Workshop and discussion exercises

Practice with these exercises to prepare for your seminars and wider research.

1. Shown below are two extracts of writing in different styles, by the sociologist Kathy Charmaz. The first comes from an article in which she demonstrates that placement in a moral hierarchy of suffering affects whether and how an ill person’s stories will be heard. The second is for an academic journal article about the experience of chronic illness.

Compare and contrast the narrative voice, textual quality and ‘empirical facts’ in these two extracts. In each case consider:
(a) How does the writer achieve authority and persuasiveness?
(b) What are the rhetorical aspects of each extract?
(c) How does the writer appeal to the reader and how much emotion does she evoke in each piece
(d) Why might she have done this?

Style 1

Imagine Christine walking slowly and determinedly up the short sidewalk to my house. See her bent knees and lowered head as she takes deliberate steps. Christine looks weary and sad, her face as burdened with care as her body is encumbered by pain and pounds. Always large, she is heavier than I have ever seen her, startlingly so.

Christine has a limited education; she can hardly read. Think of her trying to make her case for immediate treatment – without an advocate. Christine can voice righteous indignation, despite the fatigue and pain that saps her spirit and drains her energy. She can barely get through her stressful workday, yet she must work as many hours as possible because she earns so little.

Charmaz, K. (1999) ‘Stories of suffering: subjective tales and research narratives’, Qualitative Health Research, 9: 3 62–382.

Style 2

A rhetoric of self claims certain attributes, values, and beliefs about past and/or present self as defining it. This rhetoric makes truth claims, posits a specific logic, and aims to sway views. Serious illness raises questions about self and identity. People who once could take their personal and social identities as givens now may need to reclaim or revise them. The identity claims embedded in illness stories form the basis for a rhetoric of self.

Charmaz, K. (2002) ‘Stories and silences: disclosures and self in chronic illness’, Qualitative Inquiry, 8: 302.

2. Choose articles reporting two research studies, one largely quantitative, the other largely qualitative. If possible, they should be on similar subjects. How do they compare in terms of structure (look at the subheadings) and rhetorical devices to persuade the reader of the author’s point of view? How are data and theory used in each one?

3. Consider the two different ways of representing the same statistical data in the extracts shown below. The data come from a study of the progression of inflammatory bowel disease. What do you think paragraph (b) lacks? Why might this be important? Think about how you interpret each phrase in the two options. When might you use each of the two styles?
(a) By applying the Montreal classification to baseline characteristics (i.e., within the first 90 days), 137 CD patients (73.2%) had no intestinal complications. Twenty-nine patients (15.5%) were found to have an intestinal stricture and 21 patients (11.2%) had developed penetrating disease within the first 90 days of diagnosis. At last follow-up evaluation, the cumulative probability of CD behaviour change from inflammatory to stricturing or penetrating disease (B1 to B2/B3) was 20.4% (95% CI, 12.3%–28.4%) in Asia and 16.9% (95% CI, 2.4%–31.4%) in Australia
(b) Almost three quarters of patients did not develop intestinal complications within the first 90 days but 29 had an intestinal stricture and 21 developed penetrating disease. People in Asia had a 20.4% probability of developing complications and people in Australia had a 16.9% probability.