(Worth 30% of your grade; due on May 12)
Your final assignment in this course is to conduct a research project that engages with “the digital” in some way — through your site of study, your theoretical foundation, your research methods, or (ideally) a combination of all three. We are beginning this project early in the semester in order to provide you with ample time to select a research site, obtain IRB approval (if needed), collect data, experiment with tools for analysis, and produce a modest “paper.” (More on those quotation marks in a moment.) In order to accommodate the personal interests and goals of everyone in class, I have left the topic, tools, and medium for your final project almost completely open-ended. As long as you can demonstrate a connection to the themes, theories, and methods we have been studying, your project will qualify for this assignment.
Each project will be unique, and I will work with you individually to ensure that your project is feasible and has the potential to turn into a conference presentation or journal article, should you decide to pursue the project after the end of the semester. After meeting with me to discuss your proposed project, you will draft a memorandum of understanding that will govern your work on the assignment. Along the way, you will get a lot of help from your classmates as you share your data, workshop an early draft of your paper, and deliver a 15-minute oral presentation about your research. Some of these checkpoint assignments have specific deadlines tied to in-class activities, but you should feel free to visit me during my office hours to discuss your work as often as you’d like.
The primary component of this project will be a scholarly artifact of journal-article “heft.” If you write a traditional seminar paper, that means you should aim for 4,000–5,000 words. However, if you would like to present your research findings in a nontraditional format (and I very much hope some of you will!), you might develop a website, build an app, create a video, or make a podcast. (And those are only a few of the possibilities I would gladly entertain.) If you pursue one of these nontraditional formats for your project, the amount of work you invest in the project should be roughly equivalent to the work required for a seminar paper, but the artifact itself might look nothing like a traditional academic article. I recognize that this is a risky move that scares some of you, so let me assure you that (a) I will help you navigate the challenges that accompany this kind of scholarly work, and (b) I will reward risk-taking when I evaluate these projects.
Beyond the primary artifact, your grade on the project will influenced by your completion of the various checkpoint assignments, your active participation in our peer-critique sessions, and your oral presentation during the last week of the semester.
- February 26: Select general topic for your project
- March 5: Submit memorandum of understanding to confirm your plans
- April 7: Complete initial round of data collection
- April 23: Share first draft of your paper with your classmates
- April 30 or May 5: Present your research in class
- May 12: Submit final project
I will evaluate your project using the following criteria:
- Completeness: Does the finished artifact measure up to the proposal outlined in your memorandum of understanding? (In other words, did you do what you said you were going to do?)
- Structure and organization: Does the project follow a logical format and use signposts to guide the reader from one section to the next? Are all of the major sections of a research study (abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion) somehow represented in the project?
- Evidence of secondary research: Does the project demonstrate your familiarity with ongoing disciplinary conversations about the research subject? Have you effectively incorporated outside sources into the project? If you are writing a paper, does it use a consistent citation style (APA, MLA, etc.)?
- Evidence of primary research: Does the project clearly explain your data collection and analysis methods? Does the project build upon well-respected methods in the appropriate discipline? Does it successfully modify or adapt those methods for this specific project?
- Quality of prose: Is your writing easy to read? How well do you follow the genre conventions of academic writing we have observed this semester?
- Correctness: Do all written components adhere to the conventions of standard written English (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.)?