Essay Prompt: Present a project design of your own to explore a question you have about naturally occurring conversation. The response to this question will have two sections, Introduction and Methodology. You may build on research you have done for your final project, any previous projects, or you may choose a new project. Write a one-paragraph introduction which draws upon our work in this program to explain why your project is important. End this section with a research question or hypothesis. Then explain your methodology. How will you gather data? How will you choose your participants in the study? If you will ask your participants questions, list them. If you ask participants to discuss something, provide the prompt. Will you record data at the moment or later? Will you audio tape or videotape? Be very specific. Include in your explanation of methodology the crucial explanation of why, in your view, the methodology you have chosen will provide the answer to your research question.
Project Description: You will be recording a meeting, transcribing a section of that recording, and analyzing the transcription. Videotape a student group meeting for at least 20 minutes. This student group should have at least five members present at the meeting (there should be men and women) and they should have a prepared agenda for their meeting with at least two topics to discuss or on which to make decisions. After the meeting, analyze your video recording carefully, and select for your transcription a discussion about one of the topics on the agenda, in which at least two members spoke. For your analysis, use both your transcription and the video recording, and answer the following question: What discourse methods, styles, and behaviors does each speaker exhibit in order to address the agenda topic and finalize the issue?
Importance to the program: I think this would be a very interesting topic, particularly because of my involvement with a student group myself. I was very careful to make this assignment different from the one we did analyzing the seminar discussion. The idea of addressing a certain topic and the pressure to come to a definitive conclusion about it is fascinating and very distinct—I don’t believe it is something that happens in a seminar. It’s one thing to sit in a seminar and be able to talk at length about a certain topic, but students don’t need to make decisions or even come to final conclusions… or at least not on behalf of anyone but themselves. So I think that to analyze students getting business done in the student group setting would be very compelling. I would also be interested in what (if any) type of government this group would use, because this will affect how each person is involved in the discussion and decision-making process. Do they have a leader who will make the ultimate decision, but not without some input of other members first? Do they need to reach a consensus? Do they take a vote?
Methodology: Though I’d love to analyze a Cooper Point Journal meeting from a linguistic standpoint, I would record the Geoduck Union for this project. I would be especially interested in stance and face-saving acts, but I would also focus on backchannelling, politeness, and hedging. These would show up in how people expressed their opinions, how they made motions about the topics at hand, and how they changed subjects. Then I would examine how effective all this was by seeing what decisions they reached, how they reached them, and the timeliness of their decision (based on their agenda).
I wouldn’t do any extra research on the Geoduck Union before going in or doing the transcription and analysis, because I would like to do the project with few preconceptions. However, maybe in the last step of my analysis, I would look up whether any members had any special roles in the Union or in that meeting to determine how they used those roles.