In this Topic Selection Memo, you will compose your preliminary thoughts about what topics you will pursue for Proposal – First Draft and, eventually, Final Project – First Draft, which will be completed in the form of a user’s manual to studying abroad in the country that you are planning to studying in (the general format of which you can find here (Links to an external site.).)
User manuals and podcasts are different than recommendation reports, proposals, and feasibility studies. In a recommendation report, multiple options are under consideration for addressing a problem. Feasibility studies look at whether a project can be done. A user manual is a guide to explain how to do something specific, including various contexts, situations, and problems you are likely to encounter. In our case, the user manual is to studying engineering abroad in a foreign country successfully.
Remember, the learning outcomes for engineering study abroad are as follows:
Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, framing significant problems and conducting well-crafted and age-appropriate research.
Recognize perspectives, others’ and their own, articulating and explaining such perspectives thoughtfully and respectfully;
Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences, bridging geographic, linguistic, ideological, and cultural barriers;
Take action to improve conditions, viewing themselves as players in the world and participating reflectively.
The primary goal of the final project is to identify the topics and information you wish you were aware of before studying engineering abroad in the country you do so that you can engage with the learning outcomes listed above: this includes academic and cultural topics, or anything else you wish you had been aware of prior to starting your semester abroad, anything that will help your audience bridge barriers. In this proposal, you will be identifying what those topics are, how you will address them, and provide research to support the validity of your advice. There are lots of possibilities here, so be creative. You will have to include one section discussing the engineering culture of the country you are studying in, including comparing and contrasting it with your own experiences of American engineering culture.
Considering the resources related to topic selection you were asked to read/review, clearly this assignment is about your ability to identify viable topics fitting within given parameters, including a very specific timeline.
MEMO (Though mentioned here, you will not complete this component until the end of the assignment, as detailed at Proposal – Final Submission)
The Proposal should be single-spaced, block paragraphs in MLA format (Links to an external site.), containing the following sections:
Part I: Introduction and Context (1 page minimum)
Provide a meaningful introduction, providing as many specific details as possible about the country you are studying in and your experiences so far engaging with the culture. Start broad and move to the more specific context of your project. What has made studying abroad hard culturally (i.e., beyond simply the logistical challenge of moving around the world and getting enrolled)?
For example (not to be replicated), if you were discussing how studying engineering in the Czech Republic is a challenge because of a different philosophy of what engineering is, you might start off identifying how you’ve learned engineering principles in the U.S. providing examples. Then you could talk about cultural differences without judgement. Then you could discuss other ways the cultures are different. And what the other problems you wish you knew about before you studied there.
Part II: Secondary Research (1/2 page minimum)
NOTE: Your final project will have a primary research component. I do not include that here since it is so early in the project. I say this merely to remind you that the final project has more research requirements than indicated here alone.
Here you will identify and discuss resources currently available on your topics, both within the immediate context of the problems/topics you are addressing, as well as at large about engineering abroad. For example, if there is already a great deal about cultural differences between academics or engineering or social norms about female engineers in Singapore you can mention what these resources are, and what role they may or may not play in the creation of the Final Project.
Furthermore, you will want to discuss what other research is available on the subject. Most importantly, you will want to identify examples of how companies or intercultural engineering societies have encountered the same issue and who may have already developed solutions that you will somehow integrate into your own Final Project.
To complete this section, directly reference items available in your Bibliography, explaining how you plan on using them towards developing your final project.
Part III: Project Description (1 page minimum)
In this section of your proposal, list and discuss the problems you are addressing in more detail, building on what you started in the introduction, and summarize some of the possible solutions that, based on your initial research and experiences, would help a student new to engineering at a foreign university.
The last topic you should discuss among all you choose should be what you should know about working professionally in that country should you choose to do so.
Part IV: Cultural Analysis
Since one of the learning outcomes of studying engineering abroad is to “investigate the world beyond their immediate environment [and] framing significant problems”, this section asks you to analyze the culture of your new country in a respectful and thoughtful manner. You can also list the problems that you see so that you can help your final project’s audience effectively navigate the world of studying abroad.
Part V: Outline
A very rough outline of how your manual will be organized. This will help stimulate your planning, one of the most over-looked steps in the writing process.
Part VI: Conclusion (.5 page)
Your conclusion should provide a succinct, effective summary of your proposal, while also mentioning what the next steps are for moving forward.
Part VI: Bibliography (10+ sources, starting on separate page)
The bibliography should contain at least ten (10) sources and, along with your in-text citations, be provided in MLA format (Links to an external site.).
III. THINGS TO AVOID
When analyzing another culture, it is easy to be judgmental even without meaning to be. For that reason, an easy pitfall for the final project and this proposal for it is to point out problems that you see but that aren’t relevant to studying abroad. For example (totally made up for rhetorical purposes), if you have a problem with gender roles in the Zax community of the country of Prax, you should only discuss them if they are relevant to your ability to study abroad and will help a fellow student navigate these gender roles. This is a pragmatic user manual, not a litany of judgement of all the ways Prax falls short of the United States.
Research Proposal Triage Rubric (1)
Research Proposal Triage Rubric (1)
Criteria Ratings Pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeDeceased – Topic
Does the topic fall within one of the forbidden categories? If so, can it be improved somehow? Should an alternative topic be considered? Why? 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeDeceased – Audience Accessibility
Are the primary/gatekeeper and other audiences accessible in order to conduct primary research? How does the author prove that they are an accessible audience? If the author does not already have a relationship with these audience members, how will/should they establish this relationship? 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeImmediate – Audience
Are the selected audiences appropriate and well-described? Are specific individuals chosen within each audience? Does the author provide names and job titles? How does the author convince you that the selected audiences need the information? What assumptions does the author make about the audience? Can research be done at this stage to support these assumptions with evidence? 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeDelayed – Secondary Research
Is the secondary research well-defined? What other research should the author conduct to fill in any holes? Does the author provide the 10 required secondary sources? How many of the secondary sources are cited within the Proposal? 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeDelayed – Other
Does the Proposal meet basic length and other requirements? Are the introduction and conclusion effective? Explain. 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeMinor – Grammar
Does the author use correct grammar? Are there any repetitive grammatical or typographical errors? 0.0 pts
This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeMinor – Citations
Does the author use in-text citations correctly? Is the Works Cited page properly formatted in MLA? 0.0 pts
How to use UMD Canvas
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