Topic Proposal Writing Assignment for Academic Website, or Research Log

Topic Proposal

1000 points

Background

This semester you will find your own topic, currently in the news, that intellectually engages you and spend the semester exploring, researching, writing and creating content about it, so that you may become an expert on it. As your writing and content will be public, on an academic website you create, remember to pick something that will show a side of yourself you would like future teachers and employers to see.

Make sure the semester-long topic you pick satisfies the following criteria:

  1. You have an intellectual interest in the topic that will last at least 4 months.
  2. You are open-minded about the topic, able to be objective and willing to have your opinions change.
  3. You can find credible and timely research on the topic (initially from a major U.S. city newspaper or NPR station and later on in the semester from other credible sources) and you can understand this research.
  4. You have not picked something too broad (a common mistake) or too narrow so that you could successfully engage with this topic for the semester and become something of an expert on it.

Your Task

In 750-1000 words, describe the topic that you have selected for the Inquiry Series and the Sustained Argument. In the first few lines, give your main point (your thesis), naming the topic and explaining its importance. In the body of your essay, answer most of the questions below. Please keep in mind that this is not a laundry list of questions to answer, but rather areas of discussion that you should cover at some point in your essay.

SIGNIFICANCE

Who does or should the topic be important to (target audience)? Why does the topic deserve further exploration? What doesn’t your target audience know about your topic, but should know to understand it more fully?

INTEREST

When did you first become interested in this topic? Why are you interested in it now? How might researching and writing abou this topic benefit you in your major, potential major, or possible career?

INQUIRY

Are you open-minded about the topic? (If you are undecided, you will have more room for intellectual exploration.) What do you already know about this topic? What would you like to know about this topic? What questions would you like to answer about the topic for yourself and your readers? What doubts do you have about the topic? What confuses you? What makes you uncomfortable when thinking about the topic and why?

CURRENCY AND CONVERSATION

Are credible sources (as represented by The New York Times) currently writing about the topic? What are they saying? What issues and controversies are they addressing? Name and describe in detail at least two articles from the last twelve months from The New York Times related to the topic. Be sure to give the title with working hyperlinks (check them) and the authors’ names (credit the authors or not credit for you.) Present their relevant main points and most persuasive evidence. Analyze the evidence and explain how it addresses the points you would like to make.

GIVE SPECIFIC EVIDENCE THAT SHOWS YOU CAN SATISFY THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

  1. You are open-minded about the topic. (You should not have strong opinions about the topic or you will not have as much room for intellectual inquiry.)
  2. You can successfully engage with this topic for the semester. (It should be narrow enough that you can become something of an expert on the topic over the semester, covering most important aspects. Most students will need to make their topic more specific. On the other hand, the topic should not be so narrow that you might lose interest.)

Assessment Rubric

Goal: The website, About Page, and first post represents the type of well-organized, well-supported writing one would expect to find on an academic website.

1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neutral; 4=agree; 5=strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5
The topic of the website–narrow enough to cover thoroughly in five posts and a paper–is clearly stated in the title, About Page, and the beginning of the first post.
The website and post demonstrate connective writing: a blogroll, working hyperlinks to articles from NYTimes.com, detailed descriptions of those articles with substantial factual content, quotes in quotation sandwiches, and analysis and explanations of relevance of evidence.
The post has multiple points of entry: catchy title with keywords, headings, main idea up top, topic sentences that relate directly to the main idea, short paragraphs, and keywords or phrases that announce the topic of the paragraph in bold.
The importance of the topic is explained, the potential audience named, and the interest for the student-writer described in detail.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, and relatively free of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

Acknowledgements: The ideas for writing assignments for this class were created jointly by Doreen Deicke, John Holland, Niki Turnispeed, Kory Lawson Ching, Jennifer S. Trainor, Dana Lomax, and Ronald B. Richardson.

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