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Individual Research Project, Spring 2005

This page takes on three important questions about the Individual Research Project: what, what for, and how to (here's where you can find the requirements for both the proposal and project). My goal is to make this page as useful to you as possible, so let me know if it can be improved. If anything is badly worded, unclear, or missing, please contact me with constructive criticisms. Thanks.

What It Is

The Individual Research Project is an option for those who don't want to participate in the Group Research Project of creating a group-authored SF@SF web site. If you want to opt out of GRP, the IRP is your chance to propose, research, and write on a topic of your choice that allows you to pull together the threads that have interested you most in the course and to pursue a particular subject in more depth and detail than allowed by either the critical essay or GRP assignments.

You may choose to write a research paper or do a creative project. Or you may propose a different format and see if you can get it approved. Whatever format you choose, you must select and use at least three of the critical studies on reserve and find and use at least two additional print secondary sources, in addition to whatever additional non-print research you want to do. Here's more on these formats for the Individual Research Project:

As for topic, you may choose one of the following or invent one of your own:

What It's For

So far this semester you've already done a good deal of writing--ranging from the informal free writing on specific topics in class, to reflecting on the Group Teaching Project, to generating comparative reflective essays on the course listserv, to writing a critical essay. You've gotten good practice at noticing things about a range of texts and asking questions of them; we've focused a lot on making connections between texts and identifying tensions within and between them, as well as interpreting significant passages and patterns. What the Individual Research Project allows you to do is to pull together all the skills you've developed in these smaller assignments and move through the entire research and writing process: from considering what texts and questions interest you the most, to identifying a research topic or inquiry, to developing your own perspective on that topic or question though critical reading of primary and secondary texts, to conveying your perspective in the form you feel would best showcase your research and critical or creative skills.

The other major purpose of the final project is for me to indicate clearly what I see as the central questions and modes of analysis in the course not permitted by the Group Research Project. This should provide you with something of a framework for understanding and reviewing each unit and the course as a whole. Hence, it is highly recommended that you consider carefully each of the suggestions listed above as you try to develop your own focus for the Individual Research Project. It's easy to miss the forest for the trees, especially when there were so many different "trees" we were analyzing each unit, so seeing the range of topics I think are most important to consider when looking back on the course can give you a new, better perspective on what we've read, as well as lay out possible directions for the Individual Research Project.

So, in a nutshell, the Individual Research Project is designed to give you the chance to connect this course to your primary academic or intellectual interests in ways not permitted by the Group Research Project. By choosing a topic and a format that you are most interested in, you get a chance not only to pull together but also to deepen your learning in the course. The hope is that this project will provide a bridge between this introductory consideration of science fiction and your future examination of related issues, either in other courses or outside of an academic setting.

How To Do It

The first stage of the Individual Research Project is to write a proposal and get it approved. In it, you must identify which topic and format you have chosen, describe specifically what you want to focus on, explain your interest in the subject and justify making it the focus of the final project (including why the Group Research Project prevents you from doing developing your idea), lay out your research plans, and provide a bibliography of works you've already consulted in developing the proposal. In other words, you must try to persuade your audience (in this case, me) that what you want to do is worth doing. As with any proposal, your job is to pique your readers' interest and get your readers excited about seeing the results of your research and analysis. Often, this involves laying out a key question, explaining its significance, and suggesting how your approach to answering it will improve on existing approaches. Usually this takes at least 2 pages, and for the sake of my eyes, let's make it typed or word processed. This proposal will be due no later than Friday, April 8, 2005, although you are encouraged to get it to me as soon as you can. We'll meet to discuss your proposal soon after you turn it in. This proposal will either be accepted or rejected; in some cases, rejected proposals will be given one revision/reapplication chance. In other words, those who want to opt out of the Group Research Project must write me a brief essay that convinces me they should be allowed to do an Individual Research Project on the topic and in the format they describe in the essay.

After your proposal has been approved, the next stage is to research your topic. Actually, your research should begin before you start your proposal--a good proposal is the result of a good amount of research into what precise question to ask, who else has asked it, how they have attempted to answer it, what their answers have been, and why you are dissatisfied with any single answer. So it's not like this is a stage that happens after you've turned in your proposal and we've talked it over; it overlaps the proposal drafting stage. You should use the reserves, the links page, and the library databases to help you accomplish this research. Learn how to use the ILLiad interlibrary loan system and how to take advantage of advice from your professors and reference librarians. A lot of what we talk about in discussing your proposal will be research-related.

The final stage is to use your research to help you draft, revise, edit, and hone your final project itself. Again, this can be an ongoing process--you don't have to wait until your research is complete until you begin drafting your project; in fact, you shouldn't. I'll be happy to discuss any stage of the writing process with you--from brainstorming to organizing your thoughts, from drafting to revising, from editing to proofreading.

So here's the assignment sheet for the Final Project.

Due: no later than 5 pm on Friday, May 13, 2005, either in my mailbox in the English department main office (Fenton 277), or in the envelope on the bulletin board outside my office door (Fenton 240).

Format: typed or word-processed; minimum of ten pages; double spaced, with reasonable fonts, font sizes, and margins (be warned that barely getting onto the 10th sheet of paper does not a ten-page essay make!); heading that includes your name, the course name or number, and the date; title that alludes to main themes of the essay or story; subtitles that indicate your focus in each section; formatting, bibliography, and citations (the latter two of which should appear only in the author's note if you are doing the creative format) in MLA format (see the links page for explanations and examples of MLA style; the basic template is: Author. "Title of Poem, or Essay, or Story." Title of Book from which It Comes. Ed., Editor of Book [if any]. City of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers.); proper MLA quotation format in body of paper (typically author's last name and page number in parentheses in body of paper--"..." (Piercy 17).--and blockquote format for quotations five lines or longer).

Audience: In general, think of your immediate audience as someone who may be interested in the core issues of the course but who has not been taking this class; hence, you can't assume that your readers have read the texts you're writing on, so you have to include the kind of background that someone not taking this course would need.

Grading Criteria: Dependent on the format you've chosen, as follows:

M A I N * N E W S * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S

ENGL 216: Science Fiction, Spring 2005
Created: 4/6/05 11:55 am
Last Modified: 4/22/05 11:54 am