I-Search Paper was my second project for the ENG 1020 class. I have to admit that I had never written this kind of paper before, so from the very first it was a challenge for me. We started the preparations for this project from defining the term “I-Search Paper” and talking about its distinguishing characteristics. We also did the brainstorming and shared the information with other students during the class. For the next meeting everyone was supposed to bring his I-Search question to be able to discuss it with other classmates. Our teacher suggested writing down our question and hand it on to every person in the classroom in order to receive his opinion or hint to start writing the essay. A few people agreed to volunteer and shared their questions and ideas connected with I-Search Paper with others. Unfortunately, I’m usually a listener during the class, so I can’t say that I contributed much to this discussion. However, it was a very helpful activity for me, because it allowed me to understand the concept of this project and steer my ideas toward right direction. Mrs. Adrienne also highlighted the importance of answering some questions before starting writing to make sure that we were on right track.
- Is it stated as a question or set of questions, instead of a statement?
- Do I need to clarify any terms to make my research question understandable to my audience?
- Is my question about one of my secondary discourses/ discourse communities?
- Am I personally invested in exploring this question?
- Is my question something I can research using primary and secondary sources?
Additionally, our teacher invited a student who attended this class last year. She told us her process of writing the I- Search Paper. Not only did she say general information about her paper, but also shared with us her doubts, difficulties and gave us a few very practical hints. The thing, which I remember the most, was her advice about the topic. She said, “The more you’re interested in the topic of your I-search Paper, the easier it will be to write about. Take your time to choose the right one. I, for example, changed my questions three times since I finally found the right one.” After this class, I knew that I had to write about something connected with my life, something which is very important to me. I decided to do a research about the international fencers at WSU. My I-Search question was “Why did the international fencers decide to join the fencing team at WSU and how has this decision affected their life? I chose these questions, because my teammates had to make a very difficult decision. Moreover, they had to go through the same process as I did, and I’d like to know their motives to come here, what has changed and what they think about their life in Detroit now.
For the next class, we had to write the first part of this assignment: the introduction. Everyone brought a hard copy of the introductory part to the class; we sat in the small groups and started reading other students’ drafts. Then, we discussed each work and everyone had the opportunity to suggest some changes as well as point out its pluses and minuses. I found this activity very practical, because I could receive an objective opinion about my introduction. After this class, I took my friends’ reflection into account and rang the changes. The next step was the conference with our teacher. Everyone was obliged to come to Mrs. Adrienne’s office with his draft and talk about his ideas and receive some advice. In my opinion it was a super idea, because we could check if we were on course. Additionally, during these two days of conference we didn’t have formal classes, which mean that we were given extra free time to work on our project.
After the conference, I started planning my research. I decided to interview three fencers from different countries. I have to say, that one of the biggest advantages of this project was the fact that we were given a good amount of time to finish our paper. Therefore, I was able to arrange my interviews and adjust to my interviewees. Despite their tight schedule, they agreed to help mi with this assignment. I met and talked with them for a while. My first interview was with Kaja, the next one with Quentin, and the last one with Marie. After each interview I gained a little bit of experience and felt more comfortable during the next one. Moreover, after each interview, I changed some details to receive more precise and satisfying answer. Although, each interview was different, they all answered similar question and gave me a lot of precious information. Their feedback was unquestionably necessary and I’m aware that without their help I wouldn’t have been able to finish my paper.
After finishing our full drafts, we brought them to the class, and again had opportunity to review them with our peers. My friends help me correct some errors and pointed out some fragments which were unclear for them. This activity was perfect, because our full draft was due same day. Therefore, I had a chance to review my draft and improve it before sending it to my teacher. After a few days, I received an e-mail with some comments. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw further grammar mistakes. After so many reviews, it should have been perfect… However, I corrected them and focused on other comments. I had to develop some paragraphs and added some information to make my paper more coherent. I also received a comment about the citing, because some of my citations were in the wrong form. I read the information about it and learned how to cite the long quotations. I had never heard about this form of citing before, thus, I was totally unaware of these mistakes.
Now, when I’m done with this project, I can honestly say that I learned a lot of useful techniques. After reading aloud my full draft I could find mistakes, change some phrases, which sounded weird, as well as congratulate myself on some parts of the text. I also remembered my teacher’s advice that during the process of researching we should always have a notebook on us. This suggestion was really good, because I was able to write all my new thoughts and ideas, which came to my mind no matter where and when I was. I personally, believe that my process of researching went really went. I’m very glad that I conducted these three interviews, because it’s so much nicer to gather information in person. Not only did I not have to use the internet to do it, but also I received the certainty of reliable information. It’s worth mentioning that some readings were very helpful. I think that the text from Sharan B. Merriam’s book helped me a lot. I took advantage of couple of her methods, and thanks to them, I was prepared for the interviews. I prepared my own study guide, avoided yes/no questions and gave my interviewees freedom of answering. Moreover, I made some adjustment during each interview and changed a little the approach for the next one to receive the desirable information. Due to all these factors, I obtained data that I needed.
Without fail, I’m a learner. I have learned a lot since the first class, and in my opinion, I have made a significant progress so far. I have benefited from the class discussions, reading assignments, projects and other homework. As a listener, I listen to my classmate, and receive a lot of useful suggestions and ideas. I’m usually not an active participant in class, however, the discussion with my teacher have helped me immensely. The thing which is important for me is the fact that my teacher always clues us in on “our goals”, gives us comments and encourages to work. I think that being a learner in the composition classroom means that I should do my best to develop and improve my skills. In case to do it, I should follow my teacher’s suggestions, do the homework, readings, and projects and participate in class. I should also remember that my peers can help me a lot (as well as I can help them). We have many group activities; therefore I should put some effort to better our cooperation. Moreover, we should be aware of the fact that we are in the classroom anyway, so there is no reason for us to not benefit from this class entirely.