Cover Letter and Abstract

The Presentation accounts for 15%. The other 5% of this grade is comprised of your Cover Letter & Abstract, together.

Cover Letters & Abstracts will be submitted (along with the presentation file) two ways:

  • Create a post (categorized as “Research Project,” titled with your project title) on our OpenLab site, with an abstract in the body post, which will be used to introduce your project to an outside audience. Upload the Cover Letter as a PDF to the post, and the Presentation as a PPT. Clearly label your files.
  • Submit three distinct files to Dropbox (presentation file, abstract as a Word doc, Cover Letter as a Word doc, all clearly labeled, with your full name and file type).

An important component of this research project is your reflection on it. This Reflection is your Cover Letter

This individual reflection should be 1-2 pages, single-spaced (addressed to me and your readers, as in “Dear Professor Belli and readers” … no formal headings/letter formatting necessary), reflecting on what you learned during the process of developing/researching/writing/revising your Final Research Project, including: choosing your topic; draft/revising research proposals; researching; creating (drafting/revising) your in-class presentation; in-class discussions/workshops/reviews; conferences with me; meetings with librarians & tutors (if applicable). Just like you have done for Essay 1 and will do your Final Course Reflection, the key is critical and thoughtful reflection. What did you learn from this project/process? What did you struggle with? What went well? How did you develop as a writer/thinker? (etc.)

This Cover Letter should be an honest reflection about the successes (or lack thereof) of your research project, but with an awareness that this is a public document. It will be graded on the completeness, thoughtfulness, and quality of your reflection, and your ability to critically discuss your experiences researching and writing/revising for this project.

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 research abstract should do more than just provide a general idea of your project and list a few questions.  Before submitting your Final Project on 12/18, you should have a clear idea of what your research question is, your thesis statement/argument, what the main issues at stake are, important points to discuss, etc. Think about it this way: if you were going to send your paper 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.  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.

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 proposal 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 proposal 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, but in this final version of the abstract you should just present your project as it stands now (not the process you went through to get to this point … this is what your Cover Letter does).

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/analysis/argument).

7.  This final draft should be updated 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 abstract as your research progresses/solidifies.

Your thinking will likely change as you write the first draft of the proposal and then revise to the final version of this abstract.  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 part of the writing/learning process.

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