Inquiry Project: Essential Elements

Your inquiry project: essential elements


  1. You must have a written component of at least 2000 words. The writing should be moderately formal: contractions and “I” are fine as long as you don’t overuse them, but please avoid slang, lolspeak, l33t, textspeak, emoji, etc. unless they are important to the point you’re making (which they may be). You want to build credibility as a serious researcher. That said, serious is not the same as boring or stuffy or stilted or mannered. Boring, stuffy, stilted, mannered writing is no fun to write or read. Your writing should be precise, inviting, vivid, and beautiful, with a sense of pleasure in the style. 1

REMEMBER that the Writing Center is here to help you and will be happy to work with you over multiple drafts. I’ll be happy to offer feedback on a draft as well, of course. More on the required draft soon.

  1. You should use varied and substantive sources, including at least three scholarly sources. I hope you’ve located some of these already, but if you haven’t, it’s not too late:  our librarian, Jenny Stout, can help you, and I can too.
  2. Every source you use should be appropriately documented. It’s a good idea to use one of the major citation formats—MLA, APA, Chicago—but I’m not going to be dogmatic about this requirement (though other professors later on might be—so you might want to practice now). 2 I encourage you to hyperlink frequently to your sources, just as you have to blog posts within the thoughtvectors learning community. A hyperlink is the Web equivalent of a footnote. (You have to be sure your link works for an outside audience as well, not just someone with access to VCU’s library. More on this soon.)
  3. Although there’s an extended written component, the entire inquiry project should be as “webby” and “fantic” as you can make it. The idea here is for your project to have a life on the web that goes far beyond what a typical “term paper” would have. So yes, images and video and audio and even animated gifs are fine and even desirable. Be creative! And remember that you want to build your reader’s trust in your work, so you’ll want to avoid superficiality (though not humor). There is a difference. (See above sentence regarding boring, stuffy, stilted, mannered writing.)
  4. I’ll be grading your project holistically, which means I’ll be thinking primarily about the overall success of the project first, and the contributions to that success second. In other words, I won’t be grading each component separately, though I will be paying close attention to how you inspire trust. Thoughtful research, creative presentation, careful argumentation, responsible citation, and the kind of writing I advocate in item 1: these are elements that inspire trust and confidence. They will help me understand you as a serious thinker and a diligent, creative inquirer. The closer you get to excellence in all these elements, the closer you get to excellence for the entire project.

AS ALWAYS: if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

  1. You should strive to be clear and concise, of course. This video demonstrates an extremely helpful process called “The Paramedic Method” that I’ve used with my students for years with success. (I’m grateful to Richard Lanham for dreaming it up and sharing it freely.) That said, don’t make all your sentences short and declarative. Use metaphor, imagery, and a sense of good rhythm to make make your point. Remember: precise, inviting, vivid, and beautiful, with a sense of pleasure in the style.) 
  2. If you’re on rampages,us, you can make footnotes like this very easily: just active the FD Notes plugin, then follow the directions on the plug-in site. A square bracket, a number and a period, the note, and a closing square bracket. It’s really that simple.