Controversy: War Memorials (read prompt instruction)

This project will explore and develop research skills and your ethos as a researcher. You will pick a topic and compose a research question or questions about that topic. Then you will use the “I-Search” method to work through the process of composing a reflective research narrative. The I-Search is a process of researching a question, but also refers to a particular form of writing–a genre–that is based in questions, rather than answers, and that centers on a narrative of research. It is a project where you search for information rather than only reporting what other writers have researched before you. The outcome of the I-Search project may be an answer to your initial research question, an understanding of how to best research this kind of question, an evaluation of sources for a future research project, or even a refined sense of the argument you might pursue in the next project.

Assignment Prompt

Consider the ideas about the difficulty of making meaning from tragedy and war through memorialization discussed in the articles by Doss, Loewen, Russell and Choi. Identify and observe (either in person or online) a specific memorial that engages with tragedy or war. Research both the history of the tragedy/war and the art piece, exploring why and how the memorial came to be. Draft a paper in which you analyze and evaluate the literal and symbolic meanings of the memorial in relation to the conflicting narratives of, and motivations for, memorialization.

What aspects of tragedy or war are emphasized, and why? To what effects? Some questions you might want to consider: Drawing on Russell’s text, how would you classify this memorial? Why did the artist/organization choose to place the work in this location? Is the work achieving the stated goals of the artist/organization? What impact (if any) does the artwork have on the urban environment? How does this piece of public art contribute to a cultural mythos or aim to shape cultural memory? Is the memorial achieving the stated goals? Does it evoke what Doss calls the “public feeling” around the event or the person being memorialized? Drawing on Choi, does the memorial promote official “myths,” or does it raise questions?

How do I begin?

To start, consider what issue you would like to explore.
Assess the knowledge you have about this topic and the knowledge you need, and brainstorm a list of questions.
Group related questions together, and spend some time brainstorming any other related questions. These research questions will guide your inquiry: the reading, research, and writing you do for the paper.

When you’re thinking about whether or not your I-Search question will “work,” ask yourself the following questions:

Is it written as a question or set of questions, instead of a statement?
Do I need to clarify any terms to make my research question understandable to my audience?
Am I personally invested in exploring this question? Why or how will exploring this question help me? Can I articulate my motivation for asking this question?
Is my question something I can research using secondary sources? Can it be answered too easily, or do I need a diverse set of sources to understand the answer?
Is my question specific or concrete enough to explore in 1500-2000 words? Or is it too broad or too narrow?

What does the paper “look” like?

The I-search paper is a narrative of sorts, describing your search for answers to your research questions. In this paper, you will use first person (“I”) every now and then, and will think about what vocabulary, style, and tone work best to support your development of the topic.

Ken Macrorie, in his book I-Search lists four parts of the paper (What I Knew, Why I’m Writing This Paper, The Search, and What I Learned), though, as he notes, this is flexible:



The introduction (What I Knew and Why I’m Writing the Paper)
In the introduction you will explain three things:
Your research question
What you know or think you know about the topic
Your motivation for finding the answers to your question(s)
The introduction may be more than one paragraph long, depending on how much prior knowledge you have. Decide in which order the content is best presented.

Part 2: The body of the paper (The Search)
The body of the essay is the narrative of your search for answers and your reflection on this research process.
In the beginning of the project, we will learn about the tools available to you through the library database. You will explore these library tools as you engage in library-based research on your topic.
There are two ways students generally plan the research process:
You might begin with the source that is “closest” to you, the one that is easiest to access. Write about what you find there to answer your question and what seems like an intuitive next step for research. Then move on to that next source, and continue to follow the research path.
Or, you might have a more concrete research plan in place when you begin. For example, you might plan to look at scholarly articles from three particular journals to answer your question, or you might plan to find the answers to your sub-questions in a certain order.
You will find at least three relevant secondary sources to learn more about your topic. For each source you write about in the body of the essay, you should do the following:
Explain how you found that source: What search tools did you use? How did you navigate them?
Summarize the information you find in that source as it relates to your question.
Reflect on how that source helps you answer your question and/or how it helps you build on the knowledge you’ve found in other sources.
Your narration of the search process and your reflection on and analysis of sources will help you build transitions between your discussion of the sources you discover.

Part 3: The conclusion (What I Learned)
The conclusion of the paper is different than the traditional conclusion you may be used to in academic writing. While you may be able to summarize what you’ve learned, it’s also just as likely that you will be left with more questions, or will have gone down an unsatisfying research path. This is also worth writing about, as you are nevertheless learning about the research process, and can always carry your inquiry forth in a future project. Your conclusion should include three things:
An explanation/summary of what you learned through research about possible answers to your research question.
An explanation/summary of what you learned about research and/or writing through examining this question and using the research methods you used.
A claim about your conclusions in a nutshell; that is, state what you learned through this project (your research process, writing process and topic) in one sentence (“After finishing this project, I hypothesize/claim/understand/argue that….”)

Minimum Requirements

Length: 1500-2000 words long
Research: At least three relevant scholarly secondary sources
Format: MLA format

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