Women in Technical Communication Teaching Talk: Digital Rhetoric

I’m facilitating a teaching talk today on digital rhetorics for Women in Technical Communication. Join our Google Hangout at 11am EST/10am CDT for a conversation on the what, the whys, and the hows of integrating digital rhetorics into classrooms.

Here are some of the questions and topics we’ll cover:

Session Goal Setting

  • As individuals and as a collective, what are our goals in discussing digital rhetorics? What do we want to happen from this session, and how will we make that happen?
  • As individuals and as a collective, what are our goals for digital rhetorics in our classes? What do we want to happen in our classes, and how will we make that happen?

Understanding Digital Rhetorics

  • As individuals and as a collective, what is our understanding of digital rhetorics? How are we defining it, what does it entail?

Teaching Digital Rhetorics: Setting Goals, Outcomes, and Means

  • What learning outcomes do we have for digital rhetorics?
  • What do we want students to know or do with digital rhetorics (both generally or within the learning objectives of a specific class)?
  • What are some digital rhetorics-related outcomes that you have incorporated into your class, and what would you share with others about that experience?
  • What are some ways that we can meet these learning objectives for digital rhetorics (again, within a specific class or generally)?
  • What do we as instructors need to know to successfully meet digital rhetorics learning outcomes?
  • What concerns do we have about incorporating digital rhetorics learning outcomes into our classes? What are we most looking forward to about incorporating digital rhetorics learning outcomes into our classes?
  • What resources are available to support instructors and/or students with these learning outcomes?
  • What resources do we still need in to meet these learning outcomes?
  • What are some means of incorporating digital rhetorics into your class have you employed before? What would you share with others about that experience?


I’ll be posting notes and resources from our discussion here after the chat.

Points of Interest from Discussion

  • How can we integrate digital rhetorics (including multimodal and visual rhetorics) into standard curriculum that we have no control over?
    • Consider how the digital rhetorics literacies/learning outcomes overlap with the learning outcomes for the curriculum to see if there are ways to meet the curriculum learning outcomes with a digital rhetoric approach
    • Consider integrating digital rhetorics into small-scale assignments or activities that scaffold the required curriculum/assignment sequence (for example: a rhetorical analysis or redesign of the university website can take 1 class session and develop skills students may need to complete the required assignments)
    • Don’t try to do too much at first; take a semester or two to figure out what students need and where digital rhetorics can included most effectively
  • How can we integrate digital rhetorics into low- to no-tech classroom spaces?
    • Drawing on Jody Shipka’s work, think about how multimodal composition can be brought into the classroom in no-tech ways
    • Have students doodle, draw, use Play-doh, etc. in class; these are no-tech ways to engage students in visual and multimodal rhetorics
  • How can we holistically assess digital rhetorics learning outcomes at multiple levels (individual, class, program)?
  • What digital rhetorics learning outcomes should we prioritize in semester-long classes when there are multiple sets of learning outcomes (such as professional writing, community partners, etc.)?


Assignments, Activities, and Syllabi:

  • “Starting an Epidemic: Producing Virality from a Rhetorical Framework” activity from Kaitlin Clinnin (includes activity prompt, instructor’s guide, and sample student work)
  • Arts of Persuasion: Rhetorics in Digital Culture syllabus from Kaitlin Clinnin (syllabus for an survey rhetoric course that included Aristotelian rhetoric and cultural rhetorics through a digital rhetorics framework)
  • Artist Statement prompt and video from Kaitlin Clinnin (based on Jody Shipka’s work)



Do you have resources, suggestions, or thoughts about how to incorporate digital rhetorics into communication and composing classrooms? Please share and I’ll update this list.

Qualitative Research Resources for Journal Coding

I’ve recently started my dissertation project research. The dissertation has several moving parts including two national surveys, follow-up interviews, and classroom observations. Currently I’m waiting on my IRB approval to get started on collecting data from real people, so while I’m in a holding pattern I’ve started to work on my first chapter. I’m looking at how “community” has been used historically as a term in the journal College Composition and Communication in order to understand (1) what compositionists mean when we say “community”, (2) how this definition has shifted over the past ~70 years, and (3) what that means for “community” and composition today.

I started my research with a quick search in JSTOR and other databases to see how many times “community” shows up in the 64 volumes of CCC, and I got a manageable 1700 hits. Can you imagine if my term had been even more generic like process? Needless to say, even 1700 instances of a term can be a lot for one researcher to handle. Luckily, there are some great resources that currently exist to organize the research process, facilitate coding, and analyze and visualize data.

