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CCCC 2004: Review

Review: Research Network Forum: A Brief Review and Call for Participation
Reviewed by: Anthony T. Atkins, rhet@comcast.net
Posted on: April 16, 2004

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I have been attending the Research Network Forum (RNF) in one capacity or another for the last 5 years.  My colleagues strongly encouraged me to take advantage of the quality discussions that occurred there.  The RNF was founded as a place for graduate students and other members of the community to share projects/ideas/research.  I can recall my first experience in RNF. I walked in to the 2000 RNF early on Wednesday morning. There were well over a hundred graduate students and members of the community meandering around before the workshop began.  I remember sitting at a table with Victor Vitanza during the morning session chatting with him about my project, which, at the time, was about cyber-epistemologies and students as cyborgs.  I returned home very excited about my discussion with Vitanza.  From then on, I continued to attend the RNF.  The feedback from discussion leaders was invaluable because professors from other colleges and universities placed “fresh eyes” on my projects.  Professors at my home institution were always helpful, but like them, I need as many people as possible to read over my work in an attempt to address various flaws and/or questions. The RNF’s feedback then and now produces helpful feedback for anyone with ideas.

This year, in San Antonio, we had another large crowd with over a hundred participants.  There were discussion leaders with expert knowledge in literacy, composition, technology, research methods, rhetoric, writing program administration, linguistics, journalism, technical/professional writing, and literature, to name a few subject areas.  What makes this pre-conference event special is that it is free, and it offers everyone an opportunity to share ideas and discuss possibilities for current and future projects.  This review will address the RNF in three distinct ways.  First, I will discuss some of the changes to the RNF, second, I will discuss “Works-in-Progress” (WIP) from presenters’ projects (including my own), and lastly I will make a humble plea for participation.

Changes in RNF

Out of the gracious hearts of individuals, RNF continues to blossom into a community of its own.  The RNF provided five plenary speakers this year: Cynthia L. Selfe, Dickie Selfe, Geoffrey Cross, Kristie S. Fleckenstein, and Pam Takayoshi.  In recent years, the plenary sessions have taken, arguably, too much time from round table discussions.  However, on the advice and feedback from participants and discussion leaders, the RNF shortened the plenary speakers’ talks and decreased the number of plenary speakers.  This proved to be one of the improvements of RNF, and achieved two things: it kept us on schedule, and this change provided additional time for questions from the audience.


As a Works-in-Progress Presenter, I prepared a brief abstract that outlined my dissertation project, which included survey and case study research. For the 10 minutes I had with discussion leaders, I focused on survey research.  I wanted to learn more about survey research, how it had been used in the field of composition studies, who had used survey research, and the best places to find such resources.  I received valuable feedback from the discussion group and the discussion leaders. Risa P. Gorelick shared her project on the “Rhetoric of Rejection” where she describes her project from the perspective of a potential job candidate.  How do institutions “word” their rejection letters?  Who actually writes them? What criteria do they use to write such letters?  These are some of the questions she asked of the group guided by Dickie Selfe.  The afternoon session placed me with Will Hochman, Duane Rowan, and Barry Maid who were discussion leaders.  Edward Braun from Northwestern State University, another Works-in-Progress presenter, shared his project on “Fordism and the Writing Center.”  He likened the assembly line to tutorial work in writing centers using James Berlin’s Rhetorics Poetics and Cultures.  This project engendered a lively discussion about tutorial work in writing centers.  The discussion leaders had lots of experience working with writing centers and administrating writing programs, so they gave Braun useful resources for expanding his project.

Call for Participation

In this time of tight competition for pre-conference workshops at CCCCs, it should be again noted that this forum is free and that anyone can submit a proposal and participate.  The survival of this forum is partly based on attendance.  The executive committee is indeed aware that there are alternatives to the RNF for CCCCs participants and pre-conference workshop attendees.  The RNF is always looking for capable discussion leaders, and wants to reach out to graduate students who are looking for help and feedback on their projects.

I want to encourage faculty members to get involved with this forum in two ways.  First, faculty members should encourage graduate students to submit, attend, and present their works-in-progress at the RNF.  Second, faculty members should consider volunteering to be discussion leaders.  Serving as a discussion leader counts as national service.  As a discussion leader, you are helping future colleagues in our field of English.  You are making a difference in a graduate student’s professional life and career.  I know that when I sat with Victor Vitanza at my first RNF, I was very excited to have an opportunity to sit with someone of his stature, have him evaluate my project, and talk to him about his many publications and future projects.  I have attended every RNF and 4C’ss since that time.  In this sense, RNF served our conference as a welcoming, listening, and recruiting tool for new members of the profession.  The RNF provides a safe place for graduate students, junior faculty, and contract/adjunct instructors to receive valuable professional feedback from experienced faculty members and discussion leaders.  I would also point out that at the end of the day, journal editors in our field hold a round table to discuss publishing in specific journals.  All of this information is essential, especially for folks new to the convention.  I urge faculty members and graduate students to participate as much as possible.  To view the RNF homepage, links to previous programs, and to submit abstracts for next year’s RNF go here: [http://www.rnfonline.com].

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