Week 11 Discussion Guide: Tuesday--Independent Research Project

(Remember to set up your faculty interview this week!)

        Although the topic and direction of your research for this paper is "independent," I want you to follow closely the process by which you develop it.  Click here for the stages that will produce your paper.  Today we will discuss the criteria for acceptable independent research project topics, and the research paper's evaluation criteria and a rationale for each of them   We will talk about ways to discover the disciplines in which you are ready to do college-level research, and ways to tell what issues your disciplines consider debatable and worth researching.  These papers can be less "finished" than your Hawthorne or film papers because you may pick a topic that nearly exhausts your familiarity with the discipline.  It is enough if you describe the current state of a debate using some scholarly sources, and arrive at some kind of supportable insight about it.  Your thesis does not have to be definitely conclusive, just reasonably likely.  Ideally, you will discover a topic that you can pursue in original research with training in your major during your next three years of study.  If you are not yet ready to use scholarly sources in the discipline you are most interested in (e.g., Molecular Biology or Astrophysics), you can return to the Hawthorne or film topics to develop a new topic related to the work you already have done there.

        By Thursday, interview a member of the department in whose discipline you are going to conduct your research, following the instructions on the web page attached to this link.  Then, using your informant's help, prepare a list of at least two topics suitable for academic research by a student with your level of expertise.  For each topic, prepare a list of scholarly journals suitable for research, and two issues which currently are debated concerning it.   If you run into trouble, remember you can ask me for help, and the library's bibliographic instruction staff have experience assisting student researchers.  You also should read this advice for how to locate sources for difficult topics.  Make sure you have done all that a prudent researcher should do before you declare the topic impossible to research, but also remember that prudent researchers always have a back-up topic that is nearly certain to work if the one they want most turns out to be impossible.

If you are still worried that you do not understand how pick a research topic, read this email exchange.

Additional Web Pages that May Be Useful.