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 and additional query letter (if you write a feature);
- a business card that describes you professionally as a writer;
- completion of the CITI Research Ethics course (this takes a while so start early); see the Rowan IRB page for information on IRB (scroll down to learn about training)
- a series of interviews conducted in person and on line and reflections on those interviews;
- academic research on subjects associated with your project along with reflections on some of the texts you find;
- 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 submission letter written for a specific publication as well as a critical reflection of the final product and your research process. All work must be submitted to the chosen publication
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 Twitter 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.
- 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.
Research Proposal (updated 2/4/14)
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? Do not limit your genre possibilities to a feature article because we read examples of feature articles.
Then, starting with Writer’s Market 2014 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. 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 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 bulletted 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 your proposal to your blog by 11:00pm on Friday, February 7. It should be as long as you think it needs to be based on the above requirements.
If you have chosen to write a Feature article
Once your topic is approved and you have started thinking in depth about it, but no later than March 4, email BW a query letter to a specific publication in a format encouraged by Wendy Burt-Thomas. That is, the letter should describe the article topic and why that publication’s readers would find it interesting. Describe yourself as a writer; do not discuss this in terms of the assignment. Write the letter as if BW is the editor of the publication. BW will judge the letter as if he were the editor (but will provide feedback instead of ignoring it :-). Within one week of receiving feedback, incorporate suggestions, and submit the query letter for real. You’ll be required to show evidence that you have done so.
Important Due Dates (updated 2/4/14)
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.
2/7: Order business cards no later than this date
2/7: Research Proposal or Query Letter Due on research blog by 11:00pm
2/18: CITI certification and training must be finished and screen shot of certificate posted to your blog
3/4: Feature article folks, submit your query letter by this date
3/11: Interview Questions, Interviewees, and Interview Schedule due on Research Blog
TBD: academic research blog posts due
TBD: Fieldnotes, interviews, lookings, and reflections posts due
4/21 (Sunday): Rough Drafts of final project (and for non-feature folks, submission letter) due via Dropbox by class time
4/29: Final project (for non-feature folks submission letter) due via Dropbox by 11:00pm
4/30: Non-feature folks: project must be submitted (include evidence of submission in your final Learning Record)
3/14: Midterm Learning Record due
5/6: Final Learning Record Due