Independent Research Project: Final Project
Aims and Outcomes:
These assignments will contribute to some of the following learning outcomes on this course, depending on the exact nature of your research topic, the resources you use to explore that topic, and the format you choose to convey your findings:
* Locate the history of textiles in a broader context of environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic circumstances of different times and places.
* Use methods of object-based learning to formulate historical questions on the history of textiles.
* Identify appropriate source material to use as evidence for the history of textiles.
* Analyze primary sources across a range of media (eg, written texts, visual and material culture as evidence for the history of textiles.
* Evaluate historical arguments and evidence put forward by other scholars in the field.
*Communicate aspects of the history of textiles using a variety of modes of expression (eg, academic and popular writing, peer discussion, etc).
*By the time you embark on the final project, you will have already formulated a key question or questions that you intend to answer, and will have completed a preliminary bibliography to show the viability of the project.
*Continue to carry out your research in order to craft an answer to your question. Remember that questions that start with “how” and “why” (or other phrases such as “to what extent”) will allow you to develop original interpretations and analyses from your research more than questions that start with “who” or “when” that might lead you more to a factual or narrative structure. There is nothing wrong with facts and timelines, but I’d love to see you stretch your skills of historical interpretation.
*You are all working on very diverse topics, which will lend themselves to different research strategies. That said, as a rough guideline, I would suggest consulting c. 10-12 secondary sources and, if it seems relevant for your topic, 3-5 primary sources (including examples of textiles and/or other forms of material and visual culture) to use as examples of your larger points, but depending on your interests and approach, you could shift the balance between primary and secondary sources. I am happy to discuss this further with you in relation to your specific topic.
Also remember that “consulting” secondary sources does not necessarily mean reading every word of every book. You should learn to hone your research to what is important to your own area of inquiry. Think about the advice on searching for sources; sometimes it is useful to start with a few broader texts, especially to help you identify key examples to discuss and then ‘drill down’ into more specific areas. In addition to the library or other online search tools, you might use the footnotes and bibliographies of the works you are reading to locate other relevant source material. (Also make good use of indexes—often there are books that have useful information for your research but only perhaps a chapter is relevant, or even just a few pages—you only need to read what you feel is relevant to your topic!)
Sometimes you will not find a lot of secondary texts on your particular topic so you can think about the various strands of the research and how best to access them; for example, if you are interested in textiles and medicine, you might not find specific articles with those combinations of keywords, but if you read up on, say, the history of hospitals, you might find information about bedding and the importance of cleanliness; or you might read up on nursing to find information about uniforms, etc.
*Organise your research materials into a clear plan for your writing. Consider the question(s) you are answering and think about how best to structure your final project so that it can clearly answer that/those questions.
*The final assignment may take one of four formats, discussed further below: a written paper; an online exhibit or presentation; a short film; or you may make a textile and write a short reflection on how this act of making has incorporated your research.
*Regardless of what format you choose, you should present the argument you have crafted as an outcome of your research. What did you learn? What evidence can you share to underpin your argument? What are the significance of your findings?
*Again, the varied topics you all are pursuing might result in a variety of approaches to structure, but there will be some commonalities. You always should have an introduction to explain to the reader/viewer what the project is about (eg, what is the question that fuels your research) and why this topic is significant (whether broadly significant or of interest to you, or both). I often find it effective to lay out your argument at the start of your project, and then explain how the rest of your paper, presentation, or film will be structured to delve into this further; we often refer to this as “signposting.”
*The body of your project can be structured in a variety of ways, but think about the models of reading we have done so far to guide you. So for example, you might divide your overarching topic into a few questions that you want to answer in turn, or you might have one framing question and you offer a few different examples or case studies to address it. The body of your project is not only where you answer your questions but where you build a persuasive case for your answers; what evidence have you found through your research to support your argument?
*NB: It is fine at any point in your essay to indicate if there are debates about the meaning and significance of your topic, or the specific examples, and let us know how you evaluate this after weighing up your readings. For example, perhaps another author writes that your theme is of less importance, but you want to take a stand for why you think it is important: that is grand. Or if one author thinks that a particular kind of textiles is an example of one thing and another author thinks it is an example of something else, you can tell us what you find more persuasive and why. You do not need to do this more “historiographic” work, but if you ever find that your source materials seem to be contradicting one another, that is not a problem—that can become an interesting point of your research!
*At the end of your project you should have a brief conclusion that focuses on the argument, and its contribution or significance. You might also note further questions that arise from the research you have done. As this is not a terribly long assignment, you do not need to entirely recap the points you have made in the body of your essay, but instead really try to bring these different strands, examples, or case studies together into a punchy final statement or section. For your conclusion think about what you want the main “takeaway” to be for your reader or viewer and state that clearly.
*Written Paper Option: If you choose to write an essay, it should be c. 2000-2500 words (not counting referencing and bibliography). Please make sure your work is referenced properly. You may use whatever referencing system you choose, as long as you use it consistently and thoroughly. I am always happy to give guidance on referencing and citation.
*Short Film Option: Your film should be c. 5-7 minutes. Its structure should replicate the approach of an introduction; examples, case studies, or sub-questions; and conclusion, but presumably will do so in a more visual way. In lieu of footnotes/endnotes, you might include in either voiceover or “text cards” (that are filmed for long enough for the viewer to read them!) a brief comment on what scholars have been influential to your thinking about particular points and/or your might visually share your source material, especially primary sources. With a film there will not be the same expectations of referencing throughout as you would have in a written paper, so it is important to include a bibliography on screen at the end of your film (again, you can print this and film it) to show off the research you have done.
*Online Exhibit or Presentation: This option is the hardest to “quantify” in terms of number of slides or cards or images because that will depend so much on what your specific topic is, but basically, the exhibit or presentation needs to be long enough to convey your argument, and the research that underpinned it, in a robust way. So I think about this option in terms of the structure or “storyboard” as opposed to length; rather than having the paragraphs you might have in a written essay, you will have building blocks of your presentation, so if you think about a 2000-2500 word essay having maybe 8-10 paragraphs, this might have 8-10 blocks, but, much like an essay, those might be grouped together in various ways. A “block” might be one slide or card, or a few of them that fit together (such as two images and some explanatory text), depending on both your topic and the software you use.
You may use a variety of options for the software, such as Sway, Canva, Prezi, or even Power Point, though I think the first three may offer a bit more visual interest for a short presentation that is not accompanied by other lecture materials. Your presentation may be entirely visual, using text and image to build your argument, or you may incorporate voice-over if you want.
Similar to the film option, I do not have the expectation for footnotes/endnotes in a presentation of this type but it would be good to have captions for images and/or briefly mention any key sources in your text/voiceover, or include them as visuals. You should include a bibliography at the end of the presentation to show off the research you have done.
*Making Option: Finally, you may choose to make a textile, or textile-related object (eg, tools, images of textiles, etc), that is based in the research you have done. This might be the replication of a historical technique, or it might be an interpretation of some past theme of textile history. If you choose this option, you must also submit a short (c. 750-1000 words) essay that explains how your research underpins what you have made; you still should have an argument derived from your research that you are putting forward in your work and your text. So for example, perhaps you are studying the textile traditions of a certain place and time and find one particular motif to be dominant and have learned reasons why that is the case. You might create an object with that motif to represent the crux of your research.
Independent Research Project: Final Project