This assignment is going to provide you with the opportunity to research and write a feature article about a unique, esoteric subject that, if you would like, could be submitted for publication. To complete the assignment we will be employing and thinking critically about qualitative research methodologies. While the final product is important, even more important for the sake of the course is going to be reflective and open process through which you come up with a topic/subject, engage your research, find your interview subjects, and consider your results.
The assignments leading up to the article are:
- a research blog in which the researcher will detail and reflect on each stage of their research process;
- a research proposal written with a specific audience in mind explaining the need for the investigation;
- an annotated bibliography of 8 scholarly and 4 creative/journalistic sources relating to your research;
- a document annotation modeled on those published in Harper’s;
- a series of interviews conducted in person and on line;
- and a 5 – 7 page rough draft that must be completed in order to write the final article.
Throughout the process of completing the above assignments, we will interact with members of the Diigo and Twitter communities who are interested in or in some way related to our areas of research. These connections will broaden our research potential, introduce us to new ideas, and provide us with people who we will be able to interview. Specifics about these assignments will appear as needed.
All technologies and applications used during the course of the assignment will be explained and discussed in detail in class. All questions about the technologies and applications are welcome. Do not hesitate to email or Twitter BW at any time. It is better to ask questions then to get frustrated.
Note: There is a possibility that IRB applications will be required in order to complete the project. I am currently working with IRB administrators to try to convince them that this is not necessary. You will know as soon as I do.
Choosing a Topic
The topic or focus of your research is up to you, though BW must approve it. To help ensure that approval, the subject or topic you choose must meet the following criteria:
- The research topic must be new to you. That is, the subject cannot be anything that you have researched in the past. We do not want to approach the subject with pre-determined ideas.
- The research topic must lead to research that is going to stretch and challenge you as a researcher and writer. It should not be easy.
- The research topic must provide an opportunity to interview/talk with people in person and online as well as engage in scholarly research.
- The research topic must lend itself to scholarly and non-scholarly research.
- The research topic must be local but have larger implications that experts in a related field can speak to. For example, A.E. Nutt’s profile of Jon Sarkin is grounded in local settings (home, family, Gloucester, MA) but required experts from across the northeast to speak about the scientific reasons for his illness.
- The research topic must have appeal for a larger readership, such as those that read specific magazines and newspapers.
- The research topic must be something that will hold your interest for the semester. There is little worse than engaging in a research topic that holds little interest.
When searching for a topic, it might help to think in terms of the kinds of articles that we read for Week 2: profiles of a person, historical explorations of an object, descriptions of an event, and so on. Think about times when you have said to yourself something to the effect of, “Huh, I wonder what that is all about?” “I wonder where that came from?” “I wonder who the artist is behind that [insert art form]?” “What actually happens at those events?” “What is it like to work at that place or be a [insert esoteric profession]?” “Why is this street or town or park named the way it is?” In short, you should be finding things that pique your curiosity, that make you wonder, that suggest that something important is or has happened, and that will result in an article that others will be interested in, as well.
Please use your research blogs to brainstorm possible ideas and email me if you’d like specific comments about those ideas.
I would like you to think about this proposal in terms of two things. First, consider your audience(s). That is, think about who you would be proposing this article to: a local newspaper, a state newspaper, a trade publication, an esoteric magazine, and so on. Consider what would make the article important for that publication’s audience. You do not need to name a publication right now, but if you have some in mind that would be great.
Second, I would like you to consider and address each of the bullet points listed above. That is, your proposal should discuss in some depth how the research topic would be new to you, how it would be a stretch, who you might interview (generally, you don’t need names now), and so on. When discussing your scholarly research think about the academic fields that are implicated or can speak to the subject areas surrounding your research. For example, if you are studying a decaying movie theater in Glassboro, the you might do research in film history, urban planning, pop culture, or small city economics. If you are having trouble thinking of these areas, please let me know and we can brainstorm some.
You don’t need to address the items in the order listed above, and your proposal shouldn’t read like a bulleted list. Rather, the ideas and topics should appear seamlessly in your discussion. The goal is to showcase why you want to this, what you will do, and why it is important.
Please post the proposal to your blog by classtime on Feb 10. It should be no longer than 1 page single spaced.
Important Due Dates
2/10: Research Proposal Due on Research Blog by Classtime
2/24: Annotated Bibliography due by email and within Zotero
3/3: Interview Questions, Interviewees, and Interview Schedule due on Research Blog
4/17: Document Analysis Due
4/21: Article 5 – 7 page Rough Draft Due
5/8: Final Article Due by 11:00pm by email