Research Proposal

DOWNLOAD A PDF of the guidelines listed below

Circuit of Culture – Object Description prompt questions


In addition to surveying the topics of globalization and culture, this course is designed to prepare you for conducting research. Rather than writing a term paper, you will spend this semester composing a formal research proposal to explain the need for specific research about your chosen object. This is a valuable skill to have when you set out to conduct your own research, develop research projects in the workplace, or apply for funding. Throughout the semester you will be working through the multiple steps of this assignment – each step of the project building upon the previous. First, you will pick a topic that you find interesting and have a desire to learn more. Following the guidelines, you will produce a clear and concise description of your research topic, develop a research question, create an annotated bibliography that will be used to write a literature review and you will present your research proposal to your peers on an organized group panel.

Basic Requirements:

The formal requirements for this assignment are the same as others in the course. All work should be free of grammatical and spelling errors, typed in 12 point double-spaced text, with 1-inch margins. All sources should be cited in the text and included in a bibliography. Documents should be in .doc or .docx format. Include your last name and the title of the assignment in the file name (for instance: “West_Annotated Bibliography.doc”). Work should be submitted on Blackboard (BB).

Dates and Point Allocation:

Component                           Date                   Percentage
Object Description               February 9               5%
Research Question               March 16                 5%
Annotated Bibliography       March 30                 5%
Optional Full Draft                 April 13                    –
Group Presentation              April 27 & 29           5%
Final Proposal                         May 6                      15%
                                                                         Total 35%


  1. Object Description + Preliminary Research Question

Due: February 9
Length: 2-3 pages

You need to decide on a text, set of texts or a cultural object that you want to research and is related to the two core concepts of this class: globalization and culture. The definition of text is broad including books, digital media, museums, music, film, photography, visual art etc. Choose something that will sustain your interest for the semester, can lead to original research, and is narrow enough for you to describe it in detail and ask answerable questions about it. You need to be specific about your object of research. Narrow your scope. Obviously, “globalization and culture” is much too broad, as are “cultural globalization in India,” “human trafficking,” and “social media and resistance to totalitarianism”. More focused topics could be Korean science fiction films, news coverage of preparations for the soccer world cup in Qatar, online activism against shale gas drilling in North America, Brazilian heavy metal music, etc.

Your object needs to be:

  • Researchable: it should not require access to secret documents or powerful people (unless you have this access!); it should not require the ability to know the unknowable or research methods that would be unethical or unnecessarily dangerous to you or your research subjects/object.
  • Relevant: in this class, we are looking at globalization and culture through a variety of lenses; given this, you have a lot of latitude in the selection of topics.
  • Significant: your research should matter to some well-defined audience.

You will need to do some preliminary research to write your object description. The object description is a statement geared towards understanding the relationship of your object to the rest of the world. Start with a simple description of your object including physical attributes, dates, places and people involved. Then, draw connections between your object and other related objects, texts, contexts, individuals, etc. This requires drawing connections between the particularities of your object and the political, economic, cultural, ecological or other systems in which it exists. What is the relationship of your specific object to the general topic of globalization? This question should guide the process of researching and learning about your object. Remember that this is a descriptive essay, not an argumentative one. You will not be trying to persuade your reader on a position. Rather, you are informing your reader on what you have learned about your object. Try to put aside your assumptions or biases. Support your description with evidence from your research.

Start with the basics: What is your object? What is it made out of? What are your object’s physical characteristics? What is the use of your object; its purpose? Where is your object found? Give important details. This will provide you with a set of true, simple elements on which you will build your research.

Keep on asking questions: What does your object denote and connote? What kind of meaning does the name of your object have? How do people refer to it? Are there any contrasting meanings or conflicts?

Contextualize: What is the history of your object? Are there any events in history surrounding your object that inform your research and help you answer your research questions?

Your object description needs to be organized. Divide your object into parts and explain each part in different sections. Don’t forget to introduce and conclude your description properly!

Review the following page for further instructions on descriptive essays:

Lastly, include a preliminary research question.


  1. Research Questions

Due: March 16

You will write 1 main research question and 3-4 sub-questions to guide your research proposal. A good research question has the following attributes:

  1. The question should follow from your object description, annotated bibliography and additional research. It should identify a problem or a gap in the literature that you have already read. If you realize that your question has already been answered then it needs to be modified in some way.
  2. It should assume almost nothing while inquiring into a relevant and timely subject matter.
  3. It should be as specific as possible. You may want to limit your question to a specific time period, medium or geographical area.
  4. It should be answerable: think about what methods could be employed to answer it.

The intention of your sub-questions is to help answer your main question. As such, they should aim to break your main question into components that are easier to answer or seek to establish the context for your project.


  1. Annotated Bibliography of 5 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources + Revised Research Question

Due: March 30

An annotated bibliography is a list of cited sources about a particular topic, in which each citation is followed by a brief annotation, or discussion of the source. An annotated bibliography requires you to read your sources in full, understand its main purpose, arguments and conclusions.

