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Prentice Hall
Engaging Inquiry : Research and Writing in the Disciplines / Edition 1

Engaging Inquiry : Research and Writing in the Disciplines / Edition 1


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ENGAGING INQUIRY RESEARCH AND WRITING IN THE DISCIPLINES by Judy Kirscht and Mark Sehlenz, familiarizes students with the purposes, processes, and forms of academic writing across the disciplines by introducing them to the ways that academic knowledge and writing emerge from methodical approaches to inquiry, research, and critical thinking.

The text's inquiry-based approach to academic writing arises from and incorporates cutting-edge insights of emerging composition theory. It also carries students' personal questions and curiosities through academic inquiry processes in science, social science, and the humanities to address real world problems.

Among its many features, the text includes the following:

  • Topics applicable in all disciplines including cloning, pollution, violence, and population control
  • Field exercises, surveys, and reading logs that promote first-hand observation and data gathering
  • An array of writing assignments ranging from evaluating websites to editing a student paper
  • Detailed charts that provide visual examples of the text's processes
  • Appendix on MLA/APA citation and documentation

In addition to its features, the text enables humanities-trained composition instructors to prepare their students for the types of scholarship and writing that will be required of them in science and social science courses as well as in literature, history, and the arts.

Ultimately, it engages students in real inquiry and encourages them to think and write like natural/social scientists and humanist interpreters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780130116994
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Publication date: 05/30/2001
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 557
Product dimensions: 6.92(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.21(d)

Table of Contents


1. Inquiry and Writing in the Sciences.

Goals and Purposes. The Inquiry-Writing Process. Observation and Objectivity. Objective Language. Methodical Observation in the Sciences. Systematic Observation. Analyzing Inferences, Developing Hypotheses. Formal Writing in the Sciences. The Formal Observation Report. Literature Reviews. The Experimental Study and Report.

Moving On.

2. Readings in the Sciences.

Francis Bacon, Idols of the Mind. Edward O. Wilson, Storm Over the Amazon. John Gribbin, Light. Timothy Quinn, Coyote (Canis Iatrans) Food Habits in Three Urban Habitat Types of Western Washington. K.L.M. Martin, M.C. Lawson, and H. Engebretson, Adverse Effects of Hyposalinity from Stormwater Runoff on the Aggregating Anemone. Student Paper for Revision Workshop.


3. Inquiry and Writing in the Social Sciences.

Goals and Purposes. Method in the Social Sciences. The Role of Theory. Reading Theory as Argument. Participating in Theoretical Debate. Formal Papers in the Social Sciences. Experience-Based Theory Critique Essay. The Literature Review. Field Studies and Reports. Theoretical Debate Essay. Revising for Clarity. Focusing Paragraphs. Modification. Coordination and Subordination. Punctuation, Rhythm and Beat. Moving On.

4. Readings in the Social Sciences.

Gordon Allport, The Formation of In-Groups. Carol Markstrom-Adams, Attitudes on Dating, Courtship, and Marriage: Perspectives on In-Group versus Out-Group Relationships by Religious Minority and Majority Adolescents.W.E.B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk. James Madison, The Federalist #10. Stephen Earl Bennet, Apathy in America, 1960-1984: Causes and Consequences of Citizen Political Indifference. Preface, Chapter 2, Apathy in Political Theory and Political Behavior. Craig A. Rimmerman, The New Citizenship. Chapter 2 Theoretical Perspectives on the New Citizenship. Chapter 3, Civic Indifference in Contemporary American Politics. Judith N. Shklar, Obligation, Loyalty, Exile. David Orr, Ecological Literacy. Student Papers for Revision Workshop.


5. Inquiry and Writing in the Humanities.

Goals and Purposes. Role of Assumptions in the Humanities. Roles of Theory and Method in the Humanities. The Close Reading. Writing Interpretive Essays in the Humanities. Compare and Contrast Two Policy Interpretations of a Text. Compare and Contrast Two Creative Texts. Compare and Contrast Two Interpretations of Artistic Texts.

Revising and Rewriting Essays in the Humanities. Global Organization and Logical Progression. Developing Well-Integrated Quotations. Surface Clarity: Maintaining Coherence through Transitions.

Moving On.

6. Readings in the Humanities.

Francis Bacon, Tale of the Sphinx. Stanley Fish, How to Recognize a Poem When You See One. Stephen Mailloux, Interpretation. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation. Jack Solomon, Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising. Student Paper for Revision Workshop.


