1. The Proposal

The proposal is a useful tool for narrowing a topic so that your paper is manageable in scope.

Begin with a general subject of interest. Now it’s time to read — find a general article on your topic. For digital media topics, Wikipedia is often a good place to begin thinking about your topic — it often has well-researched topic overviews. It is not, however, the place to end your research!

At this stage of your project development, you should begin to get an idea of the breadth (or shallowness) of your chosen topic. You should also reflect on your reaction to the topic — do you still like it? Do you want to learn more? Is the topic interesting or is it predictable?

To narrow your topic, look at it in different ways: perhaps you can think about a specific point in time or a specific person or the reasons for/against your idea, if you are making an argument. [Most students find narrowing the topic to be their challenge; it's rare that a topic is too narrow.]

Take notes and develop questions as you read. When you begin to form answers to the questions, you are on your way to your thesis.

The proposal should include the following:

  • The title of your paper and your name
  • An abstract that summarizes your project and that includes your thesis (about 100-150 words)
  • A statement of purpose: what is your rationale for this project?
  • A literature review that describes the articles and books you have researched at this preliminary stage of your project.
  • How you will proceed from this stage to the final paper.

The literature review is a key component of the proposal. It tells you and your instructor that there is sufficient information available on your topic for your paper to be a success. It also gives you an idea of the types of research that have been conducted in your topic area.

Next: 2. The Literature Review

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