This assignment is going to provide you with the opportunity to research and compose a new piece of writing(s) about a unique, esoteric subject that will be composed for a specific publication. To complete the assignment we will be employing and thinking critically about various research methodologies. While the final product is important, even more important for the sake of the course is going to be the reflective and open process through which you come up with a topic/subject, engage your research, find your interview subjects, and consider how the process impacted the resulted writing.
The assignments leading up to your final piece are:
- a research blog in which the researcher will detail and reflect on each stage of their research process;
- a research proposal written with specific publications in mind explaining the potential value of the investigation;
- a (free) professional business card that presents you as a writer or freelance writer created using Vistaprint’s free business cards option (not graded and not required, but strongly suggested)
- an annotated bibliography of 12 sources relating to your research;
- a document annotation modeled on those published in Harper’s (e.g. Keyword: Evil) accompanied by a query letter;
- a series of interviews conducted in person and on line and reflections on those interviews;
- a collection of detailed fieldnotes that have been digitized and reflected upon.
- rough and final drafts of your writing project in a genre of your own choosing that will be accompanied by a query letter written for a specific publication as well as a critical reflection of the final product and your research process.
Throughout the process of completing the above assignments, we will interact with members of the Twitter community 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.
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 Tweet BW at any time. It is better to ask questions then to get frustrated.
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 must be for a new piece of writing or a new writing project; it cannot be something you’re already working on or have worked on.
- 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. No research or writing that is easy is worthwhile.
- The research topic must lend itself to various research modes and archives (as discussed in Gerard).
- 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 subjects in the 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?” “I’d really like to write about that but never had the opportunity to really research it.” In short, you should be finding things that pique your curiosity, that make you wonder, that suggests something important is happening or has happened, and that will result in an engaging, interesting, and unique work.
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 several things. First, consider the topic you are going to research irrespective of the genre you wish your final writing to be in. Consider what it is about that topic that intrigues you, that you are curious about, that makes you want to learn about it. The topic should be grounded in something local but have broad appeal.
Next, write about the genre or genres you are considering. Why that genre? What about it do you think will be effective for writing about your topic? If this is a new genre what are you hoping to get out of exploring it? If you have composed often in the genre, how is this project going to challenge you to compose in it in new and interesting ways?
Then, starting with Writer’sMarket.com and the one for your genre(s) of choice, I would like you to come up with a list of 3 – 5 possible publications that might publish work on that subject matter. The publications can all be in the same genre or you can consider multiple genres. Try to have a mix of local, regional, national, and, perhaps, international publications. For each, discuss why you think it would be a fitting publication based on what is discussed in the Writer’s Market and also from what you have seen in each publication. That is, also spend some time looking at the latest issues of each publication (in print or online) and write about how your topic complements the publications’ goals and publications.
Second, I would like you to consider and address each of the bullet points listed under Choosing a Topic. 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.
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, where it might appear, and why it is important.
Please post the proposal to your blog by class time on January 1. It should be as long as you think it needs to be based on the above requirements (that is, it should be thorough).
Important Due Dates
Note that due dates may change based on various events during the semester. Be sure to check the Course Schedule for updated due dates as they may not always be reflected here.
1/28: Business cards must be ordered
1/31: Research Proposal Due on research blog by class time
2/7: NIH certification and training must be finished and screen shot of certificate posted to your blog
2/29: Interview Questions, Interviewees, and Interview Schedule due on Research Blog
3/20: Annotated Bibliography rough draft due via Dropbox
3/27: Annotated Bibliography final draft due via Dropbox
4/3: Annotation rough drafts due via Dropbox
3/29: Annotation final draft due via Dropbox
4/10: Rough Drafts of final project and query letter due via Dropbox by classtime
4/15: Final project and final query letter due via Dropbox by 5:00pm
4/28: Final project and final query letter due via Dropbox by 11:00pm
4/28: Research reflection and analysis due via Dropbox by 11:00pm