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Learning to Become a Professional in a Textually-Mediated World

A Text-Oriented Study of Placement Practices


Ken Lau

The book presents a text-based study of discourse practices in placement, a hybrid zone which re-contextualises academic knowledge and professional practices. Using Lave and Wenger’s Communities of Practice as the overarching theoretical framework, the study investigates how novices learn to write like their professional counterparts. By collecting texts completed in various placement contexts and in-depth qualitative interviews with informants, the study features a multi-dimensional approach to the analysis of discourse practices in terms of text construction and text consumption. The issues of genre, feedback, identity and role associated with placement learning are brought into focus.


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3. Methodology and Research Design 57


57 3 Methodology and Research Design In postmodernist mixed-genre texts, we do not triangulate, we crystallize [. . .]. I propose that the central image for “validity” for postmodern texts is not the triangle – a rigid, fixed, two-dimensional object. Rather, the central imaginary is the crystal, which combines symmetry and substance with an infinite vari- ety of shapes, substances, transmutations, multi-dimensionalities, and angles of approach. (Richardson 2000: 934) This chapter describes the methodology used for collecting and ana- lysing the data for this study. I will first review the recruitment of in- formants of the main study and outline their academic background and information necessary for the analysis. The nature of the aca- demic/professional disciplines in question is then presented. Next there is a description of the epistemological sites which have helped to generate fruitful data. Since qualitative interviews and informants’ writings are the two main data sources, the process of data generation (Mason 2002) will then be substantiated, followed by an overview of the research schedule and design. With a view to capturing the multiple perspectives needed for understanding the complex nature of placement, “postmodernist crys- tallization” (Richards 2006: 771; see also Richardson/St. Pierre 2005) is a methodological metaphor that helped me conceptualise the whole research approach. A section will thus be devoted to the explanation of this metaphor and to showing how it became a viable option in light of the practical constraints of this research. Trustworthiness checks associated with the concepts as validity and reliability situated within the post-positivist paradigm...

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