Research Project

Self-Help Final Research Project

This final Research Project is your chance to add your own perspectives, voices, interests, and research to the class. This project is worth 25% of your final course grade, and it is an individual, researched project developed in consultation with your professor (that’s me!). Each student will design her own project, but regardless of the project, each student will incorporate research, an abstract, reflection (Cover Letter), and in-class presentation.

The Final Project as a whole accounts for 25% of your Final Course Grade and is made up of three components.

Proposal and Research (pre-drafts)
Cover Letter & Abstracts

Submit all materials via this Dropbox link.

Below is an outline of the project, along with my expectations / guidelines / requirements / and due dates. There is also important information here about grading & feedback.

Important Deadlines for the Proposal Drafting/Review/Revising

  • Th 4/29: Exploratory Research + Proposal Draft: In-Class Peer Review and Workshop to help refine topics further.
  • W 5/5: Additional Focused Research + Revised Proposals + Annotated Bibliography
    When you will revise your proposals for this next class, you will further refine your topic, add more detail and sources, and shape it in a more focused way. Minimum of 3 (revised, more specific) paragraphs and 6 sources (including self-help primary texts). Post to our OpenLab course site as “Revised Proposals + Sources.”As with the previous draft, list sources at bottom with full bibliographic information (MLA format). Here, also provide a brief annotation for each, which summarizes the source and explains its usefulness for the project. Finally, include a reflection about where you in the process, what you have done, what you still are working on, what you are struggling with, what you think you have done well (etc.).–at least two paragraphs (this is the first draft of your Cover Letter)[Note: If you do not submit this on time, you will lose 5 points off the final project grade]

Annotations should be critical/evaluative. 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 (~150 words per source).

Provide as much detail and explanation as possible so that your peers and I can ask intelligent questions and help you to further focus/refine/improve your topic and approach (read carefully through the Proposal and Research section below for more guidance about what to research and then include in your proposal).

  • Th 5/13: “Lightening Presentations”: In-class, do a 2-3 minute “lightening” presentation summarizing your project & presentation (post to OpenLab as “Research Project” + “Presentation” before class begins: include a draft of your project abstract and the presentation file). We will peer review these presentations.
  • Th 5/20: Research Project Due

    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 (as distinct files) 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).

  • Th 5/20 + Tu 5/25: In-Class Presentations


Proposals & Research


The first and very important step is the brainstorming/focus phase, and to do that, you will need to conduct multiple rounds of (ever-more-focused research) and write multiple drafts of your project proposal. The goal of the proposals is, well, what it sounds like: to “propose” your project 🙂

The key things to think about during this brainstorming/preliminary research stage 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 (the focused presentation through your research/analysis).

Find a topic that you find personally interesting and intellectually stimulating: you will be much happier (and you will likely produce a better project) if you feel a personal investment in it!

You should do some preliminary research on the Internet to learn a bit more about these possible topics (however you do that over during the first weeks of the project week 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, discover/research useful keywords, refine your search, ask additional questions.

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!). Remember that proposals are works-in-progress, and together we will shape them together over a few classes. However, by the time you start the next phase of your project (more rigorous research, and ultimately the 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.

Your classmates and I will help you to revise your proposals, but since you are the one conceptualizing and researching this topic (and therefore becoming the “expert” in this particular area), it is up to you to, in as much detail as possible and with as much clarity as you can, explain to us what the project is, why it is worth doing, and how you will do it. The more effort you put into the proposal and initial research stage, the more successful (and easier!) your project will be in the long run.

