Hagemann, Fall 2020
Research Project Assignment
Your final project has three parts, the most of important of which is the argumentative research essay that you will submit, along with a folder containing copies of your sources, on the last day of class. What follows, then, describes the first part, the research proposal.
Part I: The Research Proposal is due October 27. Post your proposal on the Discussions board by Oct. 27th.
Our final project involves a close look at a major artist, and it begins with a research proposal. The purpose of the proposal is to show your reader that you have done some preliminary research and have a workable, sufficiently complex and argumentative thesis. The goal is to give us some sense of the research you’ve done and the sort of research you plan to do. A solid proposal will attend to these areas:
Here is what a good research proposal might look like:
SAMPLE RESEARCH PROPOSAL
The Other Elvis
My research project will focus on the significance of the British singer/songwriter, Elvis Costello. I am especially interested in his reputation as an early punk, an “angry young man,” and despite the fact that he is British, a connoisseur of American music. My essay will explore and (I hope) defend Costello from the accusation that his work is misogynistic—or at least sexist—and that it borrows inappropriately from American genres like country and jazz. Although it is true that women are not always portrayed positively in Costello’s songs, it is men in his songs that we should worry about. More often than not, I will argue, female characters are the victims of small, desperate, foolish, paranoid, obsessive, jealous men. As for the issue of appropriation, I will show that Costello’s work pays homage to the giants on whose shoulders he stands and argue, more basically, that appropriation as an accusation is usually misplaced.
Because I hope to defend Mr. Costello, I will need unbiased sources, so I will start with Graeme Thomson’s Complicated Shadows and Richard Groothuizen’s Going through the Motions. Dai Griffiths’ Elvis Costello will be of great use. It will be necessary to hear from the man himself, though, so I will rely on his terrific memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink and on a handful of definitive Rolling Stone interviews. But because my argument will be mainly derived from his body of work, much of my argument will focus on primary sources, that is, on the music itself.
Part II: Annotated Bibliography:
An annotated bibliography is a list of works that you will cite or plan to cite in your essay. Your annotated bibliography must include at least 15 credible sources. In order to compile your annotated bibliography, you will need to write entries for each source, in MLA style. Your sources should be alphabetized by the author’s last name or the first main word of the title (when there is no author). Entries should be single spaced and use a hanging indentation style. You will follow each entry with an annotation, a short paragraph that sums up the work. Note that I’ve posted an up-to-date version of the MLA Handbook on BlackBoard. Your annotated bibliography is due November 12th.
Part III: The Research Essay
In a clear and concise, error free research essay of about 10 pages, use MLA-style documentation to develop an argumentative research thesis that focuses on a major artist or group. The possibilities seem nearly infinite, and if you are unsure about your interests, let’s talk. Note too that I’ve put several good music books on reserve: Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar, and Love for Sale: Pop Music in America by David Hajdu. These books should help you get started if you aren’t sure. If you do have a good idea, one that you are enthusiastic about, get started. Now. Today.
As you narrow your topic, remember that the goal of a research essay is to discuss persuasively your well-reasoned ideas. It takes time to develop well-reasoned ideas, and everything takes longer than we think it will. If you procrastinate, it will hurt your chances of earning a good grade, and since there will be no chance to revise after submitting your final version, you will have to live with that grade. Let me be frank: most students write weak research projects, and the reason is always the same: procrastination. Many students underestimate the time and challenge involved in finding sources and overestimate their ability to take notes and compose quickly. Students tell themselves that they will just gather up some books and essays and start plowing through them. But these things take time and effort—a lot more than we think—and no one has ever accomplished something great merely by “plowing through.” If you can devote even half an hour a day to your essay, starting now, you will have ample time to draft, revise, workshop, and revise some more. Your final project is due December 3rd.
Here are some guidelines and recommendations for your final draft:
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