Autoethnography as/for Writing Studies

Eds. Rebecca Jackson and Jackie Grutsch McKinney

Outside the field, particularly in the social sciences and education, autoethnography method/methodology texts abound (e.g. Reed-Danahay 1997; Ellis 2003; Ellis 2008; Chang 2009; Nash 2011; Denzin 2013; Adams et al. 2014; Jones et al. 2016). These texts provide philosophical and methodological grounding in autoethnography, yet their applicability to Writing Studies is limited. Simply put, they leave unanswered the major questions Writing Studies scholars and researchers are interested in: what are the lines between autoethnography, personal narrative, memoir, and what Nash calls “scholarly personal narrative”? When is experience data? What are the (irrefutable) features of an autoethnography? What forms of autoethnography—evocative, interpretive, analytic, interactive, performative—should Writing Studies embrace? Is autoethnography simply the latest iteration of using personal story in scholarship, which has a long history in the field under various names (e.g. Gilyard 1991, Britton 1993, Villanueva 1993)?

This edited collection will address these and related questions, foregrounding the possibility of autoethnography as a viable research method and methodological approach, and providing researchers and instructors with ways of understanding, crafting, and teaching autoethnography within Writing Studies. The collection will be organized into three parts: a section on how and why to do autoethnographic research in Writing Studies, a section on how to teach autoethnography, and a section of Writing Studies autoethnographies.


The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors

by Nikki Caswell, Jackie Grutsch McKinney, & Becky Jackson

Winner of 2017 IWCA Best Book Award
Nominated for the 2018 CCCCs Research Impact Award & CWPA 2016 Best Book Award

The first book-length empirical investigation of writing center directors’ labor, The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors presents a longitudinal qualitative study of the individual professional lives of nine new directors. Inspired by Kinkead and Harris’s Writing Centers in Context (1993), the authors adopt a case study approach to examine the labor these directors performed and the varied motivations for their labor, as well as the labor they ignored, deferred, or sidelined temporarily, whether or not they wanted to.

The study shows directors engaged in various types of labor—everyday, disciplinary, and emotional—and reveals that labor is never restricted to a list of job responsibilities, although those play a role. Instead, labor is motivated and shaped by complex and unique combinations of requirements, expectations, values, perceived strengths, interests and desires, identities, and knowledge. The cases collectively distill how different institutions define writing and appropriate resources to writing instruction and support, informing the ongoing wider cultural debates about skills (writing and otherwise), the preparation of educators, the renewal/tenuring of educators, and administrative “bloat” in academe. The nine new directors discuss more than just their labor; they address their motivations, their sense of self, and their own thoughts about the work they do, facets of writing center director labor that other types of research or scholarship have up to now left invisible. The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors strikes a new path in scholarship on writing center administration and is essential reading for present and future writing center administrators and those who mentor them.

Available on the University Press of Colorado/Utah State University Press website and other online booksellers.

​Strategies for Writing Center Research

Winner of 2017 IWCA Best Book Award

Strategies for Writing Center Research is a guide to empirical research on writing center work. Though there are many other places where formal writing instruction, conversations about writing, conversations about teaching writing, writing, and revision happen, these activities are all always occurring in writing centers. All of the political, theoretical, social, spatial, technological, and practical debates about how someone becomes a better writer play out hour after hour in the writing center; thus, the possibility of the writing center as a site for serious, interesting, groundbreaking writing research cannot be overstated.

​Strategies for Writing Center Research is divided into three parts that correspond, more or less, to the stages of a research project. Part 1 includes an overview of writing center research, an introduction to key terms for research, a discussion of how to conduct bibliographic research in writing center studies, and advice on shaping a research proposal. Part 2 helps readers select appropriate research methods for their research questions. Chapters are devoted to discourse analysis, interviewing, surveying, fieldwork, and action research, including a discussion of the limitations, ethical challenges, and pitfalls to expect, as well as a description of the sort of data collected. Part 3 includes a discussion of approaches for analyzing and reporting research.

Available on the Parlor Press website and other online booksellers.

Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers

Winner of the 2014 IWCA Best Book Award

Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers aims to inspire a re-conception and re-envisioning of the boundaries of writing center work. Moving beyond the grand narrative of the writing center—that it is solely a comfortable, yet iconoclastic place where all students go to get one-to-one tutoring on their writing—McKinney shines light on other representations of writing center work.

McKinney argues that this grand narrative neglects the extent to which writing center work is theoretically and pedagogically complex, with ever-changing work and conditions, and results in a straitjacket for writing center scholars, practitioners, students, and outsiders alike. Peripheral Visions for Writing Centers makes the case for a broader narrative of writing center work that recognizes and theorizes the various spaces of writing center labor, allows for professionalization of administrators, and sees tutoring as just one way to perform writing center work.

McKinney explores possibilities that lie outside the grand narrative, allowing scholars and practitioners to open the field to a fuller, richer, and more realistic representation of their material labor and intellectual work.

​Available on the University Press of Colorado/Utah State University Press website and other online booksellers.