Ok, as a side note, this sounds very Harry Potter-ish ("the boy who lived" sort of thing). Enough about my children's lit obsessions.
I have been working on a draft of my reserach design and am finding the project is getting bigger, not smaller - as I would hope. In the shower it occurred to me that what I am most interested in is not really how images impact writing, but how real visual literacy impacts writing. To be trully visually literate students must be involved in a discussion of how images work and what sorts of meanings they can decode from and create using visuals.
My current research design has me looking at textual features of essays, students' attitude, teacher feedback, and overall performance. Sheesh - that's a lot. I am noticing, the more we read, that most studies are tighter, much smaller in scale.
For me then, I think it is back to the drawing board in a sense. Because I am not so interested in "correctness" as in overal performance and attitude I am considering scaling back.
I am considering a design that would look at two essays from two different classes. Both essays would encourage studetns to incoporate visuals into their traditional texts, but only one class would spend time studying the usage of visuals in meaning-making. Then, instead of looking at errors, I could simply look for image selection, image integration, and length on the given essays. I would retain the survey, but focus it on students' understanding of why images are important and how they can use them. Teacher comments still may be important - in tracking how instructors emphasize or don't the use of visuals, but maybe that is still overly ambitious.
My lit review will be streamlined then to focus on the obvious importance of visual literacy in our world (Kress, and comp scholars) and the push to integrate it into comp classrooms (discussion of several textbooks including Seeing&Learning, Living in a Visual Age, and another new one I just got from Erin).
I see the project's focus shifting from student performance to pedagogy and instructor privileging of text over visuals, vice versa, or a balance between the two. I am interested in seeing how much inate knowledge of visual literacy students have and how much impact true discussion of it may impact overall rhetorical skills. Do papers increase in length? Do visuals trully convey meaning in students' work? Should visual literacy be mandatory in all comp classrooms?
My question is, is this still too big? Also, am I just stating the obvious?
I'll keep mulling it over.