Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


Assignment: Your research project

The third week is a tiny bit lighter in both reading and online requirements than the previous two weeks, so it may be a good opportunity for you to look around for a research topic that will be interesting to you. Since there won't be any duplication of research topics, when you find one that you like, you'll want to get dibs on it right away. The way you do that is to a.) send me an email with your proposed topic. (Please send this to my regular email address, not the one inside our Angel classroom.) Once you get an OK on that, then b.) you send me an email with four things listed on it:

  1. your name
  2. your topic's title
  3. some of the books and other resources you plan to use for your research (with authors, title and publisher for each book)
  4. the date on which you will post it to the class

From that point on you've got dibs on that topic.

I'll then ask you to post a version of that same note to the classroom also, so everyone can see what everyone else is planning to do their research on. People may be interested in each other's topics, and may even be able to help point each other to resources that they happen across in their own research.

So here's the process:

Hunt and discover a topic or thinker that sounds like it could be interesting to you, research that topic or thinker, then post a short written report to the whole class (in the class forum) on what you have learned about that topic. The report can be as short as you like, even one page if you can cover your material in that short space, but the maximum length of your presentation should be no longer than approximately five pages. Measured another way, no longer than 1500-2000 words.

Here are some possible topic areas:

You may choose to research

  1. a philosophical idea or theme (e.g., the idea of free will, arguments for the existence of God, life after death, or any of a thousand other themes and questions)
  2. a school of thought (epicureanism, stoicism, existentialism, natural law, phenomenology, etc)
  3. a spiritual tradition (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc)
  4. a particular thinker (Aristotle, Augustine, Confucius, Immanuel Kant, or any other thinker, ancient or modern, male or female, eastern, western, northern or southern)
  5. classic text and commentaries that have been done about it. (preferably not a text that we are already reading in class)
  6. a comparison of two classic texts, or two philosophical viewpoints, or two schools of thought, etc

The requirement is that your project be in some way related to Philosophy. That's a very broad range of stuff, so the main way for you to tell whether the topic you're thinking about is related to Philosophy or not is to just ask me.

This project is not just to do a book report; it is expected that you will use at least three or four sources in your research.

You may wish to work together with another person or two, perhaps creating a kind of online "panel," or perhaps each of you presenting different viewpoints on the same general theme, or whatever. Working with another person or two can be fun and fruitful.

How to get ideas for your project

You might get ideas about various topics by going to the philosophy section of a bookstore or library and just browsing through the books there, or by paging through some philosophy textbooks (such as the ones used in some Introduction to Philosophy courses), or by browsing around some of the websites I've linked to various parts of the class website (there's some great stuff out there). You could also browse the online Stanford Encyclopdia of Philosophy for ideas, or review the table of content of an Introduction to Philosophy textbook you find on amazon or other online store. Doing these things may reveal something that sparks an interest in you.

Let yourself get creative here, and find something that sounds like it might actually capture your interest. Your idea needs to be OK'd by me prior to your starting on it, though, so propose the idea to me early so I can say yea or nay. You need to get it OK'd by me (via private email) before the end of week four (week three in the summer quarter, or earlier), and then it needs to be posted to the online classroom before the end of week eight (week six in the summer session). I've indicated this on the class schedule (see the class schedule page on our website), but you may want to underline those dates and circle them in red to remind yourself.

click here to see the onerous consequences of
getting projects OKed after the deadline

Project self-evaluation

Then after your research project has been presented to the class, you will then need to write a self-evaluation of your project. Click here to download your research project self-evaluation form. You should fill out this form within a day or two of completing your project. Then you'll turn it in on the last day of class along with your Final Self Evaluation for the course.

I hope your research becomes an interesting and learningful (?) project for you.