Constructing voices in writing research: Developing participatory approaches to situated inquiry

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



National Council of Teachers of English


This chapter is concerned with the occasions when composition researchers study academic communities that carry great intellectual prestige: for example, when they examine the discursive practices of scientists. In such situations, the views and approaches of composition researchers appear to be at odds with the intellectually sanctioned perspectives that drive science and much of academic inquiry. Thus researchers must often negotiate their own and their subjects' authority in the face of the subjects' expertise, prestige in academia, and high status in society in general. In carrying out such negotiations, composition researchers may face a dilemma: Should they make audible the voices of their subjects, even when they are dissonant with their own epistemological beliefs or those of contemporary humanistic and social scientific thinking? Or should the researchers mediate their subjects' voices so as to critique or even silence the voices and actions of subjects that may contradict their own and their field's beliefs? In this chapter we propose a middle ground: negotiating with subjects to find a common place where we can represent their voices fairly and critically while also allowing our subjects to critique our own methodology and interpretations.

Chapter of

Ethics and representation in qualitative studies of literacy


G. Kirsch
P. Mortensen