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TOPIC PROPOSAL FOR EXTENDED INQUIRY PROJECT

Malcolm W. Campbell, Instructor UNCC English 1102 Spring 2013

Crappy Draft DUE: OFFICIAL Draft DUE:

M/W classes = Monday, February 4 T/Th classes = Tuesday, February 5 M/W classes = Monday, February 11 T/Th classes = Tuesday, February 12

To meet the deadline on this assignment, you MUST upload your MS Word Document to Moodle by 11:55 p.m. on the due date. Any late papers must be uploaded to the LATE upload section. No paper copies required for this assignment.

Explanation
This short assignment asks you to select a topic of interest to you thats related in some way to our class theme, and to pose an initial inquiry question that you want to explore. Conducting informed research is a big part of the semester. But how you can you focus on one topic during a whole semester? Youll be surprised how much there is to learn about something if the topic interests you and if it has a degree of complexity, meaning there are various viewpoints held by different people/groups on the topic and/or there is significant current research available. There is no assigned paper topic: You get to choose your topic.

Semester Theme
Our theme is you: your digital and real world identity (or identities). Are they the same or different? If different, how are they alike? How do they differ? Where do they overlap? If theyre the same, in what ways? How does your experience reflect broader trends of others self-identity and how its changing as we spend more time online? (You will be considering your generation as a whole, also.) These are just a few of the questions well consider this semester as we research technology and identity from a variety of perspectives including relationships, communication, privacy, responsibility, and self-representation. Our book and most of the essays/videos well discuss concern your e-dentity. Whazzat? Each time you use your email, play an online video game, shop on Amazon, Tweet, search Google, and post to your Facebook wall, you leave traces of yourself online that form your digital identity or e-dentity. In many ways, this online identity is similar to your offline self, but we can also choose to adopt different characteristics on the web, playing with gender, age, race, sexuality, and other forms of identification. Your e-dentity is not just a casual choice but a series of multi-layered decisions that you make, and these issues leave a LOT of room for topic possibilities.

Assignment Purpose & Process


By initial reading, talking with peers, collaborating online, and then in conference with me, well confirm your topic has enough potential for research and exploration, as well as enough room for you to switch your subject of inquiry without changing the overall topic. Most importantly, well make sure its a topic that really interests you. The importance of selecting a topic you find interesting and that youre curious about is critical. Research is easy to put off if you dont find what youre learning about interesting. If you like the subject, research is easier to do, and it can be exciting and fun. No lie! Because this semester provides you the chance to become an expert on a complex topic, youll need the whole semester to build your street cred. Your purpose in this assignment is: 1. To select a topic related to our class theme that interests you and makes you curious.

2. 3. 4.

To discover preliminary information about your topic; to determine what the big-picture issues are. To find out where conversations are ongoing about the topic and to get an idea of what those conversations are about. (Your topic will need to have some form of true expert or scholarly debate about it. We will discuss.) To determine if theres enough complexity (differing opinions, unanswered questions, scholarly/expert debate) for you to have options in changing your focus and questions as you move through the journey of research & discovery. For your proposal, you might do initial research on several topics to find a promising one. Are there opportunities for primary research where you can conduct your own investigations/interviews? To prepare an initial inquiry question that will give you direction in starting your research. Examples: How are first-person shooter games affecting my sensitivity to real-world violence? Does too much Facebook use/texting/gaming, etc. cause physical changes in my brains ability to think? Since joining Facebook (or Twitter or another social media site), how has the way Ive represented myself changed over time and why? What do I need to learn about different kinds of communication to get a job after college working for an older generation?

5.

Topic Proposal Specifics


To make this assignment simple, Ive created a proposal format (template on Moodle) to use with four sections. Follow this format: 1. 2. 3. 4. Introduction/Overview of Topic Initial Inquiry Question(s) Your Interest in this Topic Next Steps

(The template online includes the following directions plus specific formatting to make creating your proposal easy.) Introduction/Overview In this section, please define the topic that interests you. Address the following information: Give an overview of the topic by answering the five Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Help your reader understand the big picture information about your subject. Be specific. Usually, most students present their first topic ideas as too broad. Instead of writing, I will be doing my project on Facebook, Try: I will be examining the potential increased risk of clinical depression amongst teens who are heavy users of Facebook. See how being more specific will create a focused topic AND make your work easier? Once you announce your topic, give the overview. While time spent on Facebook might appear harmless, a recent study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte suggests that teens who spend more than 20 hours a week on the popular social network are 85 percent more likely to suffer clinical depression. According to lead study author, Malcumbr Campbelloni, the findings are important. We no wanna have people be sad when zey could be appy, he says. But Campbelloni may have detractors within his own university. This man is nuts, says Chancellor James Hardin. Im not sure how he got a job here, but rest assured, Ill look into it tomorrow or Friday. Share what specific preliminary research you did to learn more about your topic? Did you read information online, and if so, from what specific websites? Did you use the librarys databases to find more in-depth publications (scholarly or academic journals) that cover the topic? Did you seek a librarians help? Did you talk about the topic with your peers, parents, or co-workers? Did you ask initial questions of anyone involved in the field/topic? Did you blog about it or post ideas/questions in our Facebook group or on your Facebook? Did this process lead you to a more focused understanding of your initial idea?