The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers by Johnny Saldaña (2012)

I cannot emphasize how important, useful, and accessible this book is for anyone who is interested in coding data. Becky Rickly introduced me to it a couple of years ago, but I had no idea what coding was (“Wait, it’s not about HTML?”) or that I would eventually use it in my dissertation. Like many compositionists, my background in research methods is rather limited. I took one graduate course that was useful but had to cram so many methods into a relatively short period of time. We went over coding but stopped with grounded theory methods. Saldaña’s text actually gets into the nitty-gritty of qualitative coding and offers many models for how to code. Developing categories of codes can be very intimidating especially when you don’t know the best way to approach your data (yet), so his breakdown of different ways to look at data makes coding more accessible to scholars. I haven’t gotten to the sections on analysis or visualization yet, but I’m looking forward to those explanations! The text also includes some screenshots of a variety of programs that can be used for qualitative research, and he also discusses hand coding for smaller data sets.

I’ve also tried out a few qualitative research programs and wanted to share those experiences.

HyperResearch from ResearchWare, Inc.

We used HyperResearch in my graduate research methods class, and it’s a good intro to qualitative research programs. It allows researchers to code data in text, audio, and video format. It’s very easy to highlight text and create a new code or apply a previous code to the text.

Screenshot of HyperRESEARCH

Example of HyperRESEARCH

It also allows some limited data visualizations such as word clouds and word frequency reports. There are some drawbacks. The main issue for me is that all text has to be a RTF file. I used the program to code discussion forums from the Rhetorical Composing MOOC, and the formatting in RTF was all messed up. I had a limited data set (only 10 albeit extensive discussion threads), and I wasn’t sure if there was a way to get HyperResearch to autocode a much larger data set that I could then check. This could simply be researcher error. Overall I would recommend HyperResearch for small data sets and new coders. It’s available as a free download, but the free version limits the number of codes you can create and the number of documents you can include in one study. There’s an educational rate for the program, and I think it was about $200.


Dedoose markets itself as a qualitative and mixed-methods program created by qualitative researchers. It’s an online app, which means that you don’t clutter your computer and limited hard drive space with large study files, and you can access the files from any computer without needing to install software. It also makes Dedoose open to collaborative work-flow.

Screenshot of Dedoose study home page

Dedoose study home page

Like HyperResearch, Dedoose can work with multiple data types including text, audio, and visuals. Even better, it can take text files in multiple formats including RTF, .doc and .docx, and HTML (unfortunately not PDF). I was really impressed by Dedoose’s options for collaboration. There is a training center option that allows for inter-reader reliability training and testing on dummy data before coding the real data set. It also offers more data visualization and analysis options. It’s also much cheaper than the other options I’ve used: it’s based on a monthly subscription model, and for a student rate it only costs $10 a month.

However, I ended up not using Dedoose. For me, the ability to be able to upload PDFs was very important (all my documents are PDFs, and to export in a new format was adding a significant amount of time per article). Dedoose was very buggy for me. I tried uploading text in multiple formats, and it would often freeze, which required me to refresh the page and have to log back into the app. I also did not find the program very intuitive for the coding process; it seemed better suited to importing spreadsheets with coding results. I think Dedoose has tremendous potential, and the collaborative work is very exciting, but at this point it’s not what I need (a PDF reader, easy coding workspace).

NVivo by QSR International

My final program is NVivo, which is probably one of the best known qualitative data programs out there. It’s another desktop program, and luckily it works for both Windows and Macs (unlike QDA Miner, which looks good but unfortunately I can’t run). So no collaborative work available in this program, but it offers a much better coding workspace than Dedoose (as in, I can actually figure out how to code in it!).

Screenshot of NVivo study home screen

NVivo study home screen

Once again, NVivo works with text, audio, and video data. The best feature is that it accepts text in PDF format, although it is buggy for the non-OCR PDFs that I’m currently working with (has issues highlighting). Coding isn’t as intuitive as it is in HyperResearch; you can highlight text, but codes are called “nodes,” which took me a while to figure out. You can create in vivo codes easily or code using recently used nodes, but to create a new node or a node you haven’t used for a while requires several clicks. NVivo allows for pretty good source  organization, and there’s an awesome query feature that allows for quick data analysis or selections to code (great for me because I’m coding one term). There are some autocode options that I haven’t used yet, but I have noticed that there is a feature that will create a graph based on the term “community” and show me all of the words that surround it. I also like that it allows you to create analytical memos and keep those organized with your materials. NVivo doesn’t make it as obvious that a particular section has been coded as HyperResearch does; there’s a small view that shows coding stripes, but it isn’t as glaringly obvious as HR.

Overall, I like NVivo the best simply for it’s ability to work with PDFs, and I’m sure the Query and Analyze functions will come more in handy as I work through this project. There is a free 30 day trial, and the Mac educational rate is only $90, which makes it the cheaper option.

Update: I ended up switching back to HyperResearch. NVivo for Mac had serious limitations (the Windows version was much more robust), and my file became corrupted so I was unable to do some of the limited functions available on Mac. It was easier to convert all my PDFs to TXT files for Hyperresearch. I also found that Hyperresearch’s customer suport was phenomenal; they responded to emails and tweets at all hours to help me troubleshoot. They also provided me beta access to some tools. There are still some frustrations with Hyperresearch (difficulty in organizing articles, needing to select individual articles for coding, etc.), but the HR folks assure me these issues are on the list of updates in the future.