Preliminary Analysis

In your preliminary analysis you will investigate the broader context of the topic you’ve chosen for study. This will require some research and a lot of thinking. It will include the following components:

A topic summary & Potential disciplinary lenses for analysis – 250-500 words

This is pretty straightforward! Give me a broad overview of your topic, including a potential site for study (i.e. a clearly articulated place and time). Topic summaries should give broad context, filling your reader in on baseline information they might not know. You’re also welcome here to give me a sense of why this particular topic is appealing to you.

For the second part of this section limit yourself to 1-3 disciplinary lenses. By the conclusion of Unit II you’ll be focused on a maximum of two disciplines. Disciplinary lenses help you identify the methodologies you’ll use for study. One topic might look very different depending on the department (or discipline) that studies it at VCU. We are currently witnessing a national movement to change policing practices in the United States. That movement would be studied very differently in Sociology than it might in the Dept of Criminal Justice. Your disciplinary approach tells us a lot about what perspectives you might privilege in your work and what methods you’ll take to better understand the issue at hand.

A summary of the topic’s stakeholders – 400-500 words

Any topic has multiple stakeholders—that is communities or constituents who are invested in the evolution of the issue over time. If we were to study the recent federal proposal to ban TikTok we can imagine many different stakeholders: elected officials at the federal level. TikTok users, who may trend toward particular demographic sets like age, income, etc. TikTok shareholders are stakeholders, as are TikTok workers. Even adjacent companies like Instagram may be stakeholders, if they could be subject to the same legislation. Cast a wide net here! Come up with as many stakeholders as you can.

A Problem Statement –  250-350 words

This is a direct statement of the problem you’ve identified within your area of research. If I were studying criminal justice reform, here I might narrow my focus to the popularity of mandatory minimums amongst politicians, which goes against recommendations by specialists in reentry. If I were studying public art I might address the problem that emerges when public art (monuments or murals, for example) constructs stories about our collective history about which we don’t have collective agreement. The problem statement should both a. narrow your focus and b. help your reader understand the specific problem you plan to research.

A list of tentative inquiry questions – 100-200 words (apx)

Now that you know everything that you’ve learned, what questions would you like to explore as part of a broader research project inspired by this topic? Try out a few questions dedicated to different areas of inquiry within the project. I recommend coming up with a number of questions for this section.


This assignment is worth 20% of your grade for this class (20 points out of our class’s total 100), with each sub-section of this assignment worth 5 points.