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Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Department of Communication
COM 520 - Small Group Communication - Spring Semester 2018
Instructor: Irwin Mallin
Research Paper Assignment
 
Topic proposal due at the start of class on Tuesday, February 20
Revised topic proposal due at the start of class on Tuesday, March 13
 
First complete, credible draft of the paper due at the start of class on Tuesday, April 17
Final draft due at the start of class on Tuesday, April 24

Whether you are working toward a bachelors degree or a masters degree, your education shouldn't be merely another set of hoops to jump through. Instead, this education ought to actually be of service to you in your professional life. Toward that end, this assignment gives you the opportunity to explore the extent to which communication study may enhance your professional life.

Undergraduates

Choose a topic related to small group communication that you are interested in. Now narrow that topic to a specific question whose answer you think will be useful in your professional life. Find three scholarly articles related to this question, at least one of which must be in a communication journal listed in NCA's List of Communication Journals or clearly indicate that the author is a communication scholar. You now have two tasks in the paper: 1) explain the answers these articles give for your research question and 2) critique those answers. That is, do those answers make sense to you in terms of your own lived experience?   You will hand in a portfolio including your three articles, both drafts of your final paper, and peer and instructor comments on your first draft.


Graduate Students

OPTION A: Choose a topic related to small group communication that you are interested in. Now narrow that topic to a specific question whose answer you think will be useful in your professional life. Find articles related to this question in scholarly communication or management journals. You now have two tasks in the paper: 1) explain the answers these articles give for your research question and 2) critique those answers. That is, do those answers make sense to you in terms of your own lived experience?

OPTION B: Analyze and critique a small group in terms of one of the theories we have discussed in class. This option also requires you to identify a specific question whose answer you think will be useful in your professional life and answer it in terms of what you learn in your observations, grounding your conclusions in the relevant literature.  The product of that approach should be an ethnographic study.  This option also requires you to identify a specific question whose answer you think will be useful in your professional life. Note that Option B is more work than Option A but has the potential to produce a more interesting paper.  If you want to choose Option B, please talk to me as soon as you can, but absolutely no later than Feb 6.

To select a topic

Begin by asking yourself what aspects of small group communication or communication situations in the small group setting you find particularly problematic or interesting. The assignment will be most useful to you if you can use it to help solve a real-life problem.  The question you seek to answer should be:

Focused and specific, not a broad area of research like “how do you lead a small group?” or “how do you deal with conflict?” Instead, you would choose a more focused question related to leadership or conflict.

• Clearly linked to communication in the small group setting.  That is, topics that are not about the small group experience are inappropriate, as are topics that are not explicitly linked to communication.  I can help you shape your topic to meet this requirement.

The best way to pick a topic may be to think of a problem you'd like to solve and then frame this project as a memorandum to the people who have the power to solve it.

Your topic proposal, due February 20


For graduate students: Say whether you are choosing Option A or Option B.  If you are choosing Option B, you should identify the group you’re studying and your link to that group

For everyone:
1) State the question you are seeking to answer.  If you are a graduate student choosing Option B, you should briefly explain the link between your group and this question
2)  Explain what makes this question so problematic
3) Provide an annotated bibliography in which you cite, in APA style, at least five potential sources you have actually read and, for each source, provide a detailed paragraph in which you describe what the article/book/etc. is about, how you might use it, and display that you have actually read it.  At least three of these five sources should be from communication journals and/or by communication scholars.  Please note that you’re not yet writing a literature review, but rather an annotated bibliography as described in in the Purdue OWL at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/  and following the sample APA Annotation at  https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/03/  Abstracts should be of articles you have actually read and in your own words.  Copying an abstract from a database or article is plagiarism and will result in an F for the course. 

Upon approval of your proposal, graduate students will produce a 10-12 page paper suitable for presentation at a regional or national communication convention and undergraduate students will produce a 7-10 page paper suitable for presentation at an undergraduate research conference. Until your proposal is approved, your paper won't be accepted.

Your paper:

For undergraduates and graduate students choosing option A, should begin with a paragraph or two in which you introduce the question you are considering and its particular relevance to you, identifying the articles you are analyzing.

For graduate students choosing option B, your introduction will identify your question, and the group you choose.

In all papers, your introduction should also have a thesis statement in which you provide a one-sentence summary of the argument you will make in the paper. The body of your paper will consider the questions in the paragraph marked “Undergraduates,” “OPTION A,” or “OPTION B” above. Of course, you will conclude with a paragraph that summarizes and gracefully ends the essay.

The best papers will also be grammatically correct, free of spelling and punctuation errors, and will follow APA style (5th ed., 2001 or 6th ed., 2009).  The Purdue OWL's APA Formatting and Style Guide is available at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

All of your work for this project should be typed (double spaced, margins of 1" all around, font no larger than 12). It should also be stapled. Be sure and keep a copy of all your work for this project.

Hints for success for this paper

• Make sure you do everything called for in the directions. 
 Start now, take your time, and use the services of the Writing Center if you need to. 
• You are invited to show me a draft or discuss potential paper topics in office hours or by appointment.


To make the best use of EBSCOhost, I suggest searching as follows:

• Under “Choose Databases,” first choose just Communication and Mass Media Complete.  If you aren't finding adequate results, later add Academic Search Premier and  Business Source Premier
• Under “Limit Your Results,” choose “Academic Journals” from the Publication Type drop-down menu, “Article” from the Document Type drop-down menu, and check the “Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals” box.


Remember, you are looking for scholarly articles. The Helmke Library Document Is Your Journal Scholarly?  will help.

Of course, use IUCAT to determine whether Helmke Library owns a periodical

To determine whether full text for a given periodical is available online, go to the E-Journal Finder on the main Helmke Library web page

Denise Buhr is the subject librarian at Helmke Library assigned to the Communication Department.  You will find her helpful if you run into challenges doing your research. To make an appointment, e-mail her at buhrd "at" ipfw.edu or phone her at 481-5759

Presentation

You will make a brief (3-4 minute) informal presentation of your research on Tuesday, April 24.  No PowerPoint or other visual aids are allowed unless arranged at least one week in advance with the instructor.

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Last Updated: 15 January 2018
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