The last section of Ch. 1 in the Soomo Webtext is a worksheet to guide you in selecting your research topic and gaining approval from your instructor. This is the first of seven scaffold steps related to your course research. You must complete this worksheet, download it from the Webtext, polish up the Word document, and submit it to your instructor via the Journal Tool by Thursday of Module 1. This timing will enable your instructor to review your proposal and provide the feedback necessary to achieve topic approval, so that you can proceed to developing your Research Proposal (Scaffold Step #2) in Module 2.
Model Filled Worksheet
Note that a significant element of the Topic Proposal Worksheet is the identification and initial reading of five relevant articles that you believe will be useful in your capstone research. An important aspect of critical thinking is the ability to read and analyze academic or professional prose in general—not just in your chosen field of study—and extract certain core information and impressions from it. To help you complete this exercise, we have another Joe Student episode, in which he narrows his area of interest to a research-worthy topic, and we have provided an example of a filled-out worksheet. If you need a refresher on dealing with scholarly sources, check out Excelsior College resources on the difference between scholarly and popular articles and learn more about peer reviewed articles.
Get started: I started by thinking about Environmental Studies—that’s one of my Depths. Pollution is a serious problem that can affect all of us, so that seemed a good place to start. I logged into the Excelsior Library from the link in the left-side course menu. I typed “pollution global issues” in the search box, and checked the “Limit to Peer Reviewed Journals” option. That search gave me 264,193 results. Way too much!
Refine search efforts: I had to narrow my focus or else I’d wind up writing the academic version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Ever read that? My paperback copy has 1,296 pages.) My instructor suggested I use the “Refine Results” option in the search engine to narrow my search by time frame, language, and even subject. I limited my search to the past 20 years and then browsed the subject list and checked the topics that looked most interesting to me. I chose “water pollution” from the subject list because there’s a lot of research on that topic. That narrowed my results to 2,587 articles—still way too many.
Think globally: I played around and chose different subjects (another suggestion from my instructor) and started to see themes appear in my result list. That got me thinking about environmental policies, social responsibility, and the way water is used and misused on this planet. My initial research indicated that our freshwater aquifers are being damaged or depleted by pollutants. And I found lot of articles with an international focus. Good stuff!
Next step: I’ll skim the abstracts and find articles I can use in my topic worksheet (Scaffold Step #1) and my research proposal (Scaffold Step #2). I need to present a broad overview of water pollution as a global problem, so I’ll try to read with that goal in mind.
I’m going to read a lot more than I’ll probably use for either of those two assignments. But it won’t be wasted time, because I need to have a solid understanding of the current research and practices so I can write my literature review. And since that’s the foundation for my capstone research, that means I need to read a lot and think critically about what I’m reading so I can prove I know what I’m talking about!
*Water is used as a sample theme throughout the capstone and cannot be used by any student.
Download your completed worksheet from the Soomo Webtext and open it in a word processor. Create a title with your name, date, course information, and “Scaffold Step 1: [insert tentative title for your final research]” clearly noted. Proofread carefully and correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
When you are ready to submit the final version of your worksheet, save the file in MS Word format (.doc or .docx) with your name and SS1_Final in the filename (i.e., Holmes_SS1_Final.docx). Submit that file to your instructor through the Journal Tool. To submit your file in Blackboard while in the Journal Tool, click on “Create Journal Entry,” then click “Browse My Computer” and find your file. Once you have located your file, click “Open” and, if you are successful, the file name will appear under the Attached files heading. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Submit.
Your work will be evaluated by faculty to assess your readiness for the capstone and ensure that your topic is appropriate. Your instructor will communicate with you through the Journal Tool as necessary to hone your topic and achieve approval to proceed. You will not be able to complete the research proposal in Module 2 until you have topic approval as indicated by a “Y” in the gradebook column for this assignment.