Tag Archives: research

Evaluations and Proposals


Building Evaluations

What we have to work with:

  • Criteria for Evaluations–Practical, Aesthetic, Ethical
  • Templates for constructing an argument
    • e.g. “X is (not) a good Y because it (fails to) meet(s) criteria P, A, E.”
  • Evaluation arguments are focused on judgments (this is how you should feel about something).  Evaluations focus on whether or not a particular thing “is” problematic (or good or bad) and often what positive or negative consequences occur from this phenomena.  two-thumbs-up
  • Evaluation arguments usually proceed through a strategy of matching components of the evaluated item to specific criteria.  Typically, we put evaluative critieria into one of three categories:
    • Ethical–“right or wrong” “moral” “proper”
    • Aesthetic–“appealing to the senses” “artistic” “captures the spirit”
    • Practical–“beneficial” “economical” “realistic”
  • Evaluation Arguments must be made using practical, ethical or aesthetic criteria.  In other words, it follows the structure “X is (not) a good Y because it (fails to) meet(s) criteria A, E, P.” Otherwise, it’s simply a statement of your opinion with no sound reasoning behind it such as…

Kanye West, Taylor Swift


  • Pick an item to be evaluated
  • Find out the stakes involved in the claim (is this evaluation controversial and/or interesting to others? Who would be opposed to this evaluation and why?)
  • Develop criteria for evaluating that item (what makes it good or bad? which are most important? which are obvious and which ones do you have to argue for? Which are most likely to impact your audience?)


Google Maps is the best mapping program because it is easy to use, it is accurate, and it provides entertaining and educational features such as Google Earth.


astronautRecently, NASA decided to end the space shuttle program.  However, NASA will continue to send humans into space and are researching new vehicles for the purpose.  Since the beginning of the space program, the issue  of whether or not manned space flight is a necessary risk has been a guiding question for NASA as well as its detractors. How can we evaluate whether or not this is a good policy?

  • Practical:
    • Space travel enhances scientific knowledge and many technological benefits have resulted from the research done in this objective. (Pro)
    • We can more cheaply send robots instead of humans. (Con)
  • Aesthetic
    • Space travel is essential to the way we understand ourselves as humans; mtv-moon-astronaut-moonman-flag-300x192US astronauts in space is an indelible American cultural image; popular culture (e.g. MTV) has adopted space pioneers as heroes. (Pro)
    • The very public loss of life due to space disasters can be harmful to our national psyche. (Con)
  • Ethical:
    • Much of space exploration undertaken benefits, directly, human life on earth. (Pro)
    • The huge expenditure required for human space travel would be better used elsewhere.  Human life is endangered by space travel. (Con)

 Weighting Criteria:

Often, as in the space travel example above, there will be both positive and negative conclusions based on your criteria.  After all, if there were *only* good or *only* bad consequences from an action, we probably wouldn’t have to bother doing a formal evaluation.  Therefore, we need to analyze both sides of any topic.


Once you have evaluated a situation or problem and discussed the ramification of the issue for stakeholders, you are ready to move on and propose a solution.


Much like evaluations, proposals are created based on specific criteria and follow a basic structure responding to your claim that “We should (should not) do X.” Proposals are typically arranged in a three part structure:

1. Convincing the audience that a problem exists

e.g. “Economic decline has demoralized the residents of Detroit.”

2. Showing the particulars of your proposal (your solution to the problem)

e.g. “Therefore, we should build a statue of RoboCop…”


3. Justifying why your proposal should be enacted (that your proposal is feasible and will have positive outcomes).

e.g. “…which can be financed by private donations.  This should be done because it will spur tourist interest in the city as well as honor Detroit’s emerging role in film culture.”




Is the real challenge convincing your audience that a problem exists or is it convincing them of a viable solution to a problem they already know exists?

  • Prioritizing the Problem: Depending on the particulars of your topic, one or more of these items may be prioritized over the others. For instance, if you are proposing a fairly straightforward change that requires little detail – say, convincing an audience to ban stem cell research – you might spend the majority of its times on item one (convincing the audience that stem cell research is a problem), with items two (it should be banned entirely in the US) and three (negative consequences if the ban is not enacted) relegated to the final few paragraphs.
  • Prioritizing the Solution: Conversely, often your proposal might be addressing what the majority (if not all) of your audience will agree is a problem; in this case, the challenge is providing a viable solution (if the finding the solution is not a problem, presumably the problem would have already been solved). For instance, most WSU students would agree that parking on campus is a problem; however, providing a feasible solution to this problem is difficult.

