Due Date: Thursday, October 12, 2017
Submission Instructions: Bring printed copy to class and submit digitally
|Research Assignment Initial Question||10%||Thursday, October 12, 2017||See Below|
|Research Assignment Overview of Sources||15%||Thursday, October 19, 2017||Click for More Details|
|Research Assignment Introduction and Outline||15%||Thursday, October 26, 2017||Click for More Details|
|Research Assignment First Draft||20%||Thursday, November 09, 2017||Click for More Details|
|Research Assignment Final Draft||40%||Tuesday, December 12, 2017||Click for More Details|
Beginning next week, you will be undertaking a term-long research project with many steps along the way. The topic for this assignment will be bibliography and the history of the book, which typically includes the histories of authorship, readers and reading, publishing, and print. We have already discussed many aspects of the history of the book in this class, but you may focus on any period in history, including those topics we have yet to cover. That said, I strongly encourage you to follow one of these three paths:
Other options are possible, especially if you have taken the time to consider your choice. However, these paths are designed to give you the necessary focus to develop an effective research question.
Coming up with a rich research question is a crucial first step to writing an effective research paper. In The Craft of Research , Wayne C. Booth describes the importance of using such a question to guide your work:
If a writer asks no specific question worth asking, he can offer no specific answer worth supporting. And without an answer to support, he cannot select from all the data he could find on a topic just those relevant to his answer. To be sure, those fascinated by Elvis Presley movie posters or early Danish anthropological films will read anything new about them, no matter how trivial. Serious researchers, however, do not report data for their own sake, but to support the answer to a question that they (and they hope their readers) think is worth asking. 1
Research questions must be complex enough to avoid easy and predictable answers, yet concrete enough that research is still possible. It is perhaps helpful to think about a research question as a series of interrelated questions that one can address using historical evidence, with one deep and crucial and difficult-to-answer question at its core. The research assignment initial question will be a first draft of this research question, with some extra information about how you plan to proceed.
About now, you might be saying, "Wait a minute. How do I do a question when I don't know what my topic is?" If so, you're right to wonder how to get started. I've provided general guidance on topic areas above, but a big part of this assignment is developing your own focus. Mary Lynn Rampolla describes the unique challenges and opportunities of finding our own research subjects:
Students often find such assignments intimidating and may secretly yearn for an assigned subject; it often seems easier to write about a topic that holds no interest for you then to face the task of defining your own area of investigation. However, when you choose your own research topic, you are engaged in the practice of history at a much more sophisticated level. You are, in fact, doing the same work that a professional historian does: answering the questions you yourself have posed about a subject that you find compelling or problematic. 2
In other words, the difficulty of finding a rich topic is part of the point of the assignment. It is supposed to be difficult and rewarding. Booth adds that advanced research topics "must eventually show why [your topic] should also interest others." 3 He suggests that researchers employ three early strategies to ensure that this will be the case:
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research . 3rd ed. Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History . Second edition. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 1998.