Research and Writing about Discourse in Place

Course Overview: 

The aim of this 2000 level course is to provide students with unique opportunities to research, write sustained arguments, and deepen their understanding of how discourse operates in public space.The course content is structured around the shared-inquiry of geosemiotics, which serves as a foundation for theoretical discussions and a guideline for conducting qualitative research.  


Weekly informal primary research assignments, Journaling on Weblog, Visual semiotic and rhetorical analysis, Inquiry-based arguments, Formal research proposals, Sustained research essay

Key Themes:

Geosemiotics, indexicality, transgressive semiotics, public space, qualitative research such as ethnography and observational analysis, case studies, rhetorical research, qualitative data analysis, generating claims, sustained inquiry

Primary/Supplementary Texts (Small Sample):

Scollen and Scollen’s Discourses in Place, for its clear and concise introduction to geosemiotics and plethora of useful research activities

Don Mitchell’s “The End of Public Space,” Flusty’s “Building Paranoia,” and David Sibley’s “Introduction to Geographies of Exclusion” for their useful explanations and interrogations of public space 

Ellen Taylor-Powell and Marcus Renner’s “Analyzing Qualitative Data” for its concise and accessible instructions on how to analyze and interpret different kinds of primary data

Excerpts from Blakesley and Hoogeveen’s
The Brief Thomson Handbook for its useful sections on conducting research, source evaluation, and documentation

Margaret Kantz’s “Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively” for its emphasis on innovation, creation, and rhetorical approaches to research and writing

Course Description:

Structured around the shared-inquiry of geosemiotics, this course is designed to enhance students ability to generate productive inquiries, perform critical research, and write sustained, well-informed arguments from a rhetorical perspective. Students spend first half of class practicing primary research using a variety of qualitative methods, integrating theoretical concepts from course readings into their observational analyses, and generating ideas for individual research projects. During second half of class, students embark on their own research projects, using research methods appropriate to their sites of analysis, digital technologies such as Zotero to organize research, and Weblogs to generate ideas and claims in conversation with other researchers. Students' final project is a 10-12 page research argument.

Course Reflections:

This course demonstrates that productive teaching of writing and research does not always have to hyperfocus on perfectly polished final products. With the main focus of this course being research, students learn to employ writing and digital technologies as a means to conduct, record, organize, evaluate, interpret, and generate ideas from their research. Student writers act as primary research “experts” during the semester as they generate and critically reflect upon their research. Writing is taught as an integral method in the research process as well as a means to deliver a persuasive, well-informed argument.