Research Paper: Beginnings and Writing the Proposal

At the end of the last second year module it was advised that we spend the Summer thinking about what interests us as individuals as the third year is about expanding our professional practise and engaging with concepts and issues that we find important. We could choose to have an overarching theme shared by both our symposium paper and our final major project but this wasn’t mandatory. I began the Summer thinking about ideas and issues in photography that I am interested in and also affect me as a practitioner entering the field. I drew these ideas up which can be seen in a list below:

Symposium Ideas:

  • The amateur photographer versus the professional photographer : what defines a professional photographer, the rise of the amateur and it’s affect on different photography industries
  • The digital age changing the practise of photography
  • SLR camera not being used as much to take photographs anymore – Nick Knight used an iPhone for a commissioned piece of work
  • The Internet and it’s effect on photography and culture
  • Documentary photography and photojournalism

With these ideas in mind I started reading and bookmarking some internet articles to see if there was any depth to my interests. It was through the Phonar (Photography and Narrative) module that I realised my interest focused around photojournalism and documentary photography and that I could apply the concept of the changing digital age to this area. This subject matter appeared to be the best choice for my symposium as my Phonar module would support me in the beginning steps of researching and writing about the subject.

When we were scheduling the timetable with Anthony he explained to us that we would need to submit a proposal for our symposium. This would involve outlining the subject we are investigating and detailing the methods we would use to undertake the relevant research. Anthony gave us a structure for the proposal which included the following sections:

  • Name
  • Title of research project
  • Mode of presentation selected
  • Description of subject to be investigated
  • Sources to be utilized
  • Methods to be used in acquisition of sources
  • Methods/forms of interpretation/analysis to be used with the information and sources
  • Plan/schedule of the work
  • Bibliography

The word count should be 500-700 words excluding the bibliography which would be reviewed as a separate entity. The proposal as well as being an assessment for the stability of our investigation would be a brilliant chance to collate and organise ideas and start making sense of the ideas. These proposals would be presented to the class, Anthony and our new tutors, Daniel and Kate after which we would receive feedback. Our proposals would get approved, critiqued or rejected depending on their strength and potential. I had already started outlining some potential resources and research avenues so I set out completing the proposal which can be seen below:

Symposium Proposal_Page_1 Symposium Proposal_Page_2 Symposium Proposal_Page_3 Symposium Proposal_Page_4

My proposal was relatively well received however it was identified by the tutors that I was using the terms ‘documentary’ and ‘photojournalism’ as if they were synonyms when in fact they have their own separate definitions. They explained that I would need to define each term and form my own interpretation, them decide which one to focus on in my symposium. After consideration I decided to choose photojournalism as the topic because I am interested in how the role of the photojournalist is a publisher as well as a producer, as we addressed in the Phonar module, this is a big responsibility and technology has been a big part in how the world receives photographic information. In addition to this they noted that I was yet to have a bibliography that featured classic photographic theory texts, this would be essential when writing my paper as it would give me a comprehensive knowledge of photography as a medium.

One of the classes we arranged in our timetable was a talk from Shaun Hides on completing an effective research project. This was an extremely beneficial talk as it outlined the process and structure needed to conduct a research project. With photography as an artful medium it is hard to perceive this paper as investigation in this form however Shaun Hides helped us to relate photography to effective research through the use of some clever comparisons. The key takeaways from the session for me were:

  • You must have an answerable questions, research projects need to have a conclusion; they shouldn’t speculate, they need to examine
  • We need a framework: ideologies from established writers with which we can form the basks of our argument as our own ideology is not sufficient enough to form a comprehensive argument
  • Data can be primary, secondary and tertiary we should only consider primary data if that is the only means procuring data. Instead we should consider looking at existing studies as these would have been conducted by professionals, however as with all data we need to evaluate the credibility of the source
  • Evaluating the data and the source of the data is extremely important, as we identified in the session some sources can be biased. When possible always choose information from commerce-free sources as these would not have any financial motivation.

With a broader understanding of the elements to a research project I was able to adapt my approach to the proposal. I had identified through other university sessions that the professionals Fred Ritchie and Stephen Mayes both write about the change in photojournalism and photograph and could be perceived to have polarised view points. I asked Shaun whether I could use these conflicting ideologies as my frame work, he said that it would work however he recommended that I find a third viewpoint which would relate to both sides of the argument. Though with further consultation from Anthony we agreed that my voice in the paper could act as this balancing viewpoint as long as I relied on other authors and practitioners to do so. Having already read Bending The Frame and listened to a number of interviews featuring the views of Ritchin and Mayes, I began to devise rewrite my proposal with possible case study selections. This reworked proposal (defining paragraph) can be seen below:

Revised Proposal_Page_1 Revised Proposal_Page_2

With the basic structure outlined, I had a clear idea on the different concepts and areas I should research. I then proceeded to continue my reading, note-taking and research into the different themes to build up a comprehensive overview of each section.

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