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Mary Wight, Kaitlyn Hopkins, Mattie Solomon & James Lutz


13 March 2017

Ethnographic Research Proposal


This research project will study (omit name) in order to answer what makes a compelling
story and what kind of techniques editors use in order to engage in and encourage successful
editorial/nonfiction writing. We hope to conduct interviews with our subject, explore different
nonfiction writing options, and observe someone in a related field in order to outline the
mechanical and creative processes behind magazine editing/writing, and we will analyze this
data in particular by focusing on rhetoric used and communication skills used in such an
environment and field. Our answers to this research question will help us gather insight and
information surrounding the world of magazine editing.

Research Question

While conducting our research, we hope to understand what goes into making a story
compelling, and what techniques editors use in order to engage in and encourage successful
editorial/nonfiction writing. Our subject will be a key part of this investigation, since she will be
the one who we will be interviewing, observing and lending her assistance in gaining access to
outside sources. We aim to ask our subject questions that will help us to grasp the intricacies of
editing and publishing. However, to understand what goes into editing, we must first ask
questions about the writing process, since that is something that is very important in the process
of creating and editing any type of nonfiction writing. We will also ask question that narrow in
on the work of an editor specifically and they type of work environment an editor must exist in in
order to be successful. Furthermore, to comprehend what an editors position within a
publishing company is, we must ask questions to help us define the job, writing field, and career
as a whole. Some questions we plan to ask our subject are as follows:

a. What does the work environment of a magazine company look and feel like?
b. What type of positions, within a company, is available for professional writers?
c. How do editors collaborate in a team?
d. What rhetorical strategies do magazine editors employ?
e. What work goes into a revision or a rough draft?

These questions will shed light on what the environment of a magazine or nonfiction-
writing company is like, and will provide an overview for any prospective editors or people
interested in nonfiction writing. As undergraduate students at the University of Maryland, we are
currently exploring possible career paths within the realm of professional writing. Within our
fields of study (Communications, English, and Computer Science) we all have a myriad of
interests at stake within the context of our intended research. What is a driving force for all of us
is to better understand a field that interests us. Longform editing is something that can take one's
creative writing interests and apply them in a more professional sense. Throughout this project,
questions will evolve as our understandings do. These questions are here to outline our specific
interest, but are not bound to any sort of confines. In other words, we are open to the concept of
a changing narrative for our project. The questions we have now may not be the same half way
through our research. What will be consistent, however, is our key question, which is to better
grasp what it means to be a professional editor and how that career can be impacted by the
various writing and creative skills one holds.

Research Subject

Our research subject is (omit name), a professor in the English Department at the
University of Maryland. She teaches about non-fictional narratives, and has also written
professionally for 25 years for a number of newspapers and magazines including The
Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and the Sun. From all her
experience working for different publications and for the University, we thought that she could
really help us understand the field and contacting her would be very convenient. Her connection
to outside resources will also help us to understand the diverse field and its intricacies.

Data Collection Methods

We will be conducting semi-structured interviews with a set of questions beforehand to

discuss. We hope to gain more information about what the professor does on a daily basis in her
profession as a teacher and any activities related to nonfiction writing outside of her profession
as a teacher.

We also plan to collect any student papers and syllabi from (omit name) Non-Fictional
Narrative class or her Advanced Composition classes. We will also ask about the memoir she
wrote and ask for a copy. We also hope to hear about her experience with freelance writing for
newspapers and magazines. We will mostly be interested in hearing about the process of writing
these different kinds of documents.

We will conduct our interviews at any determined place that the Professor requests. We
will also observe her in one of her lectures for her Non-Fictional Narratives class to gather any
information on her workplace and draw on any connections with her teaching to her writing style
in her past published documents. We will plan for an additional interview to discuss and confirm
what weve gathered from the data and answer any questions we might still have by then.

Data Analysis

By linking the answers to our interview questions we receive from our subject to our field
notes on lecture and what information we can extract from the documents we collect, we hope to
gain a greater understanding of the material and the field as it relates both to our key research
question(s) and to our future careers. Our final interview will allow us to double-check ourselves
and our analysis and see whether we have sufficient understanding, and if not, what kinds of
changes we may need to make to our perspective.

Schedule of Work (tentative):

March 6th: Set up date with research subject for first interview on a Mon. Wed. or Friday

March 8th: Ethnographic proposal peer review due

March 13th: Ethnographic proposal final draft due

April 3rd: Set up second interview with research subject

April 17th: Official ethnographic research report first draft due

April 24th: Official ethnographic research report peer review due

April 26th: Official ethnographic research report final draft due