What has been your biggest obstacle so far?
I think more than anything else the sheer volume of data that I worked with was a bit daunting. I had 298 samples of the answers to “What is good writing?”, and nearly as many for the InFocus essays. Going through all of that data, and doing it well, is very time-consuming.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?
As with anything I do in research, the results are always more like further lines of inquiry. There is so much more I need to understand before I can fully answer the questions that I have, or have any sort of well-rounded knowledge about my subject. Writing really is s complex, on paper and at the cognitive level, so expertise in writing education is not easily obtained.
What was the result of your project?
As stated previously, the major results were more questions. I have a second set of data coded now (second meaning a second class of students, class of 2021 and 2022), which makes my data arguably even more significant. My research also inspired a longitudinal project that the Writing at Moravian Program designed, which is pretty cool.
In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian University?
I am forever grateful for all of the opportunities Moravian University has provided for me, but this one in particular holds significance. Being able to spend the summer working on research that I really value and find important to larger conversations means more to me than I think I can describe. As someone who works a very mundane customer service job, having what is essentially a job over the summer where I get to work on a project that I believe to be meaningful really lifts my spirits and makes me feel capable of doing work that is of much more importance than serving ice cream. I am so thankful to the SOAR program for accepting my project and I would recommend the program to anyone who has questions they want to try to answer!
Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?
Of course, and always! There were some loose ends by the end of Summer that I need to tie up (I got access to my data a little later than expected, and it takes time to go through everything, so I simply ran out of time). As previously mentioned, the Writing at Moravian program is conducting a longitudinal study that is an expansion on research that I’ve been doing, and I will be one of the project leaders for that. I will also be proposing presentations at two conferences this year, so I’m hoping to share what I’ve learned from others and take the questions they have into consideration as I continue my research!
Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations?
As previously discussed, I plan to propose presentations about this research at CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication) and MAWCA (Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association Conference). Research I’ve done previously involving the data from the class of 2021 will be published in Young Scholars in Writing next year as well. I’m very excited!