Research Project

Part 1: Research Proposal

  • M 4/7: First draft due (post to blog)
  • M 4/21: Second draft due (post to blog)
  • Tu 4/29: Third draft due (bring four printed copies to class)
  • Tu 5/13: Final draft due (bring folder portfolio to class & e-mail file to me)

How do I narrow down my topic?

  • Make sure to pick a research question that appeals to you on a personal level (a topic that you want to learn more about), is important/relevant in the larger social context, and is broadly related to the themes of the course (technology, digital identities, networked lives, etc.).
  • Although you may choose a common research topic (such the relationship between Facebook friends/activity & loneliness, social media’s role in recent protests/revolutions, or personalized ads on the Internet) you should not simply explore typical aspects of this topic: make sure to create a new/interesting entry point into what may be an over-discussed topic.

For this phase of the assignment, your goal is to be as specific as possible.  As discussed in class, don’t just write, “I want to work on the role of data mining in academic settings” or “My topic is teenagers txting.”  Your task in the early draft of the research proposal is to try to focus your topic and to consider what the important issues involved with it are.  Therefore, your ideas should be in paragraph form (at least two full paragraphs) and should consider the following issues:

  • Why does this topic interest you?  Why does/should this topic interest others?
  • What kinds of sources will you use in your project?
  • How can you focus/narrow down your topic so that it is manageable in this short-term, short (in length) research 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?
  • Is your proposal “argumentative” (or is it just a statement of fact)?

You should do some preliminary research on the Internet to learn a bit more about these possible topics (however you do this for Tu 4/8is 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.


Why do I need a Research Proposal?

  • When you start this research 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 topic or position as you find more information.  Altering your argument/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 phase of your project (creating an annotated bibliography and presentation), you should have a focused topic and a plan of action.  So this part of the assignment will help you to gather your ideas.

Here are some helpful guidelines for the final draft of your Research Proposal (due Tu 5/13):

1.  Your proposal 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 proposal should do more than just provide a general idea of your project and list a few questions.  Before turning in the final draft of the research essay on Tu 5/13, 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).  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 minds and … .”  This type of conversation is OK for the initial stages of the proposal, but in this final draft 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 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 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 present in your proposal.  Change is a natural part of the writing/learning process.

8.  Research proposals should be approximately 500 words, single-spaced (1-2 paragraphs).


Part 2: Annotated Bibliography

  • M 4/21: First draft (3 sources) due (post to blog)
  • Tu 4/29: Second draft (6 sources) due (bring four printed copies to class)
  • Tu 5/13: Final draft (6 sources) due (bring folder portfolio to class & e-mail file to me)

What type of sources do I use?

While I expect that you will consult many, many more sources, you must incorporate a minimum of six sources in your research project.  Make sure that you use a variety of resources, and try to have sources from the following categories (and use current/up-to-date information when relevant):

  • Recent scholarly books in print: chapters and/or excerpts are acceptable
  • Recent scholarly articles found in online journals through the City Tech (and/or CUNY) Library databases
  • Recent texts (articles, essays, editorials, interviews, etc.) from other non-book print sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  • Texts (articles, essays, editorials, interviews) from reliable online sources (this means you must know where there information is coming from and if it is accurate/reliable!)
  • Media (advertisements, cartoons, artwork, TV shows, films, music, etc.)
  • Other (ex: fiction, interviews, surveys, etc.)

Make sure to keep track of all bibliographic information as you do your research (citations should be in MLA style). Also, check out the bibliography/references of the sources you use … looking over what sources other researchers have used is a great way to find additional relevant material for your own project.

This site has some helpful information on evaluating print sources:

And here’s one on evaluating WWW sources:

If you are uncertain about the “reliability” of a source, you should consult me, a librarian, or the Learning Center.


What is an Annotated Bibliography and how do I create one?

  • For each of your sources, you should provide the bibliographic information (MLA style) and then a brief summary/evaluation of its usefulness/relevancy for your project (maximum 200 words per source).

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

1.  Make sure your annotated bibliography is single-spaced (including the citations), with a space between each citation and its annotation, and another space between different entries.

2.  The citations should be alphabetized, have hanging indents, and they should be in complete/accurate in MLA format (just like a Works Cited page).

3.  Just like for the proposal, here don’t use the 1st or 2nd person.  Your annotations should be formal/impersonal.  Therefore, avoid statements like “This source will be useful to my project because … .” Instead, just state its usefulness directly (without mention of you or your project).

4.  Write in the present tense when describing your sources.

5.  Remember that these sources are both informative and critical/evaluative.  When you give the summary, present the main idea of the source without getting bogged down with too many specific/technical details about its content (this can be overwhelming for your readers).  Similarly, don’t let the summary take up your whole annotation.  In addition to just objectively presenting what the source is about, you need to critically evaluate your source (subjectively) as to its usefulness/relevancy, bias, credibility, etc.

6.  Therefore, think about the “so what?” question with sources too.  Consider how certain sources contribute (are they factual, personal, etc.) to your project.  Where do they come from (are they organizations, individual researchers, newspapers, politicians, etc.)?   You need to synthesize your findings as much as possible.

