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SAMPLE FIRST-YEAR COMPOSITION ASSIGNMENT #1

Elizabeth A. Boyle
boyle30@purdue.edu

placemaking research project


This assignment takes up the notion of “placemaking” and uses it to examine the Purdue University
campus community. In doing so, this project will take us through two phases—the first, an
individual spatial analysis pitch, and the second, a group research report and presentation (and
individual reflection). Keep reading for more information about these individual parts.

phase 1: spatial analysis


For phase 1 of this unit, we will work individually to identify problems posed by the spatial design of
a specific location on Purdue’s campus or in its surrounding area. To facilitate this analysis, class
discussions will focus on the notion of “placemaking,” the fundamentals of spatial design, and the
relationship between physical space and social identity. Additionally, each student will conduct at
least one observation of the space to develop an extensive analysis of how the design of the space
affects not only the physical actions people perform, but their social interactions as well. These
observations should therefore focus on the space’s physical design (decor, furniture, amenities, etc.)
and the ways users navigate the space (how they navigate it, interact in it, etc.). By taking photos and
detailed notes during these observations, you should be able to determine the most pertinent
problems plaguing this particular space and why they matter.

The first phase of unit 4 will culminate in a 5-7-minute project pitch. In this very brief
presentation, you’ll essentially ‘sell’ this project to your peers, offering them evidence for why they
should vote to pursue this project in phase 2. Using a Powerpoint and well- practiced talking points,
your project pitch should address the following concerns:
• What is this space? Who uses it? What is its intended use?
• How is the space actually used? In particular, what design elements pose the greatest
problems in this space?
• How do these problematic design elements affect the social interactions that take place in
this space?
• How do these problematic design elements affect the physical actions users can perform in
this space?
• What is the relationship between the physical actions and social interactions taking place in
this space?
• Why does this project matter? Why should potential researchers (your peers) be interested in
researching potential solutions to these design problems?

phase 2: group research report


As we progress to phase 2 of this unit, students will form groups based on the four top-ranked
projects pitched in phase 1. These groups will then work to develop solutions to the problems posed
in phase 1.

In so doing, groups will develop an 8-10-page formal group research report with an executive
summary, introduction, objectives, methodology, results, recommendations, conclusion, and
appendix. These reports should be written to interest potential investors to pursue the group’s
recommended solutions. Groups are free to divide the labor as they choose (each group member
could write one-two sections or every group member contributes to all sections), but the document

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should contain a cohesive voice. You may also incorporate secondary research if you feel it will
strengthen your final report.

Along the way to the group research report, we’ll complete two additional assignments: a 15-20-
minute group presentation and 3-5- page individual reflections. In the presentations, groups
will introduce the class to their research reports, their findings, and the solutions they intend to
present in their final projects. Each group member will also submit an individual reflection on their
experiences working in groups. These reflections should discuss not only what went well over the
course of the group work experience, but what challenges they confronted, how they overcame
those challenges, and which challenges they could’ve overcome more gracefully.

When you submit your final project, please use the formatting we discuss in class (Times New
Roman, 12 pt. font, 1” margins, section headers, title page, APA citations, etc.) and staple your
group research report to the individual group members’ reflections.