7. Critical Applications.

Goals and Purposes. Assignment A. Assignment B. Assignment C.

Formal Applications of Inquiry. The Methodical Paper Revision and Commentary. Disciplinary Analysis and Evaluation of Electronic Information Sources. Interdisciplinary Analysis of Contemporary Issues. Moving On.

8. Readings for Critical Applications.

Inge Bell, Everybody Hates to Write. David Bartholomae, Inventing the University. M. Sorapure, P. Inglesby, and G. Yatchisin, Web Literacy: Challenges and Opportunities for Research in a New Medium. Helen Calidcott, The Greenhouse Effect. Dixie Lee Ray and Louise R. Guzzo, Greenhouse Earth. Isaac Azimov and Frederich Pohl, Gaia and Global Warming. Student Papers for Revision Workshop.

Appendix: Citation and Documentation Systems.

Purposes of Citation and Documentation. Principles of Citation and Documentation Systems. Features and Examples of MLA and APA Citation and Documentation Systems.




Engaging Inquiry creates a framework that joins writing and disciplinary inquiry processes and so introduces academic argument as an integral part of the creation of knowledge. The book is intended as scaffolding for designing cross-disciplinary writing courses at many levels and of varying lengths. We have chosen the creation of knowledge as our central theme because we believe that theme (What should we believe? What is true?) undergirds all others, not only in academic but in public and personal spheres, as well. Three basic questions guide the text—What is it? How does it develop or change over time? How does it function? These questions guide inquiry on many subjects, from mental illness to cloning to sexuality to controversies over the local landfill, which can be and are studied from scientific, social science, and humanities perspectives. Though we developed the book from our work with students at the university level, we believe the model of inquiry can be adapted and applied in any college level course as a standard for argument.

We have included sufficient readings to implement the framework in a number of different configurations (outlined at the beginning of the chapters on readings) and certainly more readings than can be accommodated in any single course. Their purpose is to demonstrate the level of difficulty of university-level content course readings and the way two or three readings can be grouped to create a thematic focus. We hope teachers will complement these readings with other more accessible material from the public domain or find comparable readings to develop their own thematically unified courses. Wehave found the readings most successful when combined with readings on issues and events from the current press addressing issues in the local community or specific campus and so have not included very many such readings here. When so combined, however, the units relate the academic texts to the "real world" very effectively and demonstrate to students the complexity of knowledge-making in any field, and its relevance to the study of current issues. The articles on coyotes and anemone in the science section, for example, echo environmental issues frequently in the Santa Barbara press; similar studies on other animals would certainly be more appropriate in Kansas City or Tucson. The theories on in-group behavior might be applied to dorm life, ethnic groups, or workplace behavior, depending on the student population. The only constraint on such themes is that they be on subjects appropriate for study in all three divisions: natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities and that writing assignments arise from academic questions raised by the readings. Many familiar composition themes such as capital punishment, abortion, or euthanasia must be translated into more abstract topics, such as violence or population control, to raise questions appropriate to all three divisions.

We have found most writing teachers think of disciplinary differences in terms of the differing written genres. For us the importance of disciplinary distinctions among forms lies in the inquiry processes they reflect and reinforce, not in the conventions and forms as separate and separable entities. The science report, for example, takes its form from the constraints and rigors of scientific study; if severed from the scientific method it reflects, the form becomes a formalistic exercise without any obvious purpose. The critical difference of the inquiry approach, for us, is that it begins with questions, not beliefs—that in the university, argument begins with inquiry, results from inquiry, and sparks further inquiry. Truth claims are tested, not simply defended. The written forms grow out of that inquiry and emphasize important aspects of it; as such they reinforce the critical thinking and linguistic requirements of the discipline and teach thinking habits that students can apply to any topic. Thus the subject matter and history of different disciplines gives rise to differing modes of inquiry and those give rise to differing standards for knowledge claims and different written forms; if students understand both the basic principles of inquiry and the differences between modes, they will better understand both the forms and the standards of argument in different fields. If, in other words, they know what it is to "think like a scientist " or a sociologist or a historian, they can develop and evaluate arguments within those realms, and the forms of writing will make sense. Finally process is a model for critical inquiry that can be applied to public (and later professional) issues and discourses.

