The Designs of Academic Literacy: A Multiliteracies Examination of Academic Achievement

By Michael Newman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Methods

Because qualitative multicase studies have proven so fruitful in exploring many aspects of academic literacy, the same method was chosen for this research. This study, like any qualitative research, was designed to explore processes rather than support or refute hypotheses. There are no claims for generalization; findings should be considered as starting points for either hypothesis confirmation through quantitative methods or further refinement in other qualitative studies (e.g., Merriam 1988; Hammer 1994; Bogdan and Biklen 1998). I should note an exception to this modesty. I have already asserted that the game itself is probably universal. Although this idea arose from my observation of what these students were doing, the claim for universality does not depend on these data. It is supported by the analysis of the literature as described in the previous chapter. The data here only show how the students in this study play the game.

In spite of the precedents of other qualitative case studies, it might be claimed that the gaining of these kinds of insights into another’s experience would be better served by a full ethnographic treatment, including participant observation such as that of Moffatt (1991). This anthropologist lived part-time with the Rutgers undergraduates he studied. The description using such an approach would undoubtedly be thicker and would provide more triangulation because behavior can be examined exhaustively in this setting. Correspondingly, there would be less reliance on interviewees’ possibly self-serving comments. Nevertheless, academics constitute only a portion of an undergraduate’s life, and in fact, Moffatt has far more

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