International Studies 492

Dr. Joan Serafin
Internship Seminar 103 Old Main
Summer 1997 687-4790


Purpose of the Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to get students to identify a research topic and plan a research strategy at a point early in the term. Students will then share their ideas and approaches with others in the seminar session.

Format, Length

This assignment calls for you to submit a written research design proposal of approximately five to seven typed pages in length. It must follow closely the instructions given below.

NOTE: In completing this assignment, it will help to familiarize yourself also with the instructions in the handout entitled "Preparing and Presenting the Research Paper" included in this packet.

Choosing a Research Topic

It is your responsibility to identify and to refine a research topic. Acceptable topics must be relevant to the internship, empirical (not normative) in basic orientation, and tied to substantive and/or methodological issues raised in your previous course work.

Be guided in your choice of topic by the practical opportunities afforded by the setting in which you are interning. What activities and /or issues are currently occupying the energies of "your" agency or organization? Do any of these tie to matters which you have encountered in your college course work? Do not ignore the benefits of pursuing a topic which will sustain your interest. At the same time, be careful to choose a topic about which you have sufficient knowledge to conduct successful research and about which you can readily gather evidence in the form of data, documents, and/or interviews. You are strongly advised to consult with appropriate members of the department's faculty in developing your research topic.

Please note that you should refine your topic area by narrowing it to manageable proportions. Please remember also that your topic must be subject to investigation through the process of gathering evidence.

Developing the Research Proposal

The written research proposal is a device for forcing you to think carefully about your research project before it is too late to resolve problems; and conveying your research plans formally to the intern director and other relevant departmental faculty. In turn, the research proposal will generate a written response from the intern director.

The research proposal should contain the following information:

Statement of Topic

What is the topic which you have chosen to explore? Explain briefly the reasons for your interest (e.g., it is a major project currently in progress in the organization where I am working; it is tied to a major issue raised in my legislative systems course; information is readily available; etc. ) What is the relevance of the topic to the internship?

The statement of topic must include a thesis statement. A thesis statement is an assertion on your part of what you expect to find empirically as a result of your investigation, and why. (Rest assured that it is not a problem ultimately to discover findings inconsistent with your thesis. Nonetheless, you should approach the investigation of you topic with some idea of what you expect to find.)

Literature Review and Preliminary Bibliography

Identify and provide a brief discussion of major points raised in academic literature which deals with your research topic. The goal is to provide an idea of what is already known about the topic as well as what is not known. How will your research build on what has been known before. The most logical place to begin a literature search is in textbooks you have used in college courses; look for relevant citations in footnotes and bibliographies. Faculty members in the department should also be able to provide you with assistance. Your research proposal should include a preliminary bibliography which identifies at least four academic books or articles that you plan to discuss in the literature review section of your final paper.

Procedures (or Methods)

What methods do you plan to use to gather evidence about your research topic (e.g., gathering numerical data, documentary materials, interviews)? How will you go about analyzing the evidence you collect? Is there any general approach to gathering or analyzing evidence on this topic which is revealed in the materials you have looked at as part of your preliminary literature review? Be sure to note limitations of the methods you are adopting.