7.  As with the proposals, make sure you connect your thoughts in the annotations (use connections/transitions … don’t just list choppy/fragmented points/details about the source).  Also, make sure you don’t simply tack on at the end statements addressing the different points I ask you to think about (usefulness, bias, etc.) like a checklist without any inherent unity/coherence.  You should include a discussion of these aspects when they are important for a particular source, and you should integrate this evaluation into your annotation as a whole.

8.  You can include more than the minimum requirement of sources in your bibliography, and you should feel free to modify your bibliography/sources (add, delete, revise) until the final draft is due.  You also don’t have to use all of these initial sources in the final project (you can have both a “Works Cited” section and a “Works Consulted” section)

To start creating your annotation for each text, you should:

  • Provide a complete/accurate MLA citation
  • Summarize the reading in a few sentences
  • Below your summary, include any questions/concerns you have about the reading (such as if you do not understand a particular paragraph or sentence, or if you are confused because you think that the text contradicts itself in different places): be as specific as possible! (In the final draft, these questions/concerns will be removed and you provide a brief evaluation of the source and state its usefulness for your own project)

Here is a good resource on annotated bibliographies:

*There will be Peer Review on your Research Proposals and Annotated Bibliographies in various stages


Here are some sample Research Proposals (earlier drafts; the final draft will be streamlined) & Annotated Bibliographies.


Part 3: Presentation

In order to publicly share your research project with the class, each person will give an approximately 10 minute in-class, oral presentation on his/her research and arguments (synthesizing and thinking critically about the data/research you has compiled).

This presentation (along with your research project reflect: see Part 4 below) is worth 10% of your overall course grade. You will be graded on the quality of both your oral presentation and your multimedia presentation (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.).
I am more than happy to discuss a draft of your Presentation with you during my office hours, if you wish.Each person’s final draft of the presentation must be e-mailed to me no later than 2pm the day of the presentation (Tu 5/13).
A few things to keep in mind as you prepare your presentation:
  • Your presentation should present the main points from your research project, including an overview of the issue/stakes & relevant background info./local context, a discussion/analysis of your data (academic research).
  • Since each person only has 10 minutes to present, you will not be able to cover all the research you found/ideas you explored. Choosing what details/data/info. to include/exclude and how to present that information in an engaging, concise manner is an important part of the presentation. The goal is to synthesize this material into an argument (just like an argumentative paper); in fact, since this presentation is in place of an essay, this is the one chance you have to present your ideas. Lead with an overview of your project (an Introduction: why it is important, what the stakes are, what your argument is), and then move into your claims and evidence (research).
  • Be prepared for a brief question & answer period after your presentation, during which your classmates and I will ask you questions about your research project (this is a chance when you can expand/clarify your research project more). Everyone should be prepared to ask questions of their classmates’ projects/presentations too.
  • 10 minutes will go by very quickly, so make sure to practice giving your presentation before the official presentation, and time yourself as you go (I also suggest videoing it, if possible, to see/hear how the presentation comes across to an audience).
  • Each presentation should include some multimedia aspect (using presentation software, such as PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.), which should help your classmates and professor to follow along in your discussion. You may want to consider using these slides to: provide bullet points of key talking points, list the data/sources/quotes – with the relevant citations – that you will refer to, provide images/video clip, pose questions for further discussion, etc.
  • Remember to provide a “Works Cited” for the sources (including images, music, etc.) you use within your presentation (this can be your last slide).
  • Your are responsible for creating an engaging presentation for your classmates, so while you can bring note cards to help you remember certain points, you shouldn’t read directly from your notes/write-up (this will prevent you from making eye contact with your audience).
  • You should dress nicely (I suggest business casual) for your presentation.

Everyone will present during class on 5/13.
 We will announce the order of the presentations at the beginning of class. Everyone should make sure to have their presentations loaded/open on the main classroom computer before class begins, as we will have to move quickly from one presentation to the next. Therefore, all students should arrive to class early to load their presentations onto the classroom computer.


Part 4: Reflection
An important component of this research project is your reflection on it (worth 10% of your course grade, along with your presentation).

This individual reflection should be 1-2 pages, single-spaced (addressed to me, as in “Dear Professor Belli” … no formal headings/letter formatting necessary), reflecting on what you learned during the extended process of developing/researching/writing/revising your Research Project, including choosing your topic; draft/revising research proposals; annotated bibliographies, the presentation; the library session; peer review; in-class workshops; conferences with me. Just like you have done for each assignment so far, you will reflect on your experiences of working on the Research Project. 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.

Each person will write and submit his/her reflection, which will only be seen by me (not your classmates). Therefore, it should be an honest reflection about the successes (or lack thereof) of your research project.

*This final project individual reflection is due by the start of class (2:30pm) on Tuesday, 5/13. You should submit:

  • an electronic copy to me via e-mail
  • one printed copy (bring to Tuesday’s class)

Your Individual Final Project Reflection 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.