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Presenting research in progress and sharing ideas on panels at the AJHA convention are great ways to sharpen your focus, expand your thinking, and cultivate connections with other scholars. But how do you write a successful panel or RIP proposal?

Advice about that is typically passed down informally from adviser to grad student or from senior scholar to junior scholar. Like so many aspects of academic culture, it tends to be shared orally. And those who lack such coaching may not even consider submitting a proposal for panels or research in progress because they don’t know where to start.

In the interest of encouraging those unfamiliar with the process, we considered the following question: “What does someone preparing a panel proposal for the first time need to do to compete with established scholars?” What follows is a starting point to answer that question. We welcome any pointers more established AJHA members would like to share. Look here for the AJHA Call for Papers, Panels, and Research in Progress for the 2017 annual convention in Little Rock, Arkansas.

How do I write a successful panel proposal?

  • Familiarize yourself with the AJHA panel sessions held in recent years, which can be found in programs from those conferences. This will help you avoid repetition and give you a sense of the type of panels that get accepted to the conference.
  • Make your proposal appealing to media historians working outside your particular field of research. Rather than focus on a narrow slice of media history, think about ways to broaden the scope. This might mean addressing some aspect of theory, method, teaching, or publication that applies to historians working in all areas.
  • Aim for diversity among your panelists, and get a commitment from them before you submit the proposal. The most persuasive proposals include panelists from diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and institutions who are well trained in the subject and open to discussion.
  • About commitments from panelists: Sometimes panel lineups shift after acceptance. That’s understandable if a medical or family emergency comes up just before the convention. However, the Research Committee expects all panel organizers to obtain firm commitments from members before they submit the proposal.
  • Panels that put participants and the audience in conversation with each other are among the most successful ones at the convention.
  • Most important, demonstrate your knowledge by briefly summarizing previous writing or commentary on the topic before suggesting a new avenue for discussion. A panel proposal should be written like a research proposal, with the same attention given to clarity, thoroughness, proper writing, and citations. Rather than propose questions to be answered through primary research, a panel puts forth ideas to be explored through compelling discussion. As with any proposal, your goal is to demonstrate two things: 1) that your idea is worth executing, and 2) that you are capable of executing it.

How do I write a successful research in progress proposal?

  • The research-in-progress submission should represent more than an idea, but far less than an almost completed paper. The proposal should include initial research questions, primary sources, and a justification for why your project is significant. Ideas for relevant theory and methods should be included, if known. In sum, the proposal should include a well-defined topic and demonstrate that the researcher has a compelling, significant, and executable research project.
  • That said, the research should be at a stage where suggestions for additional research questions, theory, sources (primary and secondary) and research methods would be useful and meaningful.
  • Explain what kind of primary sources you are looking for in the archives. Show that the proposal has gone beyond the initial phase by listing the primary sources you’re using or plan to use and how they are significant to the project.
  • Clearly state the purpose of your project. Though you don’t have to hit people over the head with it, there is no clearer way to begin your statement of purpose than to write, “The purpose of this project is to …”
  • Make a clear and compelling argument supporting the significance of your project. What have previous scholars done? How will your project advance the field?
  • Remember that Research in Progress is for scholars who have not completed a project and who are looking for feedback on how to take their projects to the next level.

MICHAEL FUHLHAGE, Wayne State University, is AJHA Research Chair, Coordinator of the Research Papers Competition and Administrator of the Joseph McKerns Research Grant.

MELITA GARZA, Texas Christian University, is AJHA Research in Progress Competition Coordinator.

TRACY LUCHT, Iowa State University, is AJHA Panels Competition Coordinator.

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 1: The Wayne State University Department of Communication is accepting applications for  the 2016 Summer Doctoral Seminar with Dr. Donald Shaw. Theme: Agendamelding — How we use traditional and social media to connect community. Dates: June 13-16, 2016.

Modern media audiences are very active in the way they are using traditional and social media. In fact, they are melding the agendas from these two types of media to connect with community that is personally satisfying. So there is a loss in vertical power of traditional media but a gain in personal satisfaction. How will social systems adjust to all this?

Donald Shaw (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison) is a writer and communication scholar, and is associated with agenda-setting research. With Maxwell McCombs of the University of Texas at Austin and David Weaver of Indiana University, he is attempting to expand agenda-setting research into a comprehensive behavioral theory connecting media and society. Shaw is Kenan professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Attendees receive paid travel, paid lodging and paid meals.

To apply: Application materials include curriculum vitae, a letter of support from academic adviser, and 500-word statement about how the seminar fits with the student’s long term research and teaching goals.

