Monday, February 29, 2016

Johanek's "Predictor Variables: The Future of Composition Research"

I really enjoyed reading Johanek’s seventh chapter, “Predictor Variables: The Future of Composition Research”. The first section, “MLA Voice, My Voice”, in which Johanek writes about her decision to switch from MLA to APA during the process of writing her book, was especially interesting. As I may have mentioned in the past, I am a die-hard MLA fan. But… I will admit that this chapter, and Johanek’s reasoning, made me soften a little to the prospect of using APA.

The reasoning behind her decision to switch to APA was something that I had never considered before. Johanek writes that the use of present tense in MLA is fitting because one is writing about literature, and literature “can always be interpreted, reinterpreted, criticized, but the work itself will not change”. So its ok to write in present tense because the focus is on the product, and the product never changes.

However, in composition, “our texts serve a different purpose: constructing theory, presenting research, and discussing pedagogy are acts that focus not on the product of the text that resulted from such inquiry, but on the process of thinking that was used to arrive at that text”. The product still lasts forever, but now the world around it has changed, and so the writer may have changed as well.

Johanek writes: “Our use of MLA ties the theories, research, and pedagogies to their authors in the present tense as if those authors still believe… that theory, research, or pedagogy”. The use of MLA in composition research makes it seem “as if those works will always represent what those authors are thinking now”.  This seems irresponsible. Most authors evolve; they gain experience and insight that change the way that they think about their field. But, I have to admit, I had never thought of this as being such an oversight before now. In the future, this will change the way that I gather information. It’s not enough to find a source and use it. To tell the whole story, you need to look into what the author wrote before and after that, to make note of the changes in that field of research and how the researcher’s ideas changed and evolved (or if they didn’t).

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