The Outline:

  1. Introduction with a nice hook enticing the reader.   Introduction should state:
    1. If you choose to write to a specific audience, say, legislature, you must state the nature of the audience
    2. Issue/problem at hand
    3. Your thesis as the form of a proposal responding to that issue. “We should (not) do X.”
  2. The Stakes–Convincing the audience a problem exists.  In this section, you will evaluate the issue.
    1. What is the problem? Use Practical, Ethical, or Aesthetic criteria to describe the issue
      1. What are the negative consequences?
      2. What is the extent of the problem?
      3. Define any terms that arise which may be controversial.
    2. Who are the stakeholders? Who is affected? Who stands to be affected next?
    3. Is there an end/relief in sight?
  3. The particulars of your proposal.  In this section, you may have to define terms or concepts with which your audience may not be familiar.  All aspects of your proposal needs to be discussed in detail and may include the following:
    1. What is required to enact your proposal? (a new law, money, willingness to change, etc.)
    2. Feasibility of your solution.  Much like Practical Criteria of Evaluations
    3. Positive benefits of your solution discussed using Practical, Ethical, or Aesthetic criteria
  4. Justification of your solution.  Any one or all of the following may apply.  Your task is to discuss them and show why your proposal is superior.
    1. Counterarguments may arise as to whether or not your issue is even a problem.
    2. Your solution may be controversial to enact.
    3. It may have unintended negative effects.
    4. Alternative solutions may have been suggested.
  5. Conclusion.  Like all good conclusions, wrap up the paper.  Restate (not word-for-word) the issue and proposal. Make a final push to persuade.

Homework: Read your research. Begin drafting sections of the essay.  Rough Draft in class by Tuesday, November 13.

Write: On your blogs, please post by Thursday, 11/6, a response (of no more than 300 words) to the following:

How do you view yourself as a researcher? How has this changed over the semester?  What do you view as your role within your group? How is this beneficial to the group as a whole? How have your experiences with collaborative writing in this class differ from other experiences you may have had working with a group?

1020 Session Fifteen: Team Charters and Research Issues

Team Charters:

Before work can truly begin on Project Four, even before you make a final decision on a research problem, it would be helpful to know how your team will plan to work.  With your group mates, develop a team charter.  Address the following points:

  1. Overall, broad team goals for the project
  2. Measurable, specific team goals
  3. Personal goals
  4. Method of collaborating on research, writing, and revision (you may wish to revisit Session Seven).  Be specific, here, about the means you will work together.  How will you divide up workload? Which tools (Google docs, Dropbox, email, adding each other as users of your WordPress sites, etc.)
  5. Other factors that might affect the project
  6. Statement of how the team will resolve impasses
  7. Statement of how the team will handle missed deadlines
  8. Statement of what constitutes unacceptable work and how the team will handle this

Post this on each team member’s blog page. Print it and have all team members sign a copy to be retained by me by Thursday, 10/30.

Choosing a Research Issue


Once your team has decided how they will work, I need to know on which topic you will do research.  Please post on your blog a statement, of no more than 300 words, on the following:

  • the research issue you and your partners will be examining;
  • the specific community about or for whom you are writing;
  • your stake in that community, and thus, in this project;
  • your interest in the topic;
  • what you may already know about the topic;
  • how you will research.

Work with your team members to develop this response.  Ideally, there will be some similar responses to each bullet point.

Where to begin research?

Head to the WSU Library guides via the link to the left or by clicking here.

Use scholar.google.com, ProQuest, CQ Researcher, Opposing Viewpoints, or any of the other databases available to Wayne State students.

Your annotated bibliographies (I’ll show you the format Thursday)  are due next week, Tuesday, 11/04.  You need to have credible sources including at least two new sources not used for any other work this semester (including the ISearch) .


Finish I-Search.  Post on blog and to SafeAssign via BlackBoard.

Read Wayne Writer Ch. 5 pp. 145-159 and ch. 6 pp. 188-215


1020 Session Twelve: Research for your I-Search

In Class Reflection:

Spend a few minutes writing about your experiences as a researcher. What kinds of topics have you researched or written about before? How do you usually conduct research? What is important to you about the research process or what have you learned from research in the past? How do you see yourself tackling the research required for the I-Search?


Beginning your Search for Answers


Read Selections from Sharan Merriam’s Qualitative Research

Conducting Effective Interviews

Being a Careful Observer

How to Analyze Qualitative Data

Write on your blog, Part One of your I-Search.  This serves as an introduction to the larger project. Be sure to discuss what you already know, what you wish to learn, and why you want to learn more about your topic. Use your skills in crafting a narrative. Be creative. Throw in a picture or two (optional).

Sign up for a conference time via an email if you missed class.

3050 Session Eight: Proposal Memo Sections 9-25-14

Today’s Agenda:

So you think you have a problem?


Group workshop on creating viable research questions.

Take some time with your group to perform the following exercise:

  1. Take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of key words about your topic.  What do people debate about it? What do you find most compelling about it?
  2. Write at least one question that could be raised about your issue that starts https://i1.wp.com/www.scribewise.com/Portals/202647/images/Better%20Questions.jpgwith each of the following words: who, what, when, where, how, why, should, would. In other words, you need to come up with eight (8) questions total.
  3. Answer the following:
    • What is your ultimate goal in writing about this topic? Are you informing? Defining? Evaluating or comparing? Proposing a solution?
    • Who is your audience? What will they be interested about your topic?
  4. Eliminate the questions from step 2 that do not fit your goal or audience.
  5. Of the questions that remain identify the most compelling.  Which is the most interesting?
  • Extra nuances to create open-ended questions:
    • Use a phrase such as “To what extent…” “What are the effects…” “What would happen if…
    • Combine two of your original eight questions.

