The Final Essay Project
The final essay project for the seminar combines the well-established format of the research paper with the affordances of Web media. The final essay can be the key learning project in a graduate course, enabling you to synthesize concepts, methods, and approaches in your own way, and the essay will be used to evaluate how you can work with the major topics and concepts of the seminar.
You will follow the argumentative essay structure for presenting your argument and hypotheses with the evidence, examples, research data, and cases that you can interpret and analyze to support your points and overall thesis. (Disciplines and sciences vary in the specifics of expected form, but follow the same expectations for argument and interpretation.) Unlike using a flat text, however, you will also be able to support your argument and ideas with “rich media” content for references, links, and embedded media (images, graphics, video, music).
What you are NOT Doing: You are not writing a “blog post” or a Wiki article.
(WordPress is our content platform, but we’re not using it as a blog.)
What You are Doing in the Final Essay
Like all research papers, your essay must be motivated by a research question or thesis with your own argument and interpretive framework supported by evidence, examples, cases and/or research data.
Motivation: It’s always good to begin with a motive to figure something out, go deeper into the research, problems, questions, and interpretive frameworks for a topic that we began exploring in the seminar.
Using the approaches, theories, and methods in the seminar, develop a topic for an extended essay with examples or cases to interpret or apply your ideas. Your essay should present evidence and argument that draws on the research literature(s) of the relevant fields. Interdisciplinary work requires a statement of methods being used and combined.
In developing your thinking as a graduate student, it’s especially important to work out your own synthesis of theories, methods, approaches, and concepts that allow you to make discoveries and connect your work to the larger conversation and the ongoing questions that define the research communities you are participating in.
Your essay should be about the equivalent of about 15 pages of traditional writing, and with a fully developed set of references and links to relevant sources. Be as creative as possible with the Web environment of your essay.
Required Structure for Presenting Your Argument
For the structure of your argument in a professional research essay (in any format), refer to my Writing to be Read: A Rhetoric For Writing in the Post-Digital Era. Follow the guidelines there for a successful structure to the presentation of your argument and research. This is the main required structure:
- Abstract: Most journal articles in all fields now require an abstract for a summary view of main points and findings. It’s good practice to get into the habit of writing an abstract for every paper. (Writing the abstract comes toward the end of the research and writing process for a project, and will help clarify your thinking and tighten up the written presentation.)
In 5-6 sentences, state your (1) your research question in a brief context of the field(s) you are working in; (2) your main point(s) or hypothesis, (3) key concepts, methods, and/or approaches you use; (4) the evidence, examples, and/or research data you will interpret.
- Introduction: establishing your topic and approach, stating your research question, and your main thesis [what the essay is about]. It’s good practice to summarize your main sources and methods that provide the framework for your thesis. Your thesis is a summary of your conclusion.
- Main body of the essay: paragraphs organized to support your argument with analysis, interpretation of cases, examples and/or evidence.
- Conclusion: wrap up your main point and significance of your work, how it connects to questions in the field you are working in.
- List of Web sources and links (you can combine with the whole bibliography if preferred)
- Bibliography, References, or Works Cited/Consulted List: all the relevant materials you have considered or want to reference to support your essay in a standard citation style (see below).
References and Citations
Use Zotero for collecting and formatting your references. Choose the “Bibliography” or “Notes” style that you are familiar with for your discipline(s) when you select a bibliography format (under “Edit/Preferences”). You can also use a generic full-content citation style like “Chicago Manual,” used by many publishers. (If you haven’t already, download the free software from Zotero.org; instructions on the GU Library “Citation Tools” page: Go to the Zotero tab.)
At the end of your essay, use a Bibliography or Works Cited / Works Consulted list in your chosen citation style. Document all sources, references, and relevant background on your topic. Your reference “bibliography” can include any relevant form of media that supports your argument. (Use embedded media only to support your argument or as key examples in your research, not as embellishments.)
Like all research papers, you must use research sources that would be recognized in the field(s) that you are in conversation with. This means, you cannot cite or quote Wikipedia articles or a non-specialist’s personal blog as references. (Wikipedia may be useful for basic fact checking, but it is not a primary source for research — unless, of course, Wikipedia is the topic.)
Citation Style/Format: Use the documentation format of either the humanities or social sciences (from Zotero). Refer to the following online guides for a quick summary of citation styles:
- Georgetown University Library Citation Guides [Go to tab: Citation Guides]
Note: Essays that do not follow a professional citation format will be down-graded.
Create the “Post” for Your Final Essay Project
To set up your essay, simply create a new “post” and choose the “Final Project” Category for your final project. Read other students’ essays from earlier semesters for good models: the essays that stand out will be those with a good structure to the argument and good use of research material and sources. You may also find references that you can use in your own research.
Using and Maintaining Your Essay After You Finish the Course
Your essay and the fixed URL for your page will remain available for reference, for linking (blogs, social media), and for job or academic applications in the future. You will be able to update and revise your essay for as long as you have access to the Georgetown Digital Commons with your GU NetID and password.