There are two parts to every entry in an annotated bibliography:
1) the citation:
The citation includes the bibliographic information of the source. This is the information one would include in a standard bibliography or works cited list at the end of a paper.

2) the annotation:
The second part to each entry in the annotated bibliography is the annotation. The annotation is a brief paragraph following each citation. You need to summarize your source and give a short explanation on how this informs your research project. Each annotation should not be longer than 300 words, which means you need to be concise and clear on how this source is relevant to your object. These are summaries; therefore, direct quotations from the source are inappropriate. You should put everything in your own words.

For examples of annotations and annotated bibliographies, see:

What is a scholarly source? And where do you find them?
Scholarly sources are books and articles written to an academic audience by fellow academics, based on their academic research and/or theorizing. The vast majority of scholarly sources are books published by academic presses and articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Journalistic articles that appear in sources such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. are not scholarly sources (even if written by an academic), since these are written for a more general audience. Also, encyclopedia entries, including Wikipedia, are definitely not scholarly sources, although they can help point you toward scholarly references. Also, textbooks and academic book reviews are not appropriate sources for this assignment, even though they may be published by academic presses and appear in scholarly journals. More information on distinguishing scholarly sources from non-scholarly sources can be found at:


** Due: April 13: Optional Draft of Full Proposal **
This is an optional opportunity to submit a developed proposal (includes ALL elements of the final proposal: title, revised object description & questions, literature review and bibliography) for detailed feedback. That being said, the draft will not be graded. This is the deadline for me to give feedback on full drafts. Before and after this deadline I will be available to advise on specific questions and research/writing issues, but will not read and comment on entire drafts.


  1. Group Panel Presentations

Due: April 27 & 29 & May 4

We will structure our class in grouped panel sessions based on individual topics. Panel presentations will need to be organized and coherent. A group member will be responsible for introducing the theme of the panel and give opening remarks. Each person will present on their research findings for a maximum of 5 minutes after which the panel needs to provide concluding remarks and lead a class discussion on their panel. We will plan this in more detail as the semester rolls out.

Preparing for Group Presentation
1. In class, a random drawing will decide which groups (2 per day) will present on one of the three days.

2. Groups need to decide the order of the presentations – who goes first, second, third….

3. One group member will introduce the panel. Introduction should include a title for the panel’s “grand” theme and brief information to introduce how each paper fits in this theme. Should be about 3-5 min, no longer. ALL group members are responsible for participating in formulating the introduction.

4. Individual presentations: overview of your proposal topic and research question(s). You should present for no more than 5 mins — this translates to only 2-3 typed, double-spaced pages so you will need to be concise with your remarks. Make sure you are covering the main ideas rather than the minute details.

3. One group member will give very brief concluding remarks and open/moderate the panel for questions from the class. ALL group members are responsible for participating in formulating the concluding remarks.

4. Visuals: I encourage you to include a visual presentation as it is often helpful to the audience to follow along. A slide with your title, research question, etc… images or small amounts of text on your topic, etc…  One group member needs to gather all the presentations prior to coming to class so that only 2 people (one person from each group) are setting up the presentations (rather than 8-10 people).

Finally, Feedback
Every student is required to provide feedback for each panel detailing their observations of the panel presentation, the theme in focus, interesting information they may have learned…etc. These will be turned in for credit.


  1. Final Research Proposal

Due: May 6
Length: 7-10 pages


Part I: Object Description

Your topic description should include information from your additional research and should reflect the topic of your literature review and your research questions. It should tell your reader exactly what your research proposal intends to study

Part II: Research Questions

One sentence that poses a focused, specific question you would like to undertake a research project on. This most likely should be revised from your earlier versions. Additionally, your 3-4 revised sub-questions.

Part III: Literature Review

In addition to the 5 scholarly sources you have annotated earlier, you will add at least 3 more sources for a minimum of 8 sources. You may use popular sources in addition to your 5 scholarly sources in your synthesis as long as they are credible and properly integrated.

The literature review is where you distill or synthesize your annotated bibliography (rather than deal with the sources one at a time), describing the scholarly and any popular conversations pertaining to your research question in ~1000 words. The purpose is to demonstrate that you know the relationships within the literature pertaining to your topic and establish that the research you are proposing is needed. You may use the materials from your annotated bibliography in the literature review, but the focus of the review should be the relationships between the sources.

In the literature review, you will:

  • Analyze and evaluate the research questions, methods, and evidence other scholars have brought to bear on your topic.
  • Identify explicit conversations between differing viewpoints in the literature.
  • Trace out implicit conversations between different viewpoints, identifying where those writing on the topic are in disagreement.
  • Critique gaps in the literature, limitations to the existing evidence or perspectives on the topic, or ways that scholars have been “talking past” each other.
  • Connect the literature to your own project.

Part IV: Bibliography

A properly formatted list of all sources (in alphabetical order) referenced in your proposal including articles from your literature review, reference material and any material from class that is appropriate. Citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago) is your choice so long as you choose one and are consistent.