Proposals

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), the manageable-ness (is this a project that you can successfully complete over the rest of the semester), and its deliverables. Find a topic that you find personally interesting and intellectually stimulating: you will be much happier over the course of the next month (and will likely produce a better project) if you feel a personal investment in it.

After meeting with everyone in individual conferences early in the week of 4/20, it looks like there are some really fantastic ideas, including: creating sound (ambient) tracks for SF texts, doing analytical/critical research essays related to themes of the course, creating creating comic books, exploring the soundtrack and/or lighting of SF films, researching / visually representing the differences between cyberpunk & steampunk; exploring real use cases of changing architecture in other countries as a commentary on use of space and the “good life,” etc.

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. Proposals (minimum of 2 paragraphs) are due on OpenLab no later than F 4/24. Professor Belli is responding to everyone’s proposals (and revised proposals) as they are posted.

Consider:

  • 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 the week of 4/20 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 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 (the write-up & 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.

Final Abstract (due Th 5/14)
This will be used to introduce your project to an outside audience, and will begin your Project #2 post on OpenLab.

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 turning in the first draft of your final project on 5/14, 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 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 google.com, 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 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).

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