We also, paradoxically perhaps, believe that the central principles of good argument and good writing cross all boundaries—between disciplines within the academy, between academic and public, between academic and workplace. We believe that sound logic is sound logic anywhere and clarity is a universal principle of good communication. Therefore teachers of classical argument will find little in these chapters that is not familiar. However, we have found that inquiry-based argument, because it proceeds inductively, avoids many of the hazards of arguing from preexisting claims. It also provides nonconfrontational sites for examining other principles of sound argument: accurate observation, sound induction, specificity of Inns, and examination of other interpretations. When we begin teaching the essay with thesis formation, we are asking for the formulation of belief; when we ask for support, we are asking for justification; when we ask for critical examination, we threaten belief systems that give order to students' lives. It is little wonder we are so rarely satisfied with the results. If, on the other hand, students see the disciplines as places where we study what we do not understand, not places with a storehouse of answers to be learned, they learn the process of inquiry as methods of reaching belief. Those who believe, for example, that students in general are politically apathetic and indifferent to public issues will, in a conventional composition class, find ample evidence for their position; students who actually survey their peers find many who are far less apathetic than they thought. To arrive at a thesis, they must dig deeper into student attitudes for cause, using theories provided by their readings. Thus they understand the thesis itself as a qualitatively different sort of claim.

We realize that at the introductory level many students are not yet prepared to do advanced field research, that lower-division courses in the disciplines do not often ask them to do so, and that a writing course cannot be a methods course and still attend to matters of writing. We also realize that the students using the book will be at different levels, the courses of different lengths, and that differing paper assignments are therefore appropriate. The chapters, therefore, offer field exercises and assignments of varying complexity and are intended for teachers to use selectively and modify according to the needs of their students. There is no need to assign every reading or every inquiry exercise in this textbook; on the other hand, many such exercises can be developed into formal papers if that is the level most appropriate to a given group of students. The student papers included at the end of each chapter are intended for revision workshop using the tools provided in the chapters and not as models for imitation. They illustrate both what students can achieve and their areas of greatest difficulty. Because many of the assignments are unfamiliar to many teachers, we believe the papers can be useful illustrations, but we do most emphatically warn against students' tendency to use them as formulaic templates.

We hope these assignments generate innovation and creativity on the part of both teachers and students. Their central quality is exposure to observation and inference as the grounds for claims or as a way of testing the claims of others; such exposure changes students' perspective on knowledge, language, and argument in important ways. They recognize, because they have generated and handled the data themselves, the following characteristics of good thinking and writing that have been difficult to bring home in the "standard" composition classroom:

  • Representation of observed phenomena requires precise word choice and sentence structure.
  • Inference from data is complex and fraught with error.
  • Expression of ideas in academic debate requires precise modification and distinction of subtle differences; these, in turn, require complex sentences and correct citation.
  • Disciplinary perspectives and underlying belief systems shape the very questions we see as important to ask; therefore, identification of underlying assumptions is a key skill in academic argument.
  • The essay requires formulation of one's own ideas in interaction with the ideas of others; it is, therefore, one of the more difficult forms to execute well.

We have also found that the differing focuses and subject matter of the disciplines refine different aspects of logic and language, and therefore make excellent sites for developing those language and thinking skills while at the same time educating students in the principles and expectations of the field. Although careful observation and precise description of the world or its representation is central to all disciplines, the natural sciences' emphasis on objectivity simply make it an excellent arena to contrast the language of representation with the language of expression. Science is similarly an easy place to examine the way we make inferences and create theories, simply because students are not as emotionally invested; engagement in this field comes chiefly from curiosity. If scientific method is understood as a requirement that we test our inferences continuously, it becomes a model for academic argument that distinguishes it from most argument found in the public domain.

The creation and testing of theories is similarly central to all fields and indeed to all prediction and problem solving in any domain. The social sciences are an excellent arena for students to learn to participate in this process simply because there are so many theories and they are so frequently the center of 'debate. Any composition teacher knows the struggle of getting students to genuinely test their personal theories of the world and that most of these theories remain untouched by their academic course work. Bringing the personal and the academic into interaction is a major struggle for most of us. To the traditional method of "read-understand-apply-evaluate," we have added "raise questions-hypothesize-test." The resulting argument is perforce databased, making it very different from most personal belief essays in ways students find both difficult and memorable.

