Public Research

This research assignment aims to prepare us for the Public Analysis short assignment and Paper 1. Your research should focus on some aspect of your work and thinking from the Identity Mapping assignment, and you should find at least four sources related to this aspect of your identity.

Our understanding of “public” includes sources that contribute to conversations in the broader public sphere, both print-based and digital. Through our research, we are hoping to find sources that offer some sort of perspective, insight, or argument related to some aspect of our personal identities. This could be broad – e.g., how have various people written about women, about whiteness or people of color, about the working class, etc.? It could be intersectional, drawing on multiple aspects of identity – e.g., how have various people written about latina women, about the white working class, about the black LGBTQ+ community, etc.? You could orient your research in a more specific direction – e.g., how have various people written about expectations and orientations toward women in the workplace, toward political identities in education, toward representations of gay men and women in the media, etc.? For our purposes, you can work with any public source that gives you any insight or any way of discussing this particular issue or aspect of your identity, whether or not it is the main focus of the source.

Public Research Paper
You should present your research as an annotated bibliography (see The Little Seagull Handbook p. 74). In terms of structure, you should follow the guidelines from the handbook. Start the bibliography with a one paragraph statement of scope (p. 75) that explains what topic you are covering in your research. After the statement of scope, you should then include the following for each source: complete APA bibliographic information and one or two substantial paragraphs of annotations that summarize the source, capturing its main purpose and argument. Your paper should conclude with a comparison of the sources (250-500 words). This comparison should address the following prompts:

  • How would you compare these sources in terms of their understanding of and approach to this aspect of identity? How are they similar and different? Where do they agree and disagree? To what extent do they share a similar orientation?
  • Which source(s) do you find most helpful in coming to terms with this aspect of identity? Least helpful? How so?

You should email your paper as an attachment the day it is due.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles
As you conduct your research, you should look at a range of different databases. You are welcome to draw on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but it will also help to look at more specific databases as well. For newspaper articles, use LexisNexis or the sites of specific newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Guardian. Relevant magazines and sites for cultural criticism include The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of BooksNew York MagazineMedia Diversified, The New Inquiry, Valid, Vox, and Medium. To find other relevant publications, do searches like “publications about people with disabilities” or “magazines about blackness,” or add search terms like “newspaper opinion” or “magazine opinion.”

It will also be important to try different combinations of search terms. Note, for example, the different results we get on The New Inquiry when searching for “white women,” “white feminity,” and “women education.” Willamette University offers helpful guidelines on how to generate search terms, particularly by taking one search term and thinking about other forms of the word (“class” > “classes,” “classist,” “working class,” “middle class,” “social class”), synonyms (“class” > “income bracket,” “social sphere”), and related ideas (“class” > “poor,” “poverty,” “wealth,” “wealthy,” “economic privilege”). Try using the University of Texas at Austin’s keyword generator too.

Digital Sources
Your research should also involve looking at various digital spaces where people share their ideas, interests, and perspectives. These spaces could include blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, reddit, YouTube, forums, or anything else along these lines. For example, as a professor of writing, I could look at this blog by Alex Reid (he is also a writing professor, he writes about teaching and studying writing, and other writing professors comment on his blog posts); I could look at various hashtags on Twitter, such as #TeamRhetoric, #digped, or #nanowrimo (writing professors and other people interested in rhetoric and writing Tweet with these hashtags); I could look at Feminist Ryan Gosling, a Tumblr. page with feminist Ryan Gosling memes. In each case, people are using digital writing and digital writing environments to share content related to this aspect of identity.

Here are some other tools that can help with research:

  • Pinboard and Delicious. These bookmarking sites allow you to save and tag online articles and websites.
  • Hypothesis. This tool allows you to highlight and annotate online articles and websites.
  • Skim. This tool allows you to annotate .pdfs (Mac only).
  • Evernote. This software helps you organize research notes, class notes, or anything else along these lines.