COMM 700: Research Methods in Communication
(Ross Collins, instructor)
Final assignment: prospectus preparation and presentation.

The Prospectus
A rough draft of your prospectus is not required, but if you would like me to comment on it before you submit the final prospectus for grading, I’ll need it about a week before the final version is due.

Your prospectus needs to include:
1. An abstract of about 150 words, similar to what we've been doing in class.

2. An introduction, including background and significance of research project. A page and a half or so.

3. Literature review. This will be the majority of your prospectus. For our class you need to include about 20 academic/scholarly sources. Popular press and most web pages don’t count, as they usually don’t include research-based studies. Your literature review needs to explain what other researchers have done on your topic, or your general topic area, and how your proposed research fits into this. Write it as if it were a conversation between researchers on your topic. Usually you present the review chronologically, bringing readers to the most recent work. And at the end--that's an opportunity for you to add to the conversation, critiquing and evaluating, and proposing your research.

What you don't want to write is a "book review" format: Researcher A said this. Researcher B said this. You need to make connections between researchers, try to demonstrate the "spiral nature" of research in your area. Also, avoid presenting research as if you're presenting a report, such as,

Irving Nern, in his article 1999 entitled, "Communication and the Red River Valley flood of 1997," states that several media sources were surveyed regarding the flood. His method consisted of setting up a survey and....

Instead, keep the references in APA style, and indicate results:

Media communication during a natural disaster such as a flood is based on need of local media to attract advertising while still providing community service (Nern, 1999).

4. Research Question or Hypothesis. No more than one or two paragraphs.

5. Definition of key terms. Definitions should come from the literature, not from Webster's. Operationalize definitions, if necessary.

6 . Research method you plan to use. Try to be as specific as you can; this is what a thesis committee will be most interested in. If you’re doing a survey, describe how and where you plan to distribute it, sample questions, etc. If you’re doing an experiment, describe specifically how you plan to set it up. In all cases (except history, rhetorical criticism and most ethnography) describe how you plan to maintain reliability and validity. It's best to adapt an "instrument" (survey form, etc.) from one you've found in the literature, if possible.

7. Limitations and delimitations, or scope. A couple paragraphs or so.

8. Conclusion.You will not include results, of course, as you don’t have that yet. A few sum-up paragraphs helps remind us of your plan.

9. Bibliography/Works Cited.
NOTE: In this department, all references and style must adhere to APA guidelines. If you don’t have the APA Publication Manual, borrow one, or check out thison-line guide.

Your final prospectus must be well-edited and polished, not just a draft. A thesis committee expects you to do your best. If you’re not a good editor of your own work, as many of us are not, show your prospectus to other graduate students for comment and proofreading.

The Presentation
We’ll spend the last two class periods doing "mock" oral presentations of the prospectus, as if you were presenting in front of a thesis committee. These are generally fairly formal affairs; smart dress is expected. Although not required, a suit or equivalent is not too formal (even if your committee members dress sloppily!). You need to plan to speak about 10-15 minutes concerning your topic: an introduction, some comments about your literature, research question, research method, limitations, and concluding comments. You may wish to add to comments in the prospectus, or simply reiterate key points. The presentation is best done standing behind a lectern. You may use visual aids if you wish. Try not to read your prospectus, but rewrite for an audience.

Your “committee” in this case is the rest of the class, enhanced by communication faculty and others who will be invited to participate. They will (I hope) ask you questions, often focusing on methodology.

To make this more of a festive occasion (celebrating the end of a substantial piece of work, after all), you may wish to bring snacks or drinks for the group. Often graduate students will bring a light snack to an actual prospectus committee meeting, although that’s certainly not required.