*As you brainstorm, research, and draft the proposal, consider the following:

  • What ideas, themes, questions, texts, etc. interested you this semester (or about self-help, happiness, well-being more generally)? What do you want to learn more about?
  • Why does this topic interest you?  Why does/should this topic interest others?
  • What kinds of sources will you use in your project (include a preliminary bibliography with links in your post, so we can see what research you have been consulting)? Everyone will explore some self-help theory and critiques as sources.
  • How can you focus/narrow down your topic so that it is manageable in this short-term, short (in length/time) 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? What will its scope be?
  • What will your approach be? For example, you might be interested in chronic health management or self-love or positive psychology or productivity or the quantified self movement, but those are all very broad topics, and there are multiple ways to approach them. Which theoretical lenses and approaches you use as well as how you focus your topic will yield very different research and results, so you want to be clear about what you are doing and why from the start.
  • Don’t worry: you are not supposed to have a thesis yet at this point (in fact, if you can already tell what your main claim will be, then there is no point in doing the project!), but you can/should list a series of questions that your project will address.
  • But … your proposal has to show how your project will be “argumentative” (rather than just a statement of fact). You don’t want to just find sources and report back on them (mere summary). Even if you are exploring a commonly researched/discussed topic, how will you bring your own perspective to bear on it, and by putting sources and ideas in dialogue with one another, produce something original? In short, how will your project expand our understanding of Self-Help (broadly conceived)?
  • What further research do you need to do to become informed about your topic?
  • What questions you have for us–as readers/reviewers–about your topic/proposal? What feedback can we provide?



How many / what type of sources do I use?
Keep in mind that since everyone is designing her own project (with different topics/approaches), the types of research each person does will vary. If you have any questions about what type of research is appropriate for your particular project, please consult me.

You will consult many, many sources for this project to get a strong understanding of your topic. Make sure to incorporate both primary and secondary 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 the information is coming from and if it is accurate/reliable!)
  • Media (advertisements, cartoons, artwork, TV shows, films, music, etc.)
  • Other (ex: fiction, social media, 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. Check out the Bibliography, Works Cited, Notes, and Index of books/articles.

Aim for current research (when relevant) and make sure to consult a variety of resources, such as novels, short stories, films, TV series, music, artwork, advertisements, books (chapters/excerpts are acceptable), scholarly articles, newspaper/magazine articles, blogs, interviews, tweets, email exchanges.

As you research, make sure to take notes and annotate on the text. Keep track of all bibliographic information and 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 research.


City Tech Library Guide to Research
Annotated Bibliographies
Evaluating Print Sources
Evaluating Digital Sources
Evaluating Internet Content

*If you are uncertain about the reliability (or viability) of a source for this project, you should consult me or a librarian.



(In lieu of a final essay–you’re welcome!), In order to publicly share your Self-Help Project, each student will give an 6-8 minute in-class, oral presentation on her research, arguments, process, and conclusions (synthesizing and thinking critically about the data/research she has compiled). Presentations will be graded according to this rubric.

Students will present during the final week of class, on Th 5/20 & Tu 5/25 . Everyone, regardless of presentation date, must submit their presentations before the start of class on Th 5/20, in order to receive credit for their work.

You will be graded on content (research, claims), organization, and the quality of both your oral presentation and your multimedia presentation (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.). Each student’s presentation should be uploaded to our OpenLab site (categorize as “Final Project Presentations”) and submitted to Dropbox via this link.

A few things to keep in mind as you prepare your presentation:

  • Your presentation should present the main points from your Self-Help project, including an overview of the project/relevant background info., a discussion/analysis of your data/research, and your conclusions/argument/claims.
  • Assume your audience has no prior knowledge of your project.
  • Since each student only has 6-8 minutes to present, she will not be able to cover all the details/information you found in your research project. 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.
  • 6-8 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).
  • You 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 professionally for your presentation.
  • Each presentation should include some multimedia aspect (using presentation software, such as PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.), which should help your classmates and I 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). No presentation will receive credit without accurate / complete citation of all sources in MLA format. However, you should incorporate your research throughout your discussion (and in-text citations throughout, on relevant slides), rather than just point to it at the end.
  • I am happy to discuss/provide feedback on your presentation drafts, if you wish, and provide feedback ahead of time. Please schedule a conference with me if you wish to do so.


Presentation Schedule

Th 5/20

  1. Maria
  2. Niyomi
  3. Aryanna
  4. Robby

Tu 5/25

  1. Anil
  2. Ajah
  3. Reem
  4. Courtney
  5. Crystal


Cover Letters & Abstracts

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).


Cover Letter

An important component of this Self-Help 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 Self-Help 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). 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 Th 5/20, 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).