Research Proposal Assignment


As you know, we’re building up toward a final project in which you will make an argument about a focused topic related to digital technology and rhetorical communication. You’ve already started to do some thinking about what your topic might be, but now it’s time to formalize your plans one step further. That is, it’s time to convince me that your topic is appropriate and that you’re on the right track.


Write a brief proposal that describes your research topic, describes the specific claim you want to make about that topic (as far as you know it at this point), and convinces me that your chosen topic is strong. By “strong,” I mean a topic on which you can find lots of sources and on which you have something unique to offer.

Write your proposal as a new post on your blog. Your post should have exactly two or three paragraphs, no more or less.

You may find it helpful to write one paragraph that establishes the importance of the topic by describing what some of your key sources say about the topic, followed by one more paragraph describing the unique contribution and argument you intend to bring to this topic.


This is a 40-point grade in the Small Assignments category (twice as important as a reading response post). I’ll assign your proposal a grade based on the following characteristics:

  • Convincingly demonstrates that this is an important topic
  • Convincingly demonstrates that you have something unique to add to the conversation
  • Strong, edited sentences free of error

Due Date

Post your proposal to your blog before class begins on Friday, October 25.


Before writing the proposal, be sure first to consider if your topic is arguable and worth discussing. (By “arguable,” I mean it’s something reasonable people disagree on. For example, it’s not really arguable that a new medical technology should be used to help sick people get better, since everyone wants sick people to get better. No one would disagree with you.) Here are a few other characteristics of strong topics:

  • Sources: Strong topics have been written about a lot—in popular magazines, newspapers, and books as well as academic books and journal articles. Feel free to mention some of these sources in your proposal, a move that will prove to me that you can find the good stuff out there.
  • New perspective: Make sure you pick a topic that you have a lot to say about. I want you to add something unique to the conversation! If your topic is strong, you should be able to find a lot written about the topic but still feel confidant that you have an angle that no one else has written about in the way you’re imagining.
    • If you’re struggling with this, one way to add something new is to add a personal perspective.
    • Another way: presenting the argument in a new way for online audiences (infographics, audio, video, etc.).
  • Chance for convincing audiences: Strong topics are those on which you can conceivably convince audiences to change their attitudes or actions in a researched webtext. If you feel unqualified to convince the main actors who control a situation, perhaps you want your piece to raise up public support for your point of view in hopes that a crowd can lead to actual change. Some examples:
    • No chance to convince actual audiences: “I want to convince people to stop using their cell phones while driving! It’s killing people!”
    • Possible chance to convince actual audiences: “While I recognize that I can’t convince people to stop using their phones in the car, I do think that there are a number of small steps that everyday citizens can take to use phones more safely–steps that research shows will be likely to be shared on social media with the possibility of going viral. These include _________.”
    • No chance to convince actual audiences: “Online comments are often mean and bigoted! People need to stop being jerks online!”
    • Possible chance to convince actual audiences: “While I recognize that I can’t convince people to stop being jerks online, I have found that research suggests that people overwhelmingly want to be kind to strangers in face-to-face settings. To help bring basic civility to online discussions, I want to suggest some ways that this research applications can be applied to online settings. These include _______________.”
  • Personal: Strong topics are close to you; you encounter them daily and think about them daily. You know a lot about them and care about them because they affect you.