Chapter 1: Introduction

1.5.1 Essay 3: prospectus and annotated bibliography walkthrough and instructions

Unfamiliarity with planning documents

When first drafting this assignment, some writers tend to start writing their essays, instead of planning their essays. This essay is a planning document, not the actual research essay. It is a strange concept to write an essay (prospectus) about an essay (research essay) a few weeks before writing the essay (research essay). However, the requirements for the research essay ask writers to focus on one topic extensively (3,600 words), to work from research questions, and to keep an open mind throughout the entire research process (not deciding what the conclusion is before doing the research). It would be difficult for writers (of any skill level) to fold in all of the different moves necessary for a successful research essay in one task. The prospectus is a necessary tool that walks writers through the steps of writing a thorough and focused research essay.

What to include in the prospectus

Planning language

The prospectus should read like a plan and use phrases like, “In the research essay, I will…”

Relevance to writing studies

In what ways will your address address reading, writing, communication, education, and/or literacy? Will your essay use any of James Gee’s concepts from “What is Literacy?”

Research questions

The prospectus should also include research questions. Research questions should start broad and should not assume anything.

Research questions to start with: What kinds of reading, writing, communication, and technology is used in an Intermediate Japanese language classroom? In what ways does the teacher communicate with students? In what way do students communicate with the teacher? How do the teacher and students utilize technology in the classroom? Out of the classroom?

Then, as writers learn more about their topic through research, observation, and writing, they can ask more specific questions, like: how does the teacher use the textbook inside and outside of the classroom? How do the students use the textbook inside and outside of the classroom? In what ways does the textbook connect to technology inside and outside of the classroom? How are tests and quizzes connected to tutoring sessions?

Research questions will help writers to learn through writing instead of telling the readers what they think they already know and will encourage writers to use writing to discover.

Preview of organization

In “Moving beyond the five-paragraph format,” Julie Townsend describes ways that writers can organize their essays in ways that they can focus on one topic deeply as opposed to switching topics three times.

4.11 Moving Beyond the five-paragraph format

Writers often use many kinds of organization in one essay and even in one paragraph. Writers may also plan to organize their research essays by order of research questions.

Relevant academic fields

An academic field is similar to a subject area like English, math, business, or science. University majors and departments at a university are also connected to an academic field. Academic fields can be more specific than this as well. For example: translingual studies is a sub-field of writing studies, which is a subfield of English studies. Writers can discover which academic fields are interested in their topics by looking at the titles of the academic journals where relevant articles are published or by imaging which departments at the university would be interested in their topics.

Condensed literature review

Writers should NOT copy and paste from their synthesis essay. However, writers may re-read the synthesis essay and condense their writing for this section. What were the major findings of the articles in the synthesis? What is the overall state of the field that writes about the topic? Have there been recent studies done? What kind?

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is like a Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA), but each entry also includes a 75-100 summary, analysis, and reflection of the source.

Instructions for writers with grading rubric

PowerPoint used in video walkthrough

Prospectus walkthrough video with closed captions


PowerPoint used with annotated bibliography video walkthrough

Annotated bibliography video with closed captions



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Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Julie Townsend and various authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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