Writing and Information Competency in Small Bytes

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Communicating results of research


At some point you move from the research stage to the writing stage. Exactly when this occurs is not clear. You no doubt are beginning the writing process even as you are picking the subject to write about. The ancient Romans identified five stages in the speaking process:

    1. Invention: the discovery of arguments. What is the content, the quotations, the definitions, the statistics, etc., to be used in the speech?
    2. Disposition: the organization and arrangement of the arguments. In what order will this content be used?
    3. Style: putting the arguments into clear, appropriate, and impressive language, lest the ideas "run naked in the world" as a renaissance rhetorician put it.
    4. Memory: remembering the words.
    5. Delivery: preparing for the delivery.

Although the rhetorical stages applied originally to speaking, with very little difficulty they can be seen to apply to the writing process as well. Invention is coming up with the ideas, facts, quotations, statistics, quotations, and so forth that you will use in your essay or paper. If you build the essay out of your own knowledge and experiences, no research is involved. If you do research to develop your thinking and to support your conclusions, the invention part of writing probably has to occur before you can get started on your research; after the research is completed, the invention process begins again. Similarly, disposition is the arrangement of our arguments and the ordering of the information in terms of organizational functions. While you will at some point sit down and make a solid organizational plan or outline for your paper, it is also true that in the research phase you can identify a striking quotation to use in the opening of your paper.

Once you have this information, what do you do with it? There are many ways to communicate the results of your research using a variety of information technologies. As your education evolves over the next years, you will find professors ask you to communicate what you know in many, many ways. You may write an essay, a position paper outlining advantages and disadvantages of a solution to a problem, a criticism of a firm, a research paper on experimental studies underlying a theory in science, and so on. Some of this writing is informative--"Here is what I found out about this topic." Other writing is persuasive, an argument to change society itself. In most university writing, there is an expectation that you will identify the source of your information and that you will use a standard citation format. Two widely used formats are the Modern Language Association's (known as the MLA)and the American Psychological Association's (known as APA).

But there are other ways to communicate what you have found in your research and thinking: University instruction frequently calls upon students to make oral reports in classes, often using PowerPoint overheads. In these reports, the students are expected to prepare and distribute handouts to supplement their oral reports. More recently, students are placing the results of their work into an Internet format using the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). For example, student reports in one of my classes can be found at this Internet URL:


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John A. Cagle, Ph.D.
Summer Bridge Program
California State University, Fresno

1998 by John A. Cagle, Professor of Communication, California State University, Fresno.

This information competency website was designed by John A. Cagle (Department of Communication) and Ross LaBaugh (Librarian) as part of a grant from the California State University.  It continues to be under construction.