Finally, you may wish to consider other prewriting strategies such as:

  • cluster mapping

Sample Cluster Map

  • Freewritinghttps://i0.wp.com/www.library.dmu.ac.uk/Images/free_writing.gif

The Proposal Memo (Project Two)


The first step toward the decision making report is to draft a short (two to three page) memo (in standard memo format) that will use the superstucture on p. 487 of Technical Communication to provide the following details:

  1. Who is going to undertake this research?
  2. Who will the final report be addressed to (i.e., who has the power to implement your solution)?
  3. What is the problem you are going to examine?
  4. What kind of research do you think this problem will necessitate?
  5. Why have you chosen this project (does it relate to your major, other course work, a personal interest, etc.)?
  6. What kind of format do you see the final report following (feasibility study, cause-effect analysis, comparative study, etc.)?
  7. What is your schedule for completing this project?
  8. What kind of criteria will be involved in making your final recommendation?

Section-by-section advice:

  1. Who are you?
    • Include all team members’ names in the “From” entry.
  2. Eventual Primary Audience:
    • Identify the planned recipient of the final report (Project Six) being proposed in this memo (question #2 above); although Project Two is addressed to me, the final project will be written with your chosen organization’s “decision-maker(s)” in mind and you need to know this information in advance both to plan your research strategy and identify appropriate criteria.
  3. The Problem Section
    • Don’t forget that the proposal memo is addressed to me (though I may not be the “primary audience” for whom you are writing). Although presumably relevant details, field terminology, and “industry jargon” will be familiar to your eventual audience, you may need to provide appropriate background for me at this stage in the project. That might require adding an additional “background” section preceding the problem statement section, or including an “overview” (see the overview in this previous student proposal, for instance).
  4. The Research Methods Section:
    • Your research section should detail, as specifically as possible, the types of research you will need to undertake to produce the final report. These items may include:
      • interviewing (relevant parties such employees, management and other stakeholders);
      • reading existing research on the problem (e.g., if your problem involves improving morale or motivating the member of a committee, you would do well to read the current literature on these issues in professional journals and trade magazines),studying the ways this problem has been approached/solved by other organizations;
      • analyzing data generated in research (see the analysis mentioned in this sample);
      • calculating potential costs and benefits (both in dollars and more generally); and/or
      • comparing/testing various possible solutions or components of possible solutions.
  5. Qualifications Section:
    • Question #5 above asks you to indicate (this information could alternately appear in your problem statement) why this particular project was chosen.List all of the qualities held by one or more team member that will aid in the completion of the project. Items listed under qualifications might include:
      • Previous experience with a similar problem;
      • Familiarity with organization and available access to its members;
      • Relevance to  field of study; and
      • Any “special skills” that make team members particularly prepared for taking on such a project.
    • Remember: the qualifications component of the proposal memo is meant to make the reader (me) feel confident that you have chosen a project that you are qualified to research and solve.
  6. Eventual Formats:
    • Although your project may take unexpected turns during its research phase, at its “proposal point,” you should have at least a working notion of what final format the final project will take (question #6 above). A cause-effect analysis is a report that identifies why a problem is occurring and suggests a solution. A feasibility study analyzes whether a proposed course of action, or multiple possible courses of action, are possible. A comparative study presents research comparing two or more possible courses of action.
  7. Schedule Section:
    • Writing the schedule section will allow you to do some upfront planning of how to distribute the the workload between team members and throughout the semester. It is presumed, of course, that your schedule (or, perhaps more precisely, your success at keeping to this schedule) may change throughout the semester due to unexpected events. Keep in mind, however, that when I ask you to write progress reports for your semester-long project, I am primarily asking after whether or not you are making adequate progress in your schedule.
    • Strike a balance between pragmatic and ambitious.
  8. Criteria Question
    • The most common misstep with the criteria section of the Proposal Memo is a lack of specificity in identifying the criteria you will use to evaluate potential solutions.
      • Technical criteria (those that relate to basic questions of feasibility)
      • Managerial criteria (those that relate to the quotidian operations of the organization)
      • Social criteria (those that relate to values and the impact of possible solutions on stakeholders)

      Here’s a great example of a criteria section that includes specific details. https://i2.wp.com/www.arcplan.com/en/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/collaborative-bi-solution-criteria.jpg

    • The Proposal is due by 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 30. It is worth 150 points, roughly 15% of the semester grade. Email a properly formatted word document to me and post a copy on a team member’s blog page devoted to Project Six documents.

HOMEWORK for Tuesday, 9/30/14

Write: Project Two.  Bring two printed copies to class on Tuesday.

Read: Project Three description and ch. 28 of Technical Communications. “Writing Reader-Centered Instructions”
Register for WikiHow and click around the site.  Be sure to peruse their page of requested topics to generate ideas for your instruction set.

Begin working on Project Six.  This is an ongoing assignment that you should work on throughout the remainder of the semester.