Re-experiencing the research topic

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Earlier I mentioned my work with the Lewiston-Auburn College (LAC) undergrad capstone course.  Since I wanted a better sense of what the students were doing, I thought I would develop my own Senior Seminar topic.  I have renewed appreciation for the student experience of topic formation.

Each section of Senior Sem focuses on one of LAC’s themes (justice, democracy, sustainability, and difference).  Students integrate the theme with their own lives and interests.  In doing so they develop the topics for their final papers.  For my experiment I chose the section where I already had a BlackBoard presence: the theme is difference.

Finding my own take on difference proved more challenging than I’d expected it to be.  I didn’t want to do the same thing others were doing.  I wanted to research something at least somewhat work-related.  I wanted to indulge my interest in language.  At last I decided to learn about code-switching, the act of moving among languages or dialects (“Code-switching,” 2004).

Then I focused on the concept of register, how language changes depending on the context in which it is used (“Register,” 2004).  How do we learn a given register, especially the academic register?  How do we switch between the academic register and our home register?  Is there even a single academic register?  What are the implications for those whose home registers differ the most from academic English?  How can we enrich the classroom with the assorted registers we bring to it?  At the same time how can we still help learners gain access to academic discourse?  What is new to say on these and related issues?

For practical reasons I plan to write an annotated bibliography instead of a research paper.  Time will tell what form the bibliography will take.  I’m still thinking of the parameters.   In the meantime I’m making myself available to the students and practicing the very skills I show them.

As a librarian I could easily take research for granted: I don’t wish to do so.  Even the experienced have something to learn–especially about topic development.


Code-switching. (2004). In A dictionary of sociolinguistics. Retrieved from

Register. (2004). In A dictionary of sociolinguistics. Retrieved from