The goal of the proposals is, well, what it sounds like: to “propose” your project 🙂

The key things to think about are the scope/focus (what are the parameters of this project), why you want to do it, what its purpose is, the manageable-ness (is this a project that you can successfully complete over the rest of the semester), and its deliverables (the various ways you will experiment with new media composing, the multimodal products you will create). You should work to design a project (in consultation with me) that you find personally interesting and intellectually stimulating: you will be much happier over the course of the next two months (and will likely produce a better project) if you feel a personal investment in it.

I will sign off on each project, once we together decide what it will look like, what your deliverables (inquiry, research, project, etc.) will be. However, since you are the one conceptualizing and researching (and therefore becoming the “expert” in this particular area) this topic, it is up to you to, in as much detail as possible and with as much clarity as you can, explain to me what the project is, why it is worth doing, and how you will do it.

We will spend the week of 11/3 on development of your ideas, brainstorming, researching, revising, and complete drafts of proposals (minimum of 3 paragraphs, and 500 words) are due on OpenLab no later than Sa 11/7 (categorize as “Proposals”). Professor Belli will to everyone’s proposals (and future revised proposals), and be meetingwith you individually the following week to finalize project plans.

*I can certainly understand that you may want to build on ideas and projects you’re interested in, but if what you’re proposing is directly related to your work on a project for another course (past or present), you must mention this me and discuss how this will differ / extend the work you do there.


  • Why does this topic interest you?  Why does/should this topic interest others?
  • What kinds of sources will you use in your project?
  • What kind of experimentation with new media composing will you be using? (what genres will you work in, what online communities will you explore, etc.
  • How can you focus/narrow down your topic so that it is manageable in this short-term project?  Remember, you don’t want your topic to be too broad or general … isolate just one variable (focus is very important).  What kinds of questions do you hope to address through your research?  What, specifically, do you want to learn about this topic?
  • How do you plan to present this material in a portfolio (on your individual ePortfolio)? What kinds of write-up will you provide? What kind of multimodal compositions will you create?
  • How do you plan to build in reflection on your research, new media composing experiments, write-up / multimodal creations, presentation, and ePortfolio design?
  • What do you hope to learn from this project?

You should do some preliminary research on the Internet to learn a bit more about these possible topics (however you do this for the week of 11/2 is fine: Google, Wikipedia, etc.).  You may realize in your initial search that your topic has a lot more to it than you previously thought, or conversely you may realize that your topic is too straightforward and you don’t want to go ahead with it. Your goal at this early stage of the research process is exploratory: to gain an overview view of your topic, brainstorm useful keywords, refine your search, ask additional questions.

Remember that proposals are works-in-progress, and together we will shape them as the semester continues.

Why do I need a Proposal?

  • When you start this project, it is normal for you to be unsure of the particulars of your topic or research question; you may even decide to change your project trajectory as you find more information. It is normal (and, perhaps counter-intuitively, even desirable!) to be unsure of all the particulars in the early stages of your project, and altering your plan of action is OK and expected.  Your task is not to find sources that only back up what you already know/believe (you won’t be learning anything this way!).
  • However, by the time you start the next phases (the various composing experiments, focused research, presentation, drafting of portfolio), you should have a focused topic and a plan of action.  So this part of the assignment will help you to gather your ideas.

Final Abstract of Project (due Tu 12/15)

This will be used to introduce your project to the class and an outside audience, and form the basis of your post on our OpenLab course site (along with the link to your porfolio on your individual ePortfolio)

1.  Your abstract should be very specific/clear.  Although you will first start out by brainstorming ideas and getting a handle on your research, the final draft of your abstract should do more than just provide a general idea of your project and list a few questions.  Before turning in the first draft of your portfolio on Tu 12/8, you should have a clear idea of what your motivating questions are, your thesis statement argument / claims (in response to them), what the main issues at stake are, important points to discuss, etc. Think about it this way: if you were going to send your project to a journal for publication and they asked you to send a summary of your work (not your whole paper), what would you tell them so that your argument/point is very clear and concise?  What kinds of information would you not need to include?

2.  [For some of you, this won’t work, and you’ll need to use the 1st person: touch base with me if you have questions about your particular project and how you should represent it in the abstract] Don’t use the 1st person (I, me, my, we, our, us) or the 2nd person (you, your, yours), unless necessary (in which case, don’t “overuse it”).  State your argument/ideas in a formal/impersonal/authoritative way. E.g.: “This project explores … ”

3.  Minimize the “interest” section of your proposal.  Since you have already spent some time researching your project, it is clear that you are invested in it and you don’t need to spend too much time explaining why (it should be clear from the rest of your abstract what exactly you are interested in with this topic).

4.  Make sure that you have connections among your various points, sentences, and paragraphs.  Don’t just list one point after the next (stacking up details) without considering their connection to another and to your overall argument.  Your abstract must be coherent, connect the dots for your readers, and answer the “so what?” question.  Don’t be afraid to “give away” your ideas here … that is what you want to do.  And as always, be as specific as possible (you don’t want to leave questions unanswered, statements vague/general, etc.).

5.  Eliminate any unnecessary “behind-the-scenes” narration; don’t spend time telling stating, “When I first started, I was going to do this topic, but then I changed my mind and … .”  This type of conversation is OK for the initial stages of the proposal (and will be included in the reflective components of this Final Project), but in this final draft of the Project Abstract, you should just present your project as it stands now (not the process you went through to get to this point).

6.  Similarly, for the section on the research you’ve done already, don’t waste time stating, “My research looked at databases, and I searched on, and I found some good books.”  Instead, actually tell your readers what your research has taught you (content).

7.  This final version of the abstract must be updated / revised significantly from you previous proposals. Just like when you revise an essay you also must update the outline that accompanies it, here too you must update your proposal as your research progresses/ solidifies.

Your thinking will likely change as you write the first draft of the project and then revise to the final draft. This is OK (and good!).  You do not have to stick to exactly what you originally proposed in your first draft of your proposal.  Change is a natural (and desirable!) part of the writing / learning process.

8.  Abstracts should be ~350 words, (1-2 paragraphs).