Resource for helping writing researchers conduct interviews with texts

Neil Baird, Bowling Green State University, and Bradley Dilger, Purdue University

We are designing an open-access web-based resource to help researchers interested in using discourse-based interviews or similar text-based interviews in writing research. If you can help by sharing materials or participating in a focus group, let us know with this Google Form!

We seek to build a practical, public-facing resource to support scholars conducting discourse-based interviews and similar text-based interviews. This work will draw on our recent special issue in Composition Forum (Baird & Dilger, 2022), and two previous studies where discourse-based interviews figured heavily (Baird & Dilger, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2023). Our goal is collaborating with experienced researchers to identify proven methods for effectively conducting discourse-based interviews, from building the methodological context to analyzing data. We will create a database of carefully annotated materials that novice researchers can put to work in diverse contexts:

  1. Videos from experienced researchers describing the process of conducting interviews from research design to data analysis;
  2. Interview transcripts with explanatory annotations and comments;
  3. Sample artifacts prepared for discourse-based interviews;
  4. Examples of related documents such as correspondence with participants.

We imagine the primary audience for this project as student researchers in writing studies, and their instructors: advanced undergraduates and graduate students seeking to understand if DBIs or similar interviews are a good choice for their project goals, and motivated to develop the research design that can support effective data collection, processing, analysis, and reporting. However, we also recognize that training in research methods is uneven, so we also seek to provide resources that can help scholar-teachers looking to conduct empirical research for the first time — perhaps after tenure.

We will recruit contributors beginning with the network of 30 scholars who contributed to our special issue, as well as the participants of our methodological study of the discourse-based interview. We will ask these 40+ potential contributors for:

  1. input about the structure and content of this resource;
  2. the names of researchers who might be willing to contribute;
  3. assistance testing the resource and its contents with our target audiences.

At first, we will deliver materials using a simple, lightweight website and cloud-based documents such as Google Docs. As we develop this resource, we anticipate working with the WAC Clearinghouse, Humanities Commons, or similar scholarly communities to integrate this resource into theirs. For now, this project will be self-funded; if necessary, we will seek grant support.

This project will also serve as a vehicle for advancing design thinking in writing studies (Purdy, 2014) by providing an example of a resource developed using these approaches to understand audiences and deliver carefully tested materials that meet the needs of writing focused researchers (Dilger, 2023). Both of us are tenured professors at well-resourced institutions, so we have quite a bit of freedom in the form and content of our scholarly work. We seek to model in this regard as well: rather than continuing to publish in increasingly competitive venues in our field, potentially reducing opportunities for early career scholars, we hope to take advantage of flexibility afforded by our positions, and create broadly useful resources that will better connect our field to the public.

If you can help by sharing materials or participating in a focus group, let us know with this Google form! Our first focus groups will be Wed Apr 19, 2023. (We have to move fast given a deadline for SIGDOC 2023.) We’ll host more in summer and fall 2023.


We welcome questions and comments about this resource, our study, or the special issue. Contact both Baird and Dilger.

Copyright © 2005–2023 Bradley Dilger.