The Politics of Information Access - Instructions for Projects

Honors College
HON 201 (Section 53330)
Thursday, 4:00-4:50, 117 Lincoln Hall

Laura Quilter | | 996-8974
Veronda Pitchford | | 996-2728


Doing a paper?

  1. Pick out a topic. There are some suggestions below, but don't limit yourself to them. Feel free to come up with other ideas. Brainstorm with fellow students if you like. When you've come up with a topic, think about what you'd like to do with it. Is it doable? Do you think there's enough information out there on your topic? Or too much information to digest? Obviously it should be a topic that's interesting to you, as well as to others. If the topic is really boring it will be hard to write an interesting paper on it!

    Often it helps to frame a topic as a question. If your topic is a question, then your research provides you the data, you analyze the data to answer the question, and then you use your paper to tell others about it.

  2. Write a short (one paragraph) description and discuss with instructors after class, or visit them at the library (or send by email to instructors to and ). This is due by the beginning of class on September 25.

  3. Your topic has been approved. Begin to do the research on the topic. Look for materials on the reading list that are relevant. Also please do literature searches for other sources -- the reading list we've given you is by no means meant to be comprehensive. The reference desks at the library can help you with selecting appropriate databases and search techniques. And of course you may want to do original research such as interviews. While you need to have opinions, they should be based on factual information. You let us know that you have factual information behind your opinions by referencing your sources, and having several of them. It's a good idea to have different types of sources, too: books, journal articles, pamphlets, other types of media, etc.

  4. Outline your paper. State clearly what your topic is, and what you plan to do in your paper. Then do it. Many papers work well by being broken into sections. Some types of papers might flow better as an extended essay. Look at the information you're trying to convey, and figure out the style best suited to conveying it. You don't have to restrict yourself to the traditional style (opening paragraph that sums up, point 1, point 2, point 3, closing paragraph that sums up again). But if that's the best format for your work, please use it.

  5. Begin drafting your paper. Your rough draft is due by the beginning of class on November 14. You can submit it by email or as a web page. This should include the major content of your work, including the basic topic, the conclusions you've reached. Many of your sources should already be sketched in. We'll look at the papers and give you feedback. If you also want feedback from other class members or other people you should check with them at this point.

  6. Finish writing your paper. Flesh out the sections that were only sketched out before. Be sure to define any terms that might be unfamiliar to a reader. Your default audience should be a reasonable college student who is not familiar with your material. (If you're writing something aimed at a Martian audience you'd better have a very good reason!) Use the word that best suits your needs -- get a thesaurus if you have to -- but don't use words unless you're sure of how to use them. And don't use big words when small words will do just fine. Don't use long, complex sentences, but vary your sentence structure. Every sentence a wanted sentence -- Each sentence should convey essential information about your research or your views. Your goal is to create a readable, interesting paper that expresses your research and opinions clearly.

    Examine your own assumptions! Clearly state any assumptions you make for the sake of argument. If you write an entire paper founded on a single false or unexamined assumption you're probably in trouble.

    Be consistent. If you are comparing ideas be sure to use the same criteria.

    Be critical and questioning of your data sources. You may wish to not use work that seems sub-standard to you. Or you may wish to use it but qualify your use of it.

  7. Polish your paper. Get someone else to review it for readability. Be as concise as possible; don't repeat yourself -- and don't pad your paper by restating things. Check for spelling errors and grammatical problems. Avoid run-on sentences, comma splices, and the usual stylistic errors. Make sure your endnotes are in order, and are all formatted the same way. Make sure all your quotes are endnoted, and all your cited facts are attributed. If you're attaching a bibliography of other related readings check through it and make sure it's ok. Give your paper a title if you haven't already. Add a "thank you" for anyone who's been especially helpful. After you've done all this, set it aside for a day or two and then re-read it AGAIN.

    Your paper should be 1200-1700 words. These are guidelines not rules. If you can cover your topic adequately -- and your topic is appropriate -- in fewer or more words, do so.

  8. Submit your paper! There, doesn't that feel good? Go do something fun to reward yourself for all that draining mental labor, and bask in the glow of accomplishment. Note: If you have problems meeting any of these deadlines you must discuss it with the instructors in advance.

Don't want to do a paper?

If you wish to do a project of some sort rather than a paper we are not averse to that, although you need to meet with the instructors to discuss it well in advance. You would need to present your topic, a plan, actually do the work, and then produce a report of your work. An example of a project might include working with a community organization or an alternative media project. This would be a lot of work but could be very fulfilling!

Possible Topic Ideas for Papers

These are only some of many possible topics. Feel free to come up with others. Also, feel free to bounce topics for papers off the listserve and the instructors to get feedback. However, individual students must do different papers - no two topics can be the same.