Writing

In this assignment, you will propose an original research project in social informatics and design a research methodology for it. You will write it up as a proposal, 6-7 pages in length, including references. For this you will need to address the following:

  • You need a research question. Research questions have a specific, not a general focus. The more specific the focus, the more doable the research. For example, rather than asking about information privacy in general, you would focus on a particular aspect of privacy that you think is interesting. Examples might be ONE of (a) how people understand privacy and how their practices reflect (or do not reflect) this understanding, (b) people’s reactions to the revelations of NSA data collection and how they view the tradeoff between privacy and national security, (c) how people have different standards for government data collection and private sector data collection, (d) how privacy issues arise in a particular domain such as looking for a job or being indexed in a search engine, or many other things. There are many areas we have covered in social informatics, and the territory is wide open, so you are free to choose topics that relate to the course and that interest you in some way.
  • You need background literature. You need two kinds of literature that you review: (i) literature that motivates the specific research question, which may be scholarly (academic sources) or non-scholarly (non-academic sources), and (ii) research that suggests a particular method (generally this is academic). You need complete bibliographic information for each of your cited works. You should summarize the important and/or relevant aspects of both types of research and indicate how they set up your question and method. Readings from the class may be used for either category, as appropriate, but you should use some class readings, and you should go beyond the class readings and find new material as well. References need not be exhaustive to be sufficient. Six to twelve references could be enough for this proposal, depending on the topic and your approach.
  • You need a proposed method. Research requires systematic observation, and the means you use to make systematic observations are your method. Examples include ethnographic observation, interviews, observational studies (i.e. looking at an archive of social media data), questionnaire surveys, experiments (these are rarer in social informatics, for a reason), and others. To explain your method, you must explain as thoroughly as possible how you will conduct your observations. For example, how many people will you interview? How many questions will you ask them, and what will they be? How will you choose the people you ask? These and other things should be explained so your audience knows how your research will be conducted and what it should reveal. Keep in mind that costs are typically finite, and you want to make sure that you address your question in a way that is doable. Imagine yourself and maybe one or two other people conducting the actual work. How much can you do in a reasonable amount of time, before you and or your research subjects’ fatigue?
  • You need to explain what you might find, and how you would interpret it. It is important here to remember what your method is, and what it may reveal – do not try to project beyond what the actual method is capable of showing, but instead stay close to what your method does: questions you would ask in interviews, things that would be revealed in observation, etc., for whichever approach to observation you have taken. Part of what you want to lay out are your expectations, but of course, things do not always go according to expectation, so you need to be prepared to say what you will say in such cases. Try to indicate how the research could be of interest, whatever the specific outcomes of the research are.

Keep in mind the following:

  1. The numbered points above can serve as a rough outline. You may create or divide sections as needed, if it works better for your paper, but the above elements should be easily identifiable to anyone reading your paper.
  2. This is an academic paper. Be sure to cite any sources you refer to using footnotes or parenthetical references and include a bibliography at the end. Information on how to cite sources is available here: http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=337 (Links to an external site.)

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