Note: Karen Gocsik uses this research process in her two-term Writing 2-3. In a single term, you needn't require students to move through all twelve steps. The point is to break the research process into discrete steps that together will help your students to produce good scholarship.
In the winter term, you will be undertaking a term-long research project. The topic for this paper, loosely defined, is Christianity. You may approach the topic from any perspective and through any discipline.
Your first task is to focus the topic more sharply. Below are examples of paper topics that have yielded good papers in the past. Remember: "topics" are broad. Use this list as a starting point as you look for a topic that interests you.
Your initial proposal will declare your topic and list some preliminary questions that you hope to investigate.
We'll be sharing your topics and question with a librarian, who will illustrate research strategies that will help you to refine your questions. Different topics suggest different strategies, including consulting special subject encyclopedias, referring to peer-reviewed journals, and even using Google. As we talk about how to use sources to refine your thinking, you will also learn how to find the information that you need.
Still working with your proposals and questions, the librarian will offer a variety of sources on a topic and ask you to evaluate them. We will also talk about what to do when, for instance, you find material that undermines your initial premise, or sources that are at odds with each other. We will discuss how to use sources responsibly.
Research requires the continual refinement of a topic and a set of research questions. Accordingly, you are likely to challenge your initial premises and arrive at various conclusions as you work. For this assignment, you should present a refined proposal and a set of focused questions that reflect your current thinking about your research. Your classmates will be responding to this question with a brief comment and additional questions on the Blackboard site. Post your best work.
We'll invite a librarian to come to class and hear your pitch sessions. The sessions should include a succinct statement of your proposed argument, the questions you intend to address, and some plan for addressing/researching these questions. The librarian will give advice regarding sources, databases, and so on. Your classmates' responses will help you to see the strengths and weaknesses of your research plan.
Write a 75 word abstract summarizing the paper you think you're going to write. Attach a draft of your bibliography. This bibliography should identify a list of sources that includes books, journals, and on-line resources. You must annotate these sources—in other words, provide a brief commentary of what the sources contain, assess their academic quality, and address the ways that they appear to be useful to your topic.
Consider the discipline in which you are writing (economics, sociology, literary criticism, and so on). Using the library or online resources, find materials on writing and researching in your particular discipline. (The Writing Program Web site, for instance, has information on discipline-specific writing.) Consider the sources you've been using and see if you can discover these discipline-specific traits. Finally, submit a brief account of the requirements of researching and writing in your discipline. (If you like, you can write this as a Top-Ten list—i.e., "The Top Ten Things to Consider When You Write an Art History Paper.") Those of you working on papers in the same discipline can work together on this assignment. Contact a reference librarian to determine your discipline's research protocol.
Write an essay that summarizes the most important sources that you intend to use in your paper. Consider how these sources comment on or are in conversation with one another. Try to get a "lay of the land" as regards your research. Be sure to include sources that take positions that are different from yours.
By now, you should have a working thesis and introduction for your research paper. Your intro should contextualize your thesis and should engage your reader. It should also offer the reader a suggestion of your paper's structure.
Post a couple of body paragraphs on Blackboard. We'll review them in class to determine how well you've set up, employed, analyzed, and cited your sources. A thorough discussion of plagiarism is included here.
Expect this to be a long and arduous process. You'll produce at least two complete drafts and will receive copious feedback from the TA, your classmates, and me.
Your research presentations should NOT be a simple "replay" of your topic but should be re-designed so that you 1) spend some time talking ex tempore, 2) employ more than one medium, and 3) engage your classmates in discussion. A successful presentation will reconsider your topic and may focus on one part of the research, or elaborate on some aspect of the research that you didn't focus on in your paper. You will have twenty minutes to make your presentation; this will include any Q & A. Your presentation will be graded separately from your paper.
Last Updated: 8/11/08