The Worth of a Quarter
In the kind of abstract analysis done in this study, it is easy to forget that the study participants are four unique human beings. First of all, these students were studying for various reasons, and these motives were products of what had taken place earlier in their lives and what they imagined would take place afterwards. Even as they attended MSU they had lives, experiences, and goals outside the academic achievement game they played, and those factors influenced the way they played the game. Therefore, although I analyze their responses in terms of informational structures and operations, it is important to remember that these actions and artifacts were created by complex people engaged in a lot more than studying. A virtue of the qualitative case-study methodology is that it allows the analyst and the reader to contextualize the abstract in this more concrete social reality. To help do so, I will outline in narrative form the experiences of these four participants as I saw them.
I met Greg in a long line at the post office just before the beginning of the quarter. We began to talk, and he joined me in my complaints about the slowness of the service. I then asked him about his studies, and upon hearing that he was a sociology major, I asked him whether he might be interested in the project to take place during the upcoming quarter. He responded enthusiastically. That interest plus his 3.85 GPA, the highest of anyone who had signed up, led me to ask him to participate.