Guide to the Research Project Liberal Studies Gateway Experience Overview by guy23


									                             Guide to the Research Project

                         Liberal Studies Gateway Experience

Overview of the Research Project

The Research Project for Liberal Studies Gateway involves several different steps as well

as the submission of the following:

     1. A thesis based on preliminary research

     2. An annotated bibliography of five sources (maximum of two web sources).

     3. A detailed summary of the project including an outline, a fully developed

         introduction, and a fully developed conclusion.

Each of the topics you’ve been given is based on one or more of the California Content

Standards for Grades K through 6. Your job is to refine the general topic into a

researchable argument or thesis that can be developed in a 5-6 page paper. You will

undertake research by familiarizing yourself with the work of “experts” and compare

your own ideas on the topic to theirs. You will not write the whole paper; instead you

will write a detailed annotated bibliography and a detailed outline of the argument you

would develop if you were to write out the whole paper.

Refining Your Topic

Once you have your general topic, you need to narrow it down to a researchable

question. This involves brainstorming ideas and developing a research question that is

neither too broad nor too narrow for a 5-6 page paper.
To illustrate this, we’ll work through a sample topic. Let’s say you’ve been given the

following topic for your research project:

The First Great Awakening: a source of transformation (Grade 5, Social Science

5.4.4)    Identify the significance and leaders of the First Great Awakening, which marked a shift in

religious ideas, practices, and allegiances in the colonial period, the growth of religious toleration,

and free exercise of religion.

First, you may need to find some background material on your topic. In this case, the

First Great Awakening was an evangelical movement that started in the 1730s in New

England which was an attempt by many ministers and laypeople to return to the religious

beginnings of the American colonies in the 17th century. It marked a shift in the way

Colonial Americans perceived religion and in many ways changed the nature of religion

in the period.

The following two resources were provided for this topic:


         Butler, Jon. “Enthusiasm Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as

               Interpretive Fiction.” The Journal of American History 69 (1982) 305-325.

First, you would read these two resources, one of which (the web site) is a general

overview of the period and the other of which (the article) is a criticism of such general
overviews. (In the case of a book, you would skim the introduction, table of contents and

key chapters to determine the relevant parts for your topic, and probably just read key

sections.) As you read, try to formulate an idea in your mind for a research question.

Next, you will probably want to explore other materials. You might start looking for

other web sites on the topic, and do library/print research in the Oviatt Library on-line

catalog, using the SUBJECT search option. You will encounter a number of different

ideas before a single idea for a research question finally gels. Don’t be afraid to

formulate a list of questions. For the sample topic on the First Great Awakening,

questions might include:

         Was the movement a radical one that advocated and precipitated change?

         Was the movement a conservative one that attempted to return to an earlier way of

          religious life?

Indeed, framing your own questions and searching for responses is an essential part of

this process. Also remember that research itself often generates more questions. Experts

often disagree but this can help you to focus and or clarify your own thoughts on the


So, back to our sample topic and let’s assume you’ve conducted preliminary research.

An Idea: Was the First Great Awakening a radical movement in colonial history?

Sounds like a good question. Is it? Well—
      Did you find articles that address that question?

      Did your initial sources take a stand on it?

      Can you formulate your own ideas about the answer to the question based on your

       preliminary research?

      Is there evidence to support your claim?

      Are there scholars that argue the opposite point?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you probably want to clarify your own

ideas and/or conduct more research. If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve

got a good research question.

Developing a Thesis

Once you’ve got a good research question the next step is developing a preliminary

thesis. The thesis is an answer to the question that argues a position or point of view. It

may not be a simple answer, but it should reflect your reading and thinking on the topic.

A Possible Thesis: The movements often described as the First Great Awakening

were radical in their approach to faith and in their implications toward Colonial

American ideology and life and predicted the social changes inherent in the

Revolution and the early 19th century.

Ok, sounds like a thesis. It takes a stand, makes a case. It’s not too broad or too vague.

It might be narrow enough for a 5 - 6 page paper. The articles you’ve found have

evidence that allow you to support it, but don’t make that same case themselves. So,
you’ve probably got a preliminary thesis suitable to submit to your instructor for

approval. Congratulations!

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