- Attendance + Participation………………………………………………………………………………………. 20%
- Project Sketch + Annotated Bibliography due February 4 @ 7pm………………………………….. 15%
- Project Development Workshop Participation: February 5……………………………………………… 5%
- Progress Report due April 1 @ 7pm………………………………………………………………………….. 15%
- Methods Workshop Participation: April 9……………………………………………………………………. 5%
- Final Presentation: May 7 or 14………………………………………………………………………………… 10%
- Final Proposal due May 14………………………………………………………………………………………. 30%
ATTENDANCE + PARTICIPATION
Our class is a mix of seminar and workshop, and its success depends on your regular attendance and reliable participation. We need each other to show up on time, having completed the readings, and prepared to engage constructively and respectfully with one another.
[I apologize for the pedantry of the following. Yet recent semesters’ experience has demonstrated that such codification of policy is necessary.]
If you must be absent, please notify me in advance. One absence will not affect your grade. Two absences will result in a “one step” reduction in your final grade (i.e., from an A to an A-). Three absences will result in a “two-step” reduction. Four absences will result in failure of the course; to avoid the ‘F’ on your transcript, I’ll instead advise you to withdraw from the class. Please note that absences include those days you might miss at the beginning of the semester because of late registration, as well as your individual consultation during the week of April 2. Please note, too, that a class absence does not entitle you to a private reenactment of the class.
I am required by The New School to take attendance at the start of class. Students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will be marked absent. Your timely arrival is appreciated. Students who are consistently late disrupt their classmates and impede our class progress.
[I have adapted the following from my colleague Amir Husak:] While I am happy to work with you to tailor the class’s content and assignments to your interests, and to develop strategies for project planning and time management, I also recognize that “it is every student’s right to fail.” There are myriad circumstances — personal, professional, cultural, etc. — that might prevent you from fulfilling the class requirements. While I appreciate that these circumstances are often difficult, the class requirements remain the same for everyone.
PROJECT SKETCH + ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: Due February 4 @ 7pm
- Please submit via Google Docs (in edit-able form, i.e., no pdfs), a ~600-word, double-spaced project “sketch” in which you (1) describe your proposed research topic; (2) explain its public and/or personal significance, relevance, timeliness, etc.; and (3) identify your desired mode of publication or dissemination (e.g., do you plan to write an article, curate an exhibition, make a documentary film, etc.?) and audience(s)/public(s).
- Append an annotated bibliography listing at least three related projects – mostly scholarly work, but also popular publishing and research-based media production and creative projects – that have engaged with your topic. Provide a ~150-word annotation for each, and make sure to address the methods each has employed, as well as the work’s value for your own research.
The following, while not meant to be prescriptive, will help prepare you to complete this assignment. Yes, there’s a good deal of redundancy in these resources, but that’s okay; repetition can reinforce particular ideas, and slight variations between the texts can offer different ways of framing and approaching common concerns.
- Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams, “From Topics to Questions” and “From Questions to a Problem,” in The Craft of Research, 3rd (University of Chicago Press, 2008): 35-67.
- Earlene E. Lipowski, “Developing Great Research Questions,” American Journal of Health System Pharmacy (2008): 1667-1670 [there are some useful recommendations here, but you needn’t adhere to a hypothesis-based research model].
- Shannon Mattern, “Identifying Your Interests and Establishing a Research Plan,” “Finding Sources” and “Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies”
- For your final project – and for most kinds of proposals – you’ll need to provide a literature review and/or environmental scan, which demonstrates that you’re aware of the existing resources and the nature of ongoing debate in your field, as well as how your proposed work fits in. Over the following weeks, you’ll need to build your annotated bibliography and develop it into a literature review. See my guide on “The Literature Review / Mediagraphy,” and Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams, “From Problems to Sources” and “Engaging Sources” in The Craft of Research, 3rd (University of Chicago Press, 2008): 68-101.
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP: February 5
In our February 5 class, you’ll each have four minutes to synopsize your project, leaving significant time for feedback.
In the days leading up to class, we’ll prepare a collaborative slideshow on Google Slides. Each student will be allocated five slides: (1) a title slide, where you’ll put your name and (tentative) project title; (2) a slide with a brief project description; (3) a slide explaining your project’s significance, timeliness, relevance, etc.; (4) a slide in which you identify your likely mode of publication or dissemination (i.e., the projected format of your work) and your target audiences/publics; and (5) one wildcard slide, where you can include additional information or media. You’re welcome to incorporate images throughout your presentation.
PROGRESS REPORT: Due April 1 @ 7pm
- Please submit via Google Docs (in edit-able form, i.e., no pdfs), a 1500- to 1800-word, double-spaced progress report that includes / addresses the following:
- Updated project description and research questions.
- A draft literature review (no more than 600 words, including at least 10 sources – half of which should be scholarly) or, at the very least, a thematically organized annotated bibliography reflecting extensive secondary source research.
- A discussion of the mixture of methods that seems most appropriate for your project, and why. What does each offer, and how do they complement one another?
- A discussion of the scale(s) at which you’ll conduct your research: global, continental, national, regional, urban, neighborhood, household, individual, etc. If you’re dealing with collections or flows of media content or data, what will be the scope of your analysis? How will you sample your population, environment, or collection? If you opt for a case study, how will you choose your case(s)? What are the political implications of your choices?
