For your first project, you will be developing a research report. Writing this report, which will be done in Microsoft Word, is designed to develop both your skills in using that application and techniques for doing research and writing clear expository prose.
You will learn and practice many features of Word, including formatting, margins, headers and footers, paragraphs, and font styles. In addition, you will generate illustrative charts, use bullet or numeric lists, and create tables to insert in your report. You will also get practice in the techniques of research such a keeping a research log, qualifying your sources, and proper citation of them.
The report will be 3–5 pages, and will take approximately two weeks to complete. You will have time in class to work on the research and writing. There will be a series of assignments during the project that help you with aspects of the project in a systematic way. These include research notes, a report outline, report drafts, proofs, and final versions.
The topic we are going to investigate is an important one for digital culture today: cloud computing. This short video gives a nice explanation of the concept of cloud computing: “Cloud Computing in Plain English.” (Select that title from the list to watch it.)
Here are some of the research questions you will be answering in your paper:
- What is cloud computing?
- How does it work?
- Why is it important?
- Where is it used?
Keep in mind that the audience for your paper is someone who is not an expert in technology–someone interested in the topic but who does not understand it yet. This will be important as you begin your research, because you will have to find appropriate material.
To begin your research and start answering the above questions, the first step is to create a research log.
The research log serves as a folder or notebook in which you collect good research material that you may be able to use later. The log needs to be annotated (i.e., a note added to each citation or URL) to mark what you found at each source and whether or not it was valuable.
The log is your means of documenting your trail through the research process. Without it, you could easily lose track of what sources you’ve already consulted. To avoid duplication of time and effort, keep track of all the books, magazines, and other print journals you’ve consulted. The most important documentation, though, will be the list of websites you’ve visited so far, because it’s clearly there that it’s easiest to lose your bearings.
Copy each URL, the date you accessed it, and whether or not it was useful. (Because of the changing nature of the web, citations of websites must include the date.)
You may want to organize the material in your log by date, by usefulness (a “yes” list and a “no” list), or by topic/key word. Use whatever method helps you retrieve the information you need and want for your report.
You should also note any memorable quotations (if you find any), key concepts that you might paraphrase, any complex information you might need to summarize, and any data you can use to present graphically.
Create your research log in a Word document. You can use this template and add rows as necessary. Feel free to modify the format if you find something that works better for you.
Here is a sample research log for another project. But note that this one does NOT have a column for notes (the annotations) that yours will need.