Writing in the Wild: Research Proposal Guidelines
Research proposals can do many things, but most importantly, as the word itself suggests, they "propose"; that is, they outline the possible directions that the writer of a research project would like to take. You will improve your chances of overall success with a long-term research project if you begin with thoughtful questions and ideas that can direct your research; writing this proposal will help you do so. This completed proposal must be 400-500 words long, and include a title, your name, and the course title. The rough draft must be linked to the appropriate section of your assignment index by Monday, September 29 at 9 p.m. The proposal needs two main sections; do not merely answer the questions below in a list-like way--answer as many as you can, but do so in writing that stands on its own and reads well, with its own unity and coherence:
1.The who/what/where: First of all, consider your audiences--your teacher, your classmates, and possibly others (remember, it’ll be on the web!). Most members of your audience know very little about your research work site and the writer you plan to study. Provide for us a kind of introductory portrait of your work site and your writer that answers such basic introductory questions as these (you don't need to answer all of them): what do we as readers of your proposal need to know in order to understand the basics of the research you plan to do? What is your writer’s name and position? What kind of work does your writer do? (lawyer, coach, nurse, professor?) Where is your work site situated, and what does it look and sound like? Is it a large single room in an old house or a series of small offices in a large modern building? What kind of product or service is produced at your work site? How long has the work site existed and how long has it been at its present location? What do you know so far about the background of your writer in terms of age, class, race, and gender? What are the varieties of writing that he or she creates (memos, e-mail, brochures, contracts, reports)? Who does he or she work with in a general sense, and more specifically, collaborate with? In what senses do they collaborate? Who are his or her reading audiences? In what way or ways do these audiences have backgrounds similar to that of your writer? In what ways do they not?
2.The topics/ideas/hypotheses: Soon we will have read two authors (with more to come) whose ideas you might incorporate into your proposal and research, and ultimately into your final report. In the second section of your proposal, provide a paragraph summarizing the ideas and questions we have been discussing in class, particularly in terms of how you might be able to investigate these areas at your writer's work site. What strikes you as especially interesting or puzzling, or possibly accurate or inaccurate, about hooks’ and Seely Brown’s central themes and concepts? Seely Brown, for example, examines differing models of how workers interact, and suggests that we may well be underestimating our desire to cooperate, and the ways technology can help us do so; hooks examines how the “bourgeois values” of the classroom affected her as a student from a “non-materially privileged” family. How might you investigate these ideas in the context of your research work site and writer? As far as you are able to determine at this point, do you find your work site to be primarily individualistic, or collaborative? Do various forms of communication technology contribute to this quality of the work site? In what specific ways? How might these ways of interacting (or not interacting) shape the writing process or the texts your writer produces? Do you find your work site seems to confirm or contradict hooks’ notions of “bourgeois values”? In what ways? From what you know so far, how might your writer’s social and economic background impact her or his work in general, and writing in particular?
Finally, remember that while your proposal
must be a well-written, easily understood text, one that introduces your
research project to us and suggests possible investigative paths, the ideas
that you use here are not meant to be fixed in stone. Over the course of
the semester, we will be reading other writers and discussing other ideas
that you can also incorporate into your work, and you will need to incorporate
others from your own outside research (more on that later). Be as specific
and as detailed as you can here—we want to know about your particular project
and your particular ideas—but also remember that your ideas will change
and develop as you do more reading and discussion, and as you gather more
information through interviews, observations, and close examination of