Collaborative Research Project

English 213: Collaborative Research Project

(Worth 15% of your grade; due on October 28 November 4)


Over the past 20 years, computers have become ubiquitous on American college campuses. The presence of computers in academic environments has significantly altered the way we study and the way we learn: Library card catalogs have been entirely digitized, class lecture notes are now posted online for students to download, many tests are administered and graded electronically rather than on paper, students interact with their professors via email rather than during scheduled office hours, and on and on…

Working in groups of four, your task for the Collaborative Research Project is to explore some aspect of educational computing using both original research and secondary sources, then compile your findings into a 6-8 page paper (roughly 1500–2000 words) written for an audience of your peers (i.e., Iowa State University students).

Completing the Assignment

Once you have been placed into groups, you should complete the following steps:

1. Select a Topic. Your group’s first task is to develop a research question related to the use of computers in academic environments. The question should be one that you can feasibly answer by surveying your peers, interviewing students and/or professors, and searching academic and popular-press articles related to your topic. Your research question might evolve as you conduct your research, but you should have a firm idea in place before you design your research instrument. Good research questions are specific and measurable. Hence, the research question “Do computers help us learn?” would be ineffective, since it is incredibly broad and difficult to measure. On the other hand, the research question “Do ISU students use their laptops for nonacademic purposes in class?” would be effective, since it identifies a group to be studied (ISU students who own laptops and take them to class) and poses a question that could be answered using a survey, open-ended interviews, classroom observation, etc.

2. Conduct Original Research. Once you have settled on a research question and Quinn has approved it, you are ready to develop your research methods. Your methods should include a research instrument and a specific plan for gathering data. We will discuss these topics in detail in class, but in short, your group needs to decide how you will answer your research question. Who will you talk to? (Your classmates? Your roommates? Your professors?) What kinds of questions will you pose? (Yes/No, Multiple choice, Open-ended) How will you collect responses? (Face-to-face? Email? Paper survey?)

When you have developed your research methods and Quinn has approved them, you can begin conducting your research. Before you begin gathering data, your group should carefully consider how you will collect, sort, and make sense of the data. WARNING: Poor planning at the early stages of your data collection may yield unusable data.

3. Conduct Library Research. During the next few weeks in class, we will be reading about and discussing some of the broad implications of increased computer use in our culture, and you should use these readings to inform your thinking about increased computer use in academic environments. However, the readings we complete in class may be only tangentially related to your research question, so you will need to seek out additional published sources on your topic. Depending on the specificity of your research question, it may be difficult to find published research in academic journals, but at minimum, you should be able to locate opinion pieces and popular-press articles on your topic.

4. Write the Paper. Your essay should combine your original research and the outside sources you have found into an engaging and informative research essay. Your essay should briefly describe your research methods and present the data you collected. It should then discuss the broader implications of your findings. Throughout the essay, your original research should be bolstered by outside sources. (At minimum, your essay should cite five sources, using MLA, APA, or another commonly acknowledged citation format.) Your audience for the essay is your fellow students at ISU. As such, your essay may address your audience directly, but it should maintain its academic stance—remember, this is a research paper, not an opinion piece in the Iowa State Daily.

Submitting the Assignment

When you are finished with the essay, save your document as “Group Number Collaborative Project.doc” (e.g., “Group 4 Collaborative Project.doc”). Put that file into a folder with all of your group’s research materials (drafts, notes, etc.) and “zip” the folder. Each member of the group should upload a copy of the zipped file to the course website before class on October 28th. In addition, please bring one printed copy of your group’s essay to class that day. As always, if you have any questions about the specific parameters of this assignment, please contact me before the due date, either via email or during my office hours.

Evaluation Criteria

In most instances, all members of your group will receive the same grade for this assignment. However, I reserve the right to penalize (or reward) individual members of your group based on your peers’ feedback on the Group Evaluation Forms, which you should download from the class website and submit to me on the day the project is due.

Your essay will be evaluated based on how well it:

  • addresses an important issue related to the use of computers in academic settings.
  • demonstrates significant original research and presents the findings of that research.
  • synthesizes information from other published sources.
  • follows a logical organizational pattern.
  • makes a sustained argument that is relevant to the audience in question (ISU students).
  • accurately and appropriately cites research subjects and published sources.
  • adheres to the conventions of standard written English (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.).