Mary Kate Hinshaw, Senior PWR Major

Blog post by Michael McFarland (senior PWR major)

Mary Kate Hinshaw recently did a research project on how people use rhetoric in their phone text messages. Research participants filled out a “Pre-Study Survey” and then started sending Mary Kate their text messages. The volunteers also kept a “Text Message Diary,” which included data such as who received the text, the setting in which the text was written, and the reason for sending the text. At the end of the study, the participants and Mary Kate did a focus group to talk about text messaging and the experience of being a member of the study. The following is an interview about Mary Kate’s study:

Why did you choose to research this topic?

My research mentor, Paula Rosinski, was involved last year in research that examined the writing habits of first year students. Text messaging came up as a form of writing that students were engaging in a lot. I thought that studying the text messaging habits of actual students at Elon would be interesting, current, and allow me to really contribute to a developing field of research.

How willing were participants to share their text messages?

People might be surprised to hear how willing the participants were to share their messages. I was really appreciative of the dedication my participants showed. In order to ethically conduct my study, I did have to include a rule of exception: students were allowed to not forward certain text messages if they felt that the content was too private.

What was the most surprising thing you have found?

I found that there appears to be a gender discrepancy in the people willing to participate. A larger number of females have completed the study than males, which makes it somewhat difficult to compare text messaging habits across the genders. I’m contemplating conducting a second data collection for which I concentrate on recruiting guys.

What knowledge/benefit do you hope to gain/share from this experience?

One of the benefits of the study for me is that it has given me experience with developing a methodology and conducting research with actual human participants, which is an experience that not a lot of undergraduates can say they’ve had. I also feel that I’ve had an opportunity to contribute to the field of PWR in a very tangible way. Everyone’s interested in how technology is affecting the field, so I feel as though I’ve definitely made a contribution towards the knowledge in that regard.

How do you think text-messaging has changed communication and life for Elon Students?

I think the biggest way that text-messaging has changed communication and life for Elon students is that texting has made it easier to keep in constant contact with people. I think it speaks to the fact that we’re really coming to see writing and rhetoric as a way to understand and improve human communication and relations.

How do you think texting has changed your writing and communication skills? Do you think new technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and texting should be examined in the PWR field?

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