- A list of the ethical questions or concerns might you encounter in executing your project; and a discussion of how you might incorporate reflexivity into your work.
The following should help prepare you to address questions regarding scale and sampling methods:
- Barrie Gunter, “The Issue of Sampling,” “Sampling Media Content,” and “Sampling Cases” in Jensen, ed., A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative and Methodologies (Routledge, 2002): 215-7, 221-2, 238-40.
- See also our toolkit resources on Sampling and Scale.
This should help you think about how you might incorporate levels of reflexivity into your project:
- Annette Markham, “Reflexivity: Some Techniques for Interpretive Researchers,” Annette Markham (February 28, 2017).
And, as a reminder, this will provide guidance for the literature review:
- For your final project – and for most kinds of proposals – you’ll need to provide a literature review and/or environmental scan, which demonstrates that you’re aware of the existing resources and the nature of ongoing debate in your field, as well as how your proposed work fits in. See my guide on “The Literature Review / Mediagraphy,” and Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams, “From Problems to Sources” and “Engaging Sources” in The Craft of Research, 3rd (University of Chicago Press, 2008): 68-101.
METHODS WORKSHOP: April 9
In our April 9 class, we’ll workshop your method plans. You’ll each have five minutes to present, leaving plenty of time for discussion.
In the days leading up to class, we’ll prepare a collaborative slideshow on Google Slides. Each student will be allocated six slides: (1) a title slide, where you’ll put your name and (tentative) project title; (2) a slide with your revised project description and/or research questions; (3) a slide summarizing the main themes you’re finding in the existing literature; (4) a slide listing the methods you’ll likely employ; and (5) and (6) two slides to use as you wish (perhaps you’d like to discuss the scale of your work, potential ethical concerns, how you’ll incorporate reflexivity, etc.).
FINAL PRESENTATION: May 7 and 14
We’ll dedicate our last two classes to final presentations. The time limit will depend on the number of students enrolled in the class. More information to come.
FINAL PROPOSAL: Due before class May 14
Now it’s time to compile all the components you’ve developed over the course of the semester into a comprehensive proposal, which could eventually serve as a thesis or grant proposal. Please submit via Google Docs (in edit-able form, i.e., no pdfs), a double-spaced document of no more than 4500 words, which includes the following:
- a 100-word abstract;
- a project description (be both concrete and abstract; describe your specific focus, and situate it within its broader disciplinary / cultural / historical / political contexts; and tell us what, materially, you’re proposing to do — write a white paper, pilot-test a collaborative design process, curate an exhibition, etc.)
- a rationale (tell us why your work matters — to the field, to the profession, to broader society; this is where you integrate your literature review — which should set the stage for your work; tell us why the form you’ve chosen for your project suits your larger research goals);
- a discussion of your methodology (drawing, of course, on your methods proposal in your Progress Report // remember: you’re not just listing a set of methods, you’re justifying your methodology);
- a production plan (a timeline outlining what you need to accomplish, and when, to execute the work);
- a discussion of your relevant expertise and experience; and
- a bibliography / mediagraphy of relevant work.
Please make sure to write for an informed — but not necessarily an expert — reader. Define disciplinary and theoretical terms, avoid theory- or industry-speak, and use subheadings to guide your reader.
These resources should aid in the preparation of your final proposal:
- Review the School of Media Studies’ Thesis Handbook to see what components are required for a thesis proposal. Similar components will be required for other kinds of proposals: grant proposals, fellowship proposals, PhD applications, etc. See also Thomas R. Lindlof and Bryan C. Taylor, “The Research Proposal,” in Qualitative Communication Research Methods, 2nd (Sage, 2002): 85-90.
- For tips on writing abstracts, see my “Abstracts and Annotated Bibliographies” and Amy Benson Brown, “Crafting Abstracts to Define Your Article’s Scope and Significance,” Academic Coaching & Writing (February 3, 2014).
- If you plan to seek funding for your work at some point, you’ll find multiple guides for grant-seeking and proposal-writing. See, for instance, Joseph Levine’s “Guide for Writing a Funding Proposal” (updated April 5, 2015), Adam Pzreworski and Frank Salomon’s “On the Art of Writing Proposals: Some Candid Suggestions for Applications to Social Science Research Council Competitions” (1995), and the Foundation Center’s “Introduction to Proposal Writing” short courses. And of course Sage has a whole bunch of expensive books about grant-writing; you can find them in the library or request them via interlibrary loan.
Please note: if you’d like to use this class to begin executing your research – that is, to move beyond proposing toward implementing some of the methods you’ve proposed – you’re welcome to do so, and I’m happy to provide assistance. Talk to me. Yet it’s still in your best interest to spend some time developing a thoughtful, thorough research proposal, for a number of reasons:
- because you’ll need to know how write good proposals in order to get your foot in the door: to get funding or a fellowship, to get accepted into a competitive PhD program, etc.
- because it’s very common to underestimate the value of planning; many students jump right into execution without posing meaningful research questions or establishing end goals;
- because the time you spend writing proposals isn’t deferring “the real work”; proposal-writing is research. Proposal-writing incites and frames the initial stages of your research, it provides purpose and momentum to your work, and it gives you an opportunity to get feedback – to identify bugs or ethical quandaries – before you unleash your work on the world.
Image: Manita Songserm