Your research project

Here, I detail the expectations of your research project, the central achievement for the rest of our First Year Seminar. Overall, this project should allow you to develop skills of description, analysis, and of making your case. In addition, it should allow you to further reflect on your identity and agency in a complex world. Echoing my colleague Gordon Bloom, I want this material to help you answers the questions ‘Who am I? What do I want to do with my one precious life?”

OK, now some brass tacks. The project should yield (a) a paper between 10 – 15 pages long (double spaced,) with about 10 – 20 top-notch references and (b) a personal reflection that can be as long as your would like it to be. The final drafts of both of these are due with the submission of your final writing portfolio – Sunday, December 16th

Be ambitious: take on a big challenge. Yet paradoxically, you must stay contained: present a solution that it bounded by geography, sector, and time. Above all, study a challenge and a proposed solution that you care about. If you do this, you will enjoy and benefit from this process.

More details of each section of the paper:

  • A research question (or questions) about a 21st-century challenge (one page)

These questions should open your paper. Target an introduction that is two to three paragraphs long, in which you lay out your questions, capture their importance, and give the reader a sense of the trajectory of your paper.

  • A description of the challenge (one to two pages) – first draft due on Monday, November 5.

In this next section, you should lay out the challenge. The lack of clean water in the South Asia, for example: How many people does it affect? How are their lives affected? What are the long-term implications of this systemic problem?

  • An analysis of why the challenge persists (two to three pages) – first draft due on Monday, November 7.

For this closely related next section, put on your analytical hat.  Why do so many people not have water, the most basic of human needs? Why has this challenge persisted?  Dig deep; lean on your research for the answers that get at the heart of the long-term challenge. To do so, keep asking: why?

  • A review of recent attempts to address the challenge, and a subsequent analysis of why some these attempts have been more successful than others (three to four pages) – first draft due on Monday, November 12.

What’s working, and why? What are the current water-delivery programs that are most successful? According to the best evaluators, why are they successful? This section is the cornerstone of your paper, the part where you show your ability to think like the best changemaker.

  • A proposal for implementing a specific solution (two to three pages) first draft due on Monday, November 19.

Given what you have learned, how could you imagine expanding success.  Where would you implement a better clean-water delivery program? How would it work? If you do the previous section well, this section will flow very naturally.

  • A conclusion (one to two pages) – final draft due with submission of final writing portfolio – Sunday, December 16th

What are the big lessons learned from your research? And what next?

The second part of this project – which is related but stands apart – is a variation of the journal entries you have been writing to date.

  • A personal reflection on what you are learning from this research final draft due with submission of final writing portfolio – Sunday, December 16th

This part of this assignment is the least like a traditional research project.  In this (stand-alone) section, I want you to actively bring in yourself. What does all of this mean to you? What have you learned from the persistence of the challenge that you have studied and the nature of the current solutions? Does all of this suggest directions you may go in your major here at Middlebury? Even perhaps your profession after Middlebury?  Be expansive, be frank, enjoy this opportunity to, if you will, empathize with your evolving self!

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