Instructions: You may choose your own topic for this assignment (be warned: some topics work better than others—come talk to me about the propriety of your topic if
you’re unsure). Conduct multimedia research on the topic. Look at how they’re talking about it. Find what you think are key voices that define significant parts of the
conversation, as well as important ways of, viewing, understanding, and judging it. Look at how the rhetoric of various sources represents the subject in particular
ways, and how that rhetoric reveals deeper philosophies, assumptions, judgments etc.
Then, compose a research narrative and analysis that defines the conversations happening around your topic using the digital storytelling program Storify.
You are not joining the conversation just yet. You are defining and analyzing the conversation other people are having. You’ll join the conversation yourself in A3.
You will work with the same topic in Assignments 2 and 3, so choose something you can live with for the rest of the semester.
Start with a research question: Your research question will be a much more specific version of this: “What does it mean that we’re talking about this particular topic
in these particular ways?”
Issues that are black-and-white, where people are entrenched in their opinions, generally lead to poor projects, in part because people are not having a conversation
with each other, but are instead yelling or talking to folks who refuse to listen. Avoid questions made from overly simple binaries (yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad,
agree/disagree, positive/negative, like/dislike). Those won’t give you much momentum, and won’t awaken your curiosity. Instead, ask questions that pursue appropriate
complexity, such as those that begin with phrases like “To what extent,” and “In what ways.”
To that end, I have some forbidden topics. They are forbidden because they are far too emotional for most writers to maintain open-mindedness, and because they have
already been written about extensively, and because I’ve read several hundred lame analyses on this topics that say nothing new about them. You may not write this
paper on: marijuana legalization, capital punishment, abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, or gun control. Frankly, your topics should be far more specific than
anything that would fall under these kinds of simplistic headings.
Format: This will be an all-digital publication. For this assignment, we will use Storify (storify.com) to create a multi-sourced conversation around your research
question. Your “story” (synthesis) should be clear about what is at stake, what the different perspectives on this problem are, and how and why those perspectives
differ. You’ll embed links to sources, quickly summarize the relevant parts of them, quickly analyze the most important rhetorical strategies they employ, and show how
they converse with your other sources. Because it’s entirely online, you’ll be able to embed images, videos, and links to your sources instead of providing a standard
Works Cited page. Storify will allow you to introduce and define your research question; arrange, summarize, analyze the rhetoric of, and synthesize your research; and
draw on multiple types of research from a variety of perspectives.
Storify calls attention to what writers have always done: curated sources for their readers, tell “stories” about scholarly and popular conversations, and synthesize
and juxtapose opinions and arguments.
Types of research to include: I am not setting a minimum requirement for the number or the types of sources to include. Instead, think about comprehensiveness: Does
the conversation you define about this issue comprehensively cover what is at stake, the various perspectives? How credible are these sources? How influential are
they? Are you considering the rhetorical aspects of the sources? Are your sources drawing from a variety of mediums and formats and publication venues?
Length: I am not setting a minimum length for this project, as your project should find a natural length in order to be comprehensive. But a helpful marker is the
“Read More” button: Once you publish your project, longer projects have a “Read More” button instead of loading the whole project. Most successful projects are long
enough that Storify adds the “Read More” button.
Organizing your Storify project:
A strong introduction to this essay will introduce your research question and preview what’s at stake and the various perspectives on this question offered by your
sources. View this introduction as having three goals:
1) convey to your classmates what the scope of the project is
2) map out the existing perspectives on this conversation
3) preview the rest of the essay, including its organization
A conclusion should synthesize the research that you’ve completed, but it should also make a step beyond just summary of the whole project. The best conclusions often
only raise better questions. Some additional options:
a) begin to define where you might stand as a participant in the conversation, including your limitations
b) draw some broader implications by discussing what’s at stake and why this discussion matters
c) raise new questions that the research has brought up and left unanswered.
To organize the body of the essay, think rhetorically about your purpose: To help your readers best understand the conversation around your research question. Thus,
the presentation of your sources should follow an organizational logic: Are there a number of different “camps” of voices that each have a shared perspective and
should be organized together? Are there disagreements over a problem and a solution? Would it be wiser to understand this issue in ways other than simply as a problem/solution issue?
How to link sources in the project itself:
Storify allows you to link in two different ways: You can embed sources by dragging and dropping them onto the project, or you can create a hyperlink within your text.
I encourage you to make decisions about how to link: Do you want to emphasize something more by embedding it, or do you want to briefly cite something (maybe a background fact) with a hyperlink.
You might use some sources that are difficult or impossible to link to, like books or journal articles found through the library’s databases. Here are some possible
options if you are using these sources:
• For print-only sources, define the text in your body, and including all pertinent citation information.
• If you are using a book, you might find it on Google Books and link to the book there. (You will still want to include the page number from the book with an in-text citation.)
• If you are using a journal article, you might find it on Google Scholar and link to the article there. Readers might not be able to read the source (they probably could on campus), but at least they would have a digital citation to it. (You will still want to cite the page number from the article with an in-text citation.)
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