Applications are due March 1 April 1, 2016, to Lee Wilkins, Ph.D.; Professor and Chair; Department of Communication; 591 Manoogian Hall – WSU; Detroit, MI 48201. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Michael Fuhlhage at fr1136@wayne.edu or Dr. Wilkins at Lee.Wilkins@wayne.edu. We welcome applications via email or snail mail.

Journalists rely on interviews to get vital and original information, but not everything that sources say is clear, precise, grammatical or quotable enough to use the source’s exact words. I learned the advice that follows from some great journalism teachers I have known: Carole Rich, Paul Jess and Frank E. Fee Jr. Now I’m passing it along to you.

Human speech is full of pauses and stutters and repetition.

So we have two choices: either quote directly (using quotation marks, “said” and the name of the source) or paraphrase (summarize what the source meant but don’t use his or her words verbatim).

The simple rule is to paraphrase the ordinary and quote the extraordinary.

Base your decision on whether the speaker expressed himself or herself clearly and whether quoting directly would have more impact than merely paraphrasing.

Example: If a source told you purely factual information (let’s say a house fire that destroyed a home and the owner says “That house was worth $150,000,” that’s just fact. You should still use the information and say where you got it, but you don’t have to use the exact words.

But if the quote said, “That house was worth $150,000. It’s a total loss. My entire life’s savings was tied up in the place, and now it’s gone,” that tells something more than facts; it tells how much the loss hurts.

In that case, try using the paraphrase as a transition to the quote:

 Lee Mockbee, the owner, said the $150,000 house was a total loss.

“My entire life’s savings was tied up in that place, and now it’s gone,” he said.

That’s an example of paraphrasing the ordinary and quoting the extraordinary. (Note, by the way, that the quote is placed in its own paragraph. Do this in most situations).

What you’re doing there is stating a fact, then using the quote to drive home why that fact is significant. You can use a quote to show the frame of mind of the source, too, or to show what they made of a situation.

Here are seven tips for effectively handling quotes and attributions in news writing:

  1. Get to the point: Keep the attribution out of the way. In print and online writing, the attribution goes after the first sentence in a quote. In the attribution, “said” goes after the subject.

Incorrect: Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement, “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration.”

Incorrect: “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement.

Correct: “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Incorrect: Curtis LeMay, a former U.S. Air Force chief of staff, said, “I never said let’s bomb them back to the stone age.”

Incorrect: “I never said let’s bomb them back to the stone age,” Gen. Curtis LeMay, a former U.S. Air Force chief of staff, said.

Correct: “I never said let’s back them back to the stone age,” said Sen. Gen. Curtis LeMay, a former U.S. Air Force chief of staff.

2. In print and online writing, attribute at the first natural break. Usually, this is at the end of the first quoted sentence, but attribution can come in midsentence if there’s a logical place. Attributions usually do not go before the quote in writing for the eye. This differs from the practice in broadcast writing, which typically puts the attribution immediately before the sound bite. 

Incorrect: “The 100-year flood level is,” State Engineer Dolores Bootz said, “a figment of planners’ imaginations.”

Better: “The 100-year flood level,” State Engineer Dolores Bootz said, “is a figment of planners’ imaginations.”

Better yet: “The 100-year flood level is a figment of planners’ imaginations,” State Engineer Dolores Bootz said.

3. In a quote with multiple sentences, the attribution goes after the first sentence.

Incorrect: “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration. But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Correct: “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

4. Show when you change speakers. Help the reader. Who’s talking here?

Congress got an earful about campaign finance reform on its first day of hearings.

“I think the way they have been financing election campaigns is the crime of the century,” John Dash, a conservative, told Congress.

“Money is hard to come by, especially for politicians, and some allowances have to be made somewhere,” Marcia Greenwood told the panel.

(The reader only finds at the end of the third paragraph that the quote was not a continuation of John Dash’s comment. So, begin Greenwood’s quote with the attribution so it reads like this:

Marcia Greenwood told the panel, “Money is hard to come by, especially for politicians, and some allowances have to be made somewhere.”

BUT: In general, ONLY put the attribution at the start of a quote when it is necessary to make it clear that there is a new speaker.

5. Avoid fragment or orphan quotes. They don’t help — usually — although there are exceptions.

6. Use only the best quotes; paraphrase the rest.

7. Respect the quotation marks. Don’t put words in the speaker’s mouth, and don’t take them out indiscriminately. The AP’s rule is that a quote is a fact. You can’t change a fact and you can’t change a quote. If the quote is troubled, your options are: delete altogether or paraphrase.