By the time writing instructors arrive "home" to the humanities, their students have already discovered how critical observation is, how problematic most data, how much every claim depends on the questions asked, and how the questions depend on the theories and perspectives of the researchers. To now study interpretation itself, the many ways humans make meaning, is simply to articulate processes they have already experienced and experienced without direct confrontation with their own belief systems. The careful observation applied to the world in science is now applied to texts, be they poems, advertisements, or film, and precise description is no less important. The role of theory, already studied in the venue of human behavior, a venue very accessible to students, can now move to the more abstract arena of interpretive theory or ethics.

Finally we have found the inquiry process greatly facilitates the relinquishing of certainty, reduces the need to hold opinion as inviolate, and frequently arouses genuine curiosity—all intellectual goals long cherished by writing teachers and educators across all disciplines alike. We believe that it does so in part because it begins away from the students' value systems, the home of most humanities study, while at the same time engaging the issues of their lives. There is a world of difference between studying why people take drugs and arguing whether they should be free to take drugs. The first gives insight, the second, even in the hands of the best of teachers, generates defense and attack. By the time the class addresses the ethical issue, their views are informed by study of the physical and behavioral issues involved. By the time they address the underlying value systems that shape attitudes to drugs, they realized the importance of all three dimensions to any complete study or resolution of the human problem. If there is a belief system guiding this book, and of course there is, it is that none of the disciplinary perspectives is adequate in itself; the quality of thinking that underlies good writing requires everything these disciplinary modes of inquiry can provide-and then some-to resolve the problems our students must face.


The ideas and approaches inspiring this text rose out of a community of composition teachers at the University of California, Santa Barbara Writing Program, a community faced with the challenge of developing an independent program committed to teaching writing across the disciplines. We are therefore indebted to former Program Director Muriel Zimmerman and Advisory Committee Chair, Charles Bazerman for their programmatic leadership and direction, as well for their comments on the text itself. We also want to acknowledge our indebtedness to Charles Bazerman for his contribution to the theoretical foundations of the work.

Because of the collaborative nature of curriculum development at UCSB, virtually everyone in the Writing Program has contributed to the development of this approach to writing across the disciplines through service on curriculum committees, classroom teaching, or through ongoing debate among the faculty at large. Among the many who have contributed directly to this project, we wish to acknowledge, in particular, lecturers and teaching assistants who served with us on curriculum committees over the years developing instructional objectives, piloting readings, and generating classroom materials, including Michael Reese, Betina Calouri, Laura Butcher Holliday, Laura Adams, Patrick Sharp, Kathryn McClymond, Kim Stone, J.D. Applen, Bonnie Beedles, Ashley Tidey, Many Williams, and Nick Tingle. The following teaching assistants received grants from the UCSB Office of Instructional Development to generate and implement classroom materials for instructional units: Rose Hentschell, Christopher Schedler, Patricia Marby, Kathryn McClymond, and Ellen Posman. For other kinds of insight and advice, we would like to thank Vince Willoughby, Lawrence Behrens, Max Leeming, and the faculty of the UCSB Environmental Studies Program. We would also like to thank the members of the 1997 UCSB Writing Program external review team—Louise Wetherbee-Phelps, Gregory Colomb, and James Kinneavy—who endorsed the epistemological principles underlying this approach and gave valuable critique on its development.

Many hundreds of students have struggled with the challenges posed by this approach at various stages in its development; their trials and triumphs have greatly contributed to the final product offered here. In addition the following students graciously allowed us to include their writing as examples for revision workshop: Eric Morris, Nick Chapman, Kendall Wright, Christal Cobb, Danielle Paddock, Vazgen Khankaldyyan, and Sara Twogood. Our colleagues, Madeleine Sorapure, George Yatchisin, and Pamela Inglesby, also contributed their article on Web literacy.

For their invaluable assistance in production of the manuscript itself, we thank the following outside reviewers, whose careful reading and generous comments guided our revision process: Nancy Lusignan Schultz (Salem State College), Ann Larabee (Michigan State University), Susan F. Stone (California State University- Bakersfield), Mary Ann Ruday, Ph.D. (Chadron State College), James Allen (College of DuPage), Elizabeth Metzger (University of South Florida), Margaret Colavelli (Northwood University), Michael Flanigan (University of Oklahoma), Mary Tobin (Rice University), Joan Graham (University of Washington), Eileen Thompson (Lane Community College), and Emily Thrush (University of Memphis). Thanks also to Jane Freeburg for her professional editorial assistance and to Geoffrey Bateman for his assistance with manuscript preparation. Finally thanks to Jane Freeburg and Joyce Kleinholz for keeping us sane and helping us see the project through.

Judy KirschtMBR> Mark Schlenz

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