Guidelines for The Group Research Project

The group research project consists of an in-depth study of a current issue or event in a specific organizationís life. The data should be drawn from the press or from direct observation of an organization. If drawn from the press, it should pertain to a well-documented event (and your paper should meticulously record what observations came from what source). If drawn from direct observation, the data collection should not be dominated by any one person (such as the person who works there). In other words, nearly everyone on the team should do interviews themselves with members of the organization.

It is tempting for a project like this to write a biography of a person or organization -- i.e., tell a descriptive story. Such a story might have a place in the project, but it cannot be central. The story is basically data. But the focus of the project is the theoretical issues that are illustrated by the data. In other words, the project is about power, or motivation, or decision-making or whatever. The specific events and individuals are just the vehicles through which these central processes play themselves out. If you like, think of it in marketing terms: rather than sell the product, you want to sell the benefits. It's not a car, it's status. It's not an allergy pill, it's freedom.

So the project should have a point of view that is based on the concepts covered in this course. It should recast the events chronicled in the data sources in terms of the perspectives learned in the course. In short, the project is about explaining the facts in terms of some theoretical understanding, such as the principles of leadership or the algebra of indirect influences. For example, one kind of paper might analyze a seemingly puzzling outcome or set of events, and shows that applying basic principles of network theory explains the puzzle. Another kind of paper takes a point of view about, say, power, and illustrates that understanding using a set of events drawn from the newspapers. 

There are two key deliverables. One is a 30-minute presentation (23 minutes plus 7 minutes for questions) in class (May 4th). Creativity and clarity is encouraged in the presentation, within a basic framework of professionalism. The other is a 20 page written report due May 6th via email. Depth and logic are important in the report. On reading the report, the reader should feel that he or she understands a set of events and personages in a powerful new way that gives the events coherence and understandability.

The grade for the research project will be an average of the two deliverables. It is important to get your project topic approved by me via e-mail by Feb 24th before class. (See proposal.).