8. Delete words or phrases within the quote to create a partial quote, or, if you are using the quote as a full sentence, replace the deleted material with ellipses to show readers something was deleted. You also can supply parenthetical explanatory material, but only with great care.

Successful students distinguish themselves from their struggling classmates in many ways. The contrast is particularly sharp during end-of-semester grading, which I just wrapped up last night for a journalism course in news reporting. If I could offer advice to those who struggled before they began the term, these are the things I would tell them they need to do to succeed:

  1. Go to class every day.
  2. Be interested in the subject being taught. If the course is in your major, it should be easy to be genuinely enthusiastic about it. If it is not in your major but a required course, use the “fake it until you make it” approach. This involves what theater people refer to in their audiences as “willful suspension of disbelief.” That concept refers to spectators at a play setting aside their immersion in their day-to-day reality in order to immerse themselves in the lives of the characters of the play. That is, they let themselves care about those characters as if they were people they cared about in real life. You can do the same in a non-major, required course, but accept that you are one of the players and your role is that of one of the people immersed in that field of study. My play is News Reporting, and I play the part of an editor (which I was for a dozen years, seventeen if you include my work at the Columbia Missourian). If you are a student in that class, you play the role of a reporter, and you learn to be a reporter by doing the things reporters do. Do this, and you just might convince yourself that you really are fascinated by the subject.
  3. Beware of absent presence. This is when the student is physically present in the classroom but mentally absent. Pay attention to the instruction taking place there. Not all of it comes from the professor. Much of it comes from discussion with classmates and hands-on exercises. It should go without saying, but successful students avoid using their cell phone unless specifically directed to do so in connection with a class exercise.
  4. Be aware that even when instructors do not take attendance, missing class has consequences. Those include falling behind the rest of the class; missing graded in-class lab assignments; misunderstanding the instructions for homework because you did not ask for clarification when needed before doing the assignment; missing quizzes; missing hands-on instruction.
  5. Get notes from a reliable classmate. Especially do this if you must miss a class on account of an emergency like an illness or a court date that you just cannot change. But at least once in the semester, swap notes with a classmate who takes thorough notes. Compare yours with theirs. Are you getting everything that they did? If not, work at writing down key points. It is so easy to forget what we see and hear. It really baffles me when I talk and the pens aren’t moving. Generally, you’ll remember only about 30 percent of what you hear without writing it down. The act of writing notes with pen or pencil helps cement what you have learned in your deep memory. Want proof? Here it is.
  6. Be careful about whom you judge to be reliable. Make friends with a student or students who really have their act together and borrow notes from them if you have to miss a class.
  7. Keep close track of deadlines for assignments. Don’t mix them up with each other. Find an organization strategy that works for you and stick to it. Also, being present in class will help make sure you know when the instructor decides to push back a deadline to give you more time to complete an assignment.
  8. Read the directions for assignments.
  9. Follow those directions closely.
  10. Turn in assignments on time. If I had to pick two things that hiring editors ask me about the most when deciding whether to offer an internship to a college student, they would be “Do they follow directions and respond to feedback?” and “Can I rely on them to meet deadline?” You get that question less about candidates for full-time, paid work after graduation because successful completion of an internship usually means the answer to both questions is “yes.”
  11. Give yourself time to re-read and revise your work before you turn it in. Do this even if the final grade will be based on a revision.
  12. When given the opportunity to revise, fix every error that your instructor points out to you.
  13. If you need help, ask for it. That does not mean to ask for an extension; journalism is a deadline business, and those who cannot meet deadlines find it difficult to stay in it for long. Rather, ask when you don’t understand how you are supposed to do something BEFORE deadline.

These next pointers are just for journalism students:

  1. Read, watch and listen to high-quality journalism. Want to be a writer for a news site, magazine or newspaper? Find it in the New York Times and Washington Post. Want to be a TV journalist? Find it by watching 60 Minutes, Face the Nation and the CBS Evening News. Want to be a photojournalist? Find it in the National Geographic and the New York Times photo blog, Lens. If you’re at Wayne State University, you don’t have to look far to find high-quality print, photography and video storytelling: Turn to the Detroit Free Press. Nor do you have to look far to find high-quality radio journalism: Tune your dial to WDET-FM.
  2. Identify your heroes in journalism and emulate what they do.
  3. Be careful about whom you deem your journalism heroes. Some rise quickly by cutting corners. But if they play fast and loose with the facts, their sourcing, or the originality of their work, they are eventually called out on it.
  4. Never misspell a name in a news story. Bad things happen to your grade if you do this in a class. Worse things happen to your career prospects on the job.

If you can make all of those things a part of your set of skills and attitudes, you will have much greater chances for success in the classroom or in the newsroom.

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