Your Research Article: FAQ’s

Do I Have To Do What You Tell Me?

No. You can craft this in multiple ways. If you wish to stray from these guidelines, come talk to me so we can collaborate together on how you want to proceed.

Does this article have to involve research?

Well, yeah. This is basically a course in interdisciplinary research methods, so you really need to improve your research skills. That being said, you do research literally EVERY DAY. You look up which restaurant to go to. You click around online to learn more about a disturbing news story you heard about. You ask a friend a question or raise your hand in class to get clarification on a concept. This is research! We are not doing anything weird here. We are just going to combine your natural curiosity with the skills you already have, and then add in some particularly targeted new skills to make this project something that will be truly valuable to the fields that you are working in.

How is this different than a traditional research paper?

Maybe in a few ways:

  1. It will be published online, and offered to other scholars and students so they can engage with your ideas and findings.
  2. It will be multimedia, and it can include photos, links, video, artwork, infographics, and other stuff to complement the writing.
  3. It won’t necessarily be stuffy. You can write this as an academic paper aimed at scholars, but you could also think about aiming this at students or the general public, and having an upbeat and casual tone designed to engage a wide variety of readers.
  4. You will care about it. Seriously, only write about what matters to you.

Please please please just tell me how long it has to be.



Ok. It should be as long as it needs to be to be well-developed. Think of it this way. You want to draw from a minimum of two disciplines (probably more like three). And in each of those I imagine you will end up with three or four sources that are really chalk-full of excellent information. To write about each source would be at least a half a page, and then you would need the history and background of your topic, an introduction to the major issues, a synthesis, a conclusion. I am sure we are talking about a good ten pages, plus multimedia that may add another page or so. In traditional page lengths, you would not want to be less than about 11 pages maybe? Probably quite a bit more? THIS IS HERE BECAUSE YOU FORCED ME TO SAY IT.

What kind of a topic should I choose?

Think about what is going on in the fields that interest you. Think about your future career or graduate school possibilities. Google around or search Twitter to read the news about what is controversial, complex, or interesting to key scholars or practitioners or students in your fields. What are the wicked problems facing the world in your areas? See what sparks your attention, and try to develop a research question from there.  Here is a nice, simple discussion of developing a research question: Give it a look and see if you can develop one of your own that you’d authentically like to look into, and which you think would really be helpful to others in one way or another.

What might an outline look like for this research article?

Intro to topic (1/2 page)
History and key players or events (1 page)
How different disciplines contribute to the topic (1 page)
Theme/Point 1 (1.5 pages)
Theme/Point 2 (1.5 pages)
Theme/Point 3 (1.5 pages)
Theme/Point 4 (1.5 pages)
How an interdisciplinary perspective puts things in a new light (1 page)
In practice: programs or projects or practices where this all comes together (1.5 pages)
Conclusion (1/2 page)

Total: about 11 pages+

But really, you are going to have to make your own outline, and it will probably be pretty different from this.

Do I have to do a literature search?

A literature search is just a fancy way of saying “looking for research.” You will have to look for research. You will most likely want a mix of scholarly and popular research. You will find your research in five main places:

  1. THE GOOGLE (such a fancy tool)
  2. The library databases
  3. The library collection of books
  4. Interlibrary loan (find an awesome book on Amazon, confirm that PSU doesn’t have it in our library, then order it for free! you can do this with database articles that aren’t full-text as well!)
  5. Humans (you can find them in your circle of friends, profs, and PLN)

Design a fancy, color-coded, hyper-organized way to take notes. Use notecards! Or Evernote! Or a leather-bound notebook! Let your inner geek out!

Make sure your notes on each source include:

  • citation
  • 3-5 key quotes with page numbers
  • 3-5 key points
  • a one-sentence explanation of what the source is about
  • a list of the main discipline from which the source stems

So what do I have to do again?

Write a prospectus that includes a description of your topic, your reason for choosing it, a timeline of how you will get this work done, and a rough outline of your article. Do a literature search. Write a paper and add multimedia enhancements. Publish it on your ePort. Change the world.