Research Proposal

Ideally, this will become the proposal for a larger Master's or Doctoral project. Students should treat this as an opportunity to sketch out their own research questions, to stretch and learn a method that might challenge their methodological assumptions and help them triangulate on answers, and to write something that will help them move along in their graduate career. Your questions and topics will almost certainly evolve over the quarter, and you can change topics as you like as long as you meet the writing deadlines. The first draft of your research proposal, explaining one method choice, is due on February 14th. The second draft of your research proposal, explaining two method choices, is due March 14th.

The papers should be in either the latest APA or Chicago styles, double-spaced, standard-sized (12 point) font, with margins on all sides. The first draft should be 10-15 pages, and the second should grow to 25-30 pages long, including references. Do not exceed these page constraints.

The final paper for COM 501 will be a research proposal outlining a project you would like to carry out. This proposal should accomplish several things:

1. It will help advance your own research work, providing you with an opportunity to think in some depth about a project you want to carry out.
2. It will give you the opportunity to apply many of the ideas and issues raised in the COM 500 and 501 sequence; as such, the course will have direct impact on your own research agenda.
3. It will give you the opportunity to think about which methods are most appropriate for the work you want to do.
4. It will also give you the opportunity to begin a literature review which will provide the foundation for your work.

Students will get a significant amount of written and oral feedback from the instructor and other students. Some feedback will be in the form of literature recommendations, but this proposal is much more about smartly framing research questions and justifying methods choices, so do not worry about completing an extensive literature review. The first draft should identify some research questions, introduce some relevant literature, and explain how one particular method will help find answers. The second draft should have the following sections:

1. Introduction
This is a statement of the research area and its significance. The first part of the paper orients the reader to the general topic of the study and identifies the general scope of the area. Why is your research topic worth pursuing? It is not enough here merely to say that you like the topic; we need a defense of the topic and specifically, some sense of how your project will enhance our (academic) understanding of communication. Hook the reader with a problem, puzzle or mystery.

2. Literature Review
The literature review performs several key functions. First, it details the key work in the field that pertains to the topic you are exploring. Second, it shows how your project builds on--and extends--what has already been written in the field. Third, it provides the conceptual foundation for your work: the key ideas that you are exploring and how have these been discussed to date. Fourth, it presents specific research questions and/or hypotheses that will addressed in your study.

3. Method A
How will you actually go about doing this project? Which method(s) will you use? Provide some detail on the method you will be employing. Do more than say you will run a survey, experiment, or rhetorical criticism; expand by reflecting on how your research questions lend themselves to your particular method of inquiry. For instance, if you are doing an experiment, give us some sense of what you would be testing in the experiment; explain the different experimental conditions that are relevant to your work, and explain how you hope these conditions will further your work. If you are doing historical work, what specific materials will you be examining? How will you examine them? What are the indicators of the phenomena or trends you hope to study? How will you know good evidence when you see it?

4. Method B
There should be synergies between your methods A and B, but they should not be from the same over-arching humanistic, qualitative, comparative or quantitative category of method.

5 . Logistics
This short section should identify the scope, timeline and budget for the project. Identify the number of subjects, the rough dates of entry and exit from the field, or any logistical challenges there might be in accessing manuscripts or artifacts. Identify any ethical challenges or institutional barriers to your work, anticipate concerns that the IRB may have, and how you will respond.

6. Conclusion
Confidently state the broad impact and intellectual merit of your proposal. Discuss the synergy between methods A and B, and how the process of triangulation will help you answer the questions you posed in your introduction.

7. References
Organize your references by a consistent style. This reference list does not have to be exhaustive, but it should signal that you have identified a few of the big authors and arguments in your line of inquiry. This will be the most tentative section of your proposal: you should collect references that seem relevant, read items that might have a direct influence on your method choice, but do not need to have a massive reference list.