Rhetoric II Spring 2016 Prof. Martin
Writing the Research Proposal
You are tasked with writing a proposal for a research paper you will write before the end
of the course. Here are some basic guidelines about what that will look like:
1. Your paper must connect to the MATERIAL we have
discussed all semester – Berger’s discussion of how humor
2. It must produce controversy – that is, someone could
theoretically disagree with you.
3. It must be a work of synthesis, meaning that you have to show
multiple critical sources ‘speaking’ to one another, often in the
same paragraph. (You have seen academic writing that does this
– it happens almost any time 3 or more sources are talked about in
a single paragraph.)
4. It must be analytical, in that you choose things to analyze and
criticize — at least 3 pieces of comedy, or “cultural artifacts,” or
“objects of criticism.”
5. It must make use of AT LEAST 4 SCHOLARLY SOURCES
BESIDES BERGER’S TEXT. These sources should help you
come up with the argument you want to make, and they should
also become credibility-building EVIDENCE for your assertions.
Hint 1: Berger has written more scholarly texts than just this one.
Hint 2: Berger, and every other scholar, includes a works cited
page. See – they’re not stupid, or wastes of time. They’re really,
6. You should use at least 3 objects of criticism, i.e. humorous
cultural artifacts. You may use more.
But the proposal isn’t the paper itself – it’s a chance to come up with an idea, then a
thesis, and to plan and fine-tune your research before you are tasked with writing the long
paper. It is as much an essay as it is a formal document – you are asking me, your
mentor, to approve what you are proposing so that you can go forward, and to add my
insight to the inquiry you propose.
The Research Question:
What questions do you want to ask? What questions do you hope to answer? What
brought you to ask these questions? What need or lack does the paper address?
Rather than a statement about what the paper will be about, you want to create a project
statement about what the paper hopes to accomplish. You might want to accomplish
more than 1 thing, and that’s OK – you could catalogue instances of sexist humor, put
them in historical context, and use feminist scholarship to explain the power
relationships it sustains.
This one is stupid. Don’t do it. KIDDING! But it does seem dumb, when all you are
doing is library database research, right?
But you aren’t “just” doing database research. You are doing close-readings of all sorts
of media, and this is your place to say “I will watch 4 episodes of I Love Lucy, and four
episodes of Modern Family, noting each time women are referred to in stereotypical or
degrading terms, and remark on the context of each incidence.”
So, if there’s nothing in this section about what you SPECIFICALLY intend to do in your
research, I can pretty much assume your final paper is going to suck eggs.
This is a bit like an annotated bibliography. I want you to discuss, in paragraphs (not in a
list), all of the texts you have found so far. You should find all of your scholars, though
you don’t have to completely read and digest them all yet. You should discuss EACH
source, briefly explain what it is/what it is about, and explain its value or importance to
The MIT presentation says that you can “use this section to show how your project
extends previous work…avoids previous mistakes or errors… [or] is unique because it
does not follow the same path as previously followed.”
It has even more good advice about this section:
Briefly SUMMARIZE what we know so far (about your topic – not all of
STATE what we need to know next (you can frame it as a question if you like)
EXPLAIN why we don’t know it yet (often a methodological issue)
DESCRIBE how you intend to find the answer
Your conclusion, in this case, should be a discussion of what you still need to do, and
what you still need to know. You don’t have to have all the answers yet, but you do have
to have a plan, and I want to see that you are asking smart questions about a topic that
you have spend a lot of time with!
Can I recycle my first paper topic? Yes, but each successive paper must show
significant revision—you can’t just add a few pages, but must instead reframe the
question and do original work on the same topic. You may not, under any circumstances,
just add to a paper you have written for another class—though you may use sources you
have used before.
Should I use section headings, as you have above? Yes! Research proposals are
formatted documents, so doing so makes sense.
I don’t need to use MLA style for this, right? WRONG! You should use MLA style
for every paper you write in this class.
Should I discuss authors together in the lit review, or should I discuss each one
separately? You will undoubtedly have to talk about them separately, but we are
ultimately looking for synthesis. If you find yourself talking about how sources interact,
you are writing stuff you can probably use for your final paper!
Do I have to use the same topic I used for my first paper? No! In fact, if your topic is
EXACTLY the same, you aren’t doing the work of revising the paper. If you are sick of
it, start from scratch. If you are still interested, refine and focus your topic through the
process of writing this proposal.The name of the book is ” An Anatomy of Humor” by Arthur Asa Berger. Please read the instructions completely since it is very detailed and cite the sources of every article or website used in mla format. Also can you please write it in common simple language.
|Academic Level||College (1-2 years: Freshmen, Sophomore)|
|Subject Area||Film & Theater studies|
|Paper Type||Research paper|
|Number of Pages||5 Page(s)/1375 words|