Stage I: Annotated Bibliography Due February 10
For this portion of the assignment, you will select any of the basic concepts that are identified in the course (e.g., gender and power in CMC), and compile an annotated bibliography of readings on the subject. This bibliography will constitute the basic resource for your proposal and final paper. You may include assigned readings, but course materials should serve only as a starting point for your own in-depth research. If you already have a clear idea of your paper topic, you might want to expand your focus and find readings around your topic that might be useful when you write your paper (e.g., if your primary interest is why people use graphic accents in CMC, you might include research on playfulness or humor).
Stage II: Proposal Due March 3
For this assignment, you will review the literature that pertains to a study, literature review, or analysis that you propose to write. In most cases, this will form a draft of the first portion of your paper (through the methods section, if it's to be a field study).
The first step is to select a theory, organization, or specific communicative situation that you find intriguing, and that relates to CMC. This probably is the single most difficult part of any grad seminar, because you need to focus your research tightly enough that you can complete it during the semester, while at the same time avoiding such a narrowly-defined topic that it is rendered trivial.
The case or research approach that you select may focus on a communicative problem (e.g., a group that has difficulty making a decision; the impact of status in computer-mediated groups), or a point of personal interest (e.g., a specific theory; personal relationships; a newsgroup that pertains to your hobby). It may center on a workplace (past or present), or an online group (e.g., BBS, MUD, MOO, subscription list, or newsgroup), or a large social issue (e.g., teledemocracy; CMC coalitions and outreach programs to senior citizens). The critical factor is that the locus of your inquiry should manifest a particular concept of human communication as it occurs in the electronic environment (e.g., flaming; status and hierarchy in CMC; gender in CMC; political manifestations of CMC systems).
The written proposal will be the basis for your final course paper. It will outline the context and the situation in which you are interested, and will explicate the theoretical framework through which you plan to approach your essay. If it is a field study, you should include a detailed methods section. For organization and reporting formats, you should use APA 4th Edition (or whatever format your targeted journal mandates). You can't go wrong if you use pieces from the following journals as exemplars:
Stage III: Final Paper and Presentation Due April 28
In this final stage of the project, you will report the findings of your study, review, or analysis, and discuss your observations of how the theoretical course concept for which you created your bibliography plays out in the situation you selected for your Proposal. You may draw on course readings, but you should use all of the bibliographic references from your annotated bibliography as you analyze the case, draw your conclusions about it, and propose suggestions for future CMC research. If you conducted a study, you will report your results and write a discussion section on the implications of your findings. If you've done a review of literature, be sure to explain the conclusions you've drawn, and their implications for CMC research. The final step will be a presentation of your project to the class.
April 4, 1997