Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Investigating ESL Graduate Students' Intercultural Experiences of Academic English Writing: A First Person Narration of a Streamlined Qualitative Study Process

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Investigating ESL Graduate Students' Intercultural Experiences of Academic English Writing: A First Person Narration of a Streamlined Qualitative Study Process

Article excerpt

This report narrated in the first person, presents the process of a qualitative study exploring the impact of ESL graduate students' native cultural and rhetorical conventions as well as classroom cultures on their academic English writing in American universities. Numerous books have explored and illustrated the variations to the conceptualization of the qualitative research process in an extensive way (for example see Schram, 2006; Silverman, 2009). The process illustrated in these books that of proposing or conceptualizing a qualitative study with reference to the conventional approaches of qualitative studies (Schram, 2006; Silverman, 2009). While the conceptualized process is useful, qualitative novice researchers may be more interested in how the research process is emergent in an actual and completed study. This report is aimed at illustrating the streamlined process of a qualitative project and narrating episodes that happened during the research. In addition to reflections over the episodes, it is also my intention to directly inform readers of the streamlined qualitative study process from getting the research hunch all the way to the final choice of syntax in the conclusion.

Illustration of the qualitative research process is included, as qualitative researchers often consider the research process more important than the outcomes of the study (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992). Despite this, research reports are often still not minute enough so that novice researchers are able to see what the original process was in great detail. Most of the existing research reports (with the exception of Hu, 2009) record the successful experiences of the researchers, but not the failures as well as subtleties of mental changes, and then the following meditations over the failures and the resulting changes. For example, researchers' reflexivity is mentioned as a strategy for qualitative studies but is not consistently narrated and embedded in the flow of the research process. A strong feature of a qualitative study is the emphasis on the authenticity of human experiences (Silverman, 2009), including both the participants' and the researchers' stories. Thus, a credible qualitative report is not only an interpretation of participants' experiences, but also a narration of researchers' original experiences during the study process. Additionally, the perception and interpretation of the research participants' experiences are constructed by the researcher based upon the researcher's previous and during-the-research experiences. In this sense, using the first person narrative perspective makes the description vivid to the readers and may be able to enhance the credibility of the report (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

The process of the current study was initiated by the research hunch that emerged from a research experience when I interviewed a Hispanic college student. I asked her to do some analysis in her composition, and she said: "I can't". The response was so unexpected to me, a previous Chinese college teacher and an international teaching assistant in an American university. After reflecting upon this episode, I realized that there might be some cultural differences which cause minor conflicts between instructors and students from different cultural backgrounds due to the instructor's expectations rooted in his or her culture per se. Considering that I was an international student from China, I believed it would be better for me to focus my study on Chinese students in order to have an in-depth understanding of the participants and their stories from an emic angle.

In addition to my emic perspective, Chinese culture and language are different from those of English, which are rooted in Greek and Roman cultures. When Chinese students write English papers for English-speaking professors, there could be some disagreement and misunderstanding during cross-cultural writer and reader communication due to expectations transferred from the first language (L1) cultural and linguistic conventions. …

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