Research Paper Proposal
(http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/writ-pap.htm ) before you begin brainstorming about topics or writing your paper. Your final product will be judged on how well you succeed in producing a well though out, clear paper which shows you can interpret and intelligently discuss the issue and how well you can backup your findings with evidence. If you can't find sufficient sources you may have to rethink your subject. If you are taking a course in your major this semester, you can research a topic for that course (with my permission and the other professor's.) See me about the submission form.
Science and technology rapidly advances; therefore, "old "stuff," other than as background information, can be misleading and lead to wrong conclusions. Look for possible topics and background information in specialized encyclopedias, such as McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Magill's Survey of Science: Life Science Series, Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine. Encyclopedias should not be your main sources, but can give you good background information and clarify concepts.
Approach: Your paper does not have a chance to be substantive unless you have substantive sources. Out of the 15 possible sources you found for your proposal, you should end up with 7 to 10 VARIED (NOT all Internet sites, for example) sources - including professional journal articles and professional publications, Internet sources, and possibly (but not required) an interview. It is a balancing act to find sources that you can understand - that relate to your level of study in your discipline, and, at the same time, challenge you intellectually. Be prepared at all times to show me the hard copies of your sources. Keep good notes. Be sure you have records on the title of the article, the title of the journal, the author/s names, date of publication, page numbers and other information required on your reference page and in your in-text citation, plus the key points from the source. Identify whether you are paraphrasing or quoting.]
Below is the format for your Research Paper Proposal. I must approve your topic and sources. I will not accept any papers that have major changes in topic or sources without my prior approval. Your paper must be your original work, fitting the guidelines in your research paper assignment. Please - no papers on global warming or marijuana. Those have been done ad nauseum and will only bore me to death.
Review the Honor Code and Plagiarism Guidelines (http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/plagiarism.htm). Fortunately, most students do their own work. For anyone tempted to pass off someone else's work as his or her own, I am a sophisticated user of the Internet and can easily spot papers gotten from paper mills, Internet or otherwise. Please do not jeopardize your college career or your grade in this class by using papers that are not written by you.]
[ The information between the brackets [ ] is to guide you. Here is a proposal template(http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/prop-res-template) without the explanations. You can save it as an html file and/or text file and insert your text.
To: Professor Virginia Montecino
From: [name and email address]
Subject of my paper: [The subject is the broad topic]
My Major and why writing about this topic will be beneficial to me: [If you are not vested in your topic, chances are your incentive to write about the subject will be weak. If you are interested in the topic you will probably write a better paper.]
My thesis: [The thesisis generally a sentence or two, which comes after the introductory material and states the main point/s in your paper. It is NOT a question. If your subject is fertility treatments, for example, your thesis might be "The high number of multiple births is forcing society to examine the ethical issues that are caused by fertility drugs and invitro fertilization. ]
Approach to the subject of my paper: [Try toenvision a logical way in which to present your material. In what order will you present your material to best address the issues? Will you have to define any terms? If so, which ones? Will you have to clarify terms and concepts? Do you think that inserting anecdotal evidence, for example, high profile stories of people who have had multiple births, as in the case above, will help your reader understand your paper? Will you show opposing viewpoints? Will you discuss the plusses and minuses of different platforms that perform similar functions? Will you be comparing and contrasting? Will you be categorizing some information? Perhaps you will be using a number of these approaches in your paper. Let me know where you think you are headed.]
Intended audience: [Your readers should not be specialists in your field. Assume that your readers have, in general, your level of education, but are not necessarily majoring in the same subject. You will have to define terms and explain concepts. But beyond these obvious ground rules, discuss what people or group of people might benefit from reading your paper. For example, in the multiple birth example, might prospective users of fertility clinics, childless husbands and wives, benefit from the information in your paper? ]
Graphs or charts: [Graphs and charts will not impress me unless they truly help the reader better understand some aspect of your paper. Be sure to document charts and graphs from other sources. Charts and/or graphs should not stand alone. They should compliment textual descriptions. Refer to the chart or graph in the text where you discuss the information. Charts, graphs or other appendices do not count toward the 5 to 7 pages of required text.]
Documentation Style: [APA is preferred, but if you want to use another scientific style, such as CBE, or Number, Date style, you must ask for approval. See on-line style guides at http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/stylgui.htm.]
Kinds of sources I will use and why they will benefit my paper: [ Do you have a balanced variety of sources? What strengths will they lend to the paper? How will they help clarify points you want to make?Use a combination of sources. Do not use all Internet sources. Some of your sources must be from a professional journal in your field, such as a nursing journal, a computer science or engineering journal, such as IEEE Spectrum. Some high end general audience publications such as Scientific American, or PC Computing can be used. Internet sources can be used if they are from credible sites such as the National Institute of Health, The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). See a list of Internet resources by discipline (http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/disciplines.htm) and do your own searches for other resources.]
Tentative List of References: [You should have at least Fifteen (15) separate sources listed in the proper APA format. This information should be on a separate page called References. Abide by all of the APA format guidelines for the reference page. The sources should be varied - not all Internet sources, for example - and be appropriate for a college level research paper. Peoplemagazine, Readers Digest, and others of that ilk are not satisfactory. Show me that you know how to find and can analyze data from sources within your discipline. Your final reference page in the Research Paper should have a minimum of 7 to 10 sources, each of which must be used as a source in your paper. Do not put any sources in your references that you have not used in your paper. It is possible for some of your sources to change as you become more deeply involved in writing your paper. Advise me of changes in references. ]
Virginia Montecino| firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most common points of confusion among undergraduates and new graduate students is how to contact professors to serve as potential faculty advisors. This can be a minefield. I have been on the receiving end of many emails from hapless students who clearly had no guidance, and whose communication with me ended up appearing flippant and rude.
Here is that sort of email:
“Dear Professor Kelsky, I am a student at XXX College and I’m thinking about graduate school/doing research on xxx and I’m getting in touch to ask if you can give me any advice or direction about that. Sincerely, student X”
This is an instant-delete email.
Here is what an email to a professor should look like:
“Dear Professor XXX,
I am a student at XXX College with a major in xxx. I am a junior and will be graduating next May. I have a 4.0 GPA and experience in our college’s summer program in xxx.
I am planning to attend graduate school in xxx, with a focus on xxx. In one of my classes, “xxx,” which was taught by Professor XXX, I had the chance to read your article, “xxxx.” I really enjoyed it, and it gave me many ideas for my future research. I have been exploring graduate programs where I can work on this topic.
I hope you don’t mind my getting in touch, but I’d like to inquire whether you are currently accepting graduate students. And if you are, if you’d be willing to talk to me a bit more, by email or on the phone, or in person if I can arrange a campus visit, about my graduate school plans. I have explored your department’s graduate school website in detail, and it seems like an excellent fit for me because of its emphasis on xx and xx, but I still have a few specific questions about xx and xxx that I’d like to talk to you about.
I know you’re very busy so I appreciate any time you can give me. Thanks very much,
Why is this email good? Because it shows that you are serious and well qualified. It shows that you have done thorough research and utilized all the freely available information on the website. It shows that you have specific plans which have yielded specific questions. It shows that you are familiar with the professor’s work. It shows that you respect the professor’s time.
All of these attributes will make your email and your name stand out, and exponentially increase your chances of getting a timely, thorough, and friendly response, and potentially building the kind of relationship that leads to a strong mentoring relationship.
If the professor doesn’t respond in a week or so, send a follow up email gently reminding them of your initial email, and asking again for their response. If they ignore you again, best to probably give up. But professors are busy and distracted, and it may take a little extra effort to get through.