Campbell, Topic Proposal - Page 2

Describe the complexity of your topic. In other words, summarize what different positions or opinions people have about the topic? (If everyone agrees about your topic, then it may not be complex enough to support a semesters worth of research. For example, a topic like: You can make friends with people on Facebook aint gonna go far.) Who are the major different groups/individuals contributing to the conversations and where do they have some of these conversations? List publications, websites, conferences, broadcast channels, etc. For this assignment, you DO NOT have to use MLA in-text parenthetical citation OR a Works Cited; however, I do want you to name specific sources for any information you use.

Initial Inquiry Question(s) In this section, do your best to state one initial inquiry question. Examples: Do frequent users of Facebook run a heightened risk of depression? Or, what are some of the negative effects of too much time spent on Facebook and other social media? Or, does Twitter affect my ability to communicate complex thoughts or is it causing me to think more simply? Or, why dont more college professors use technology that their students are using if they wish to understand us better? Or, how has digital communication changed the way my generation dates compared to how my parents generation dated? It is fine to list several questions you have at this time, but think through which question most intrigues you now. Pose one, and in the section below, Next Steps, you can elaborate on other areas of inquiry you may pursue. Chances are, you will.

My Interest in this Topic Explain why youre interested in researching this subject. What is its significance to you? Freewrite various prompts like, Im interested in ______ because______ until you generate some potentially meaningful answers. (You might also decide you need another topic that you have more interest in.) The most successful EIPs are most often by students who have some form of personal connection to the topic. Be forewarned: If you THINK youll be happy as an accountant, so you THINK this connection will help you select a topic combining digital identity and accounting for the semester based on your major, please THINK again. Also, answer these questions about your interest in your topic: 1. 2. What do you already know? What do you hope to learn?

Next Steps In this last section, state where you will go next to find more research on your topic. Rather than stating, I will use the Internet (too broad), write, I will be visiting Facebooks corporate PR page for statistics and various privacy watchdog websites for balance, plus examining such reliable journalistic sources as The New York Times (and other papers), Wired magazines website, and the librarys database to search for peer-reviewed sources that cover the issues. Remember that, through the library, you have access to just about every major newspaper, magazine, and academic journal on the planet. We will visit the library to learn more; however, during the week we are in conferences, you would be wise to go to the library and ask for help from the FREE reference librarians (ask the information desk right up front where to find them). They are paid to help students find sources for assignments just like this one. For free.

Campbell, Topic Proposal - Page 3

Reflective Thinking Book Notes


As part of your assignment, please compose a reflection on how you went about the process of creating your topic proposal. Did you give yourself time to read and brainstorm and freewrite? Did you wait until the last minute? What did you learn about yourself as a questioner, reader, and writer? What was challenging for you in preparing the topic proposal, and what was easy or fun? Theres no required word count but if you put reasonable effort into it, the average length is two paragraphs or so. The goal is to prepare an honest, thoughtful reflection that addresses the above questions and that you can come back to at the end of the semester when you discuss this assignment in your e-Portfolio.

Conference Directions
Once I place a sign-up page on Moodle, sign up for a conference. After Ive reviewed your proposal, written brief comments and posed questions back, we will discuss your topic in conference. Come prepared, meaning please review your proposal before arriving, write down any questions you have for me, and do not fall asleep in our discussion. We will meet for 5 minutes and agree if your proposal is ready to roll. Sign-ups are first-come, first-served once schedule goes up.

Suggested Reading
In addition to class discussion, a thorough knowledge of the material in the Introduction, and Chapter 1 of The Curious Researcher will make this important assignment much easier. More in-depth research information appears in Chapter 2, and it cannot hurt to begin reading that, as well. These optional but highly suggested readings appear in the Topic Proposal Section on Moodle. You will also find the brainstormed topics about Web 2.0 technologies from last semester very helpful in getting your creative engines running. Plus, well begin a collaborative Google topic brainstorming document available to everyone.

Help from Me
Remember that my office hours are 23 p.m. on Tuesdays. Generally, Im available on campus most Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Mondays and Wednesdays, we can discuss issues over the phone or via some interactive chat software. (http://todaysmeet.com) is supposed to be cool b/c it generates a printed transcript of the chat.) Remember: The student who has a question but does not ask it cannot be helped. The student who has a question and asks it, can be helped.

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