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326.1 Inquiry Memo (10%, 10 points)

The Inquiry Memo takes its lead from Part II of The Craft of Research, pp. 31-100. In the Prologue to this section, Colomb, Booth, and Williams mention four aspects of planning: finding a topic, questioning the topic, determining evidence expected by an audience, and determining whether, given constraints on time and other resources, you can gather appropriate data and materials. Your inquiry memo, due Wednesday, September 29, is an early attempt to address these aspects with a reasonable degree of commitment. Think of the memo as a statement of intentions in anticipation of P2. It will explicitly address four considerations:

1. What are one or two possible topics? How are these topics related to your field of study? What interests you in these topics?
2. What questions (for each topic you identify) do you intend to explore? List some of them. Why do these questions matter? To whom are they important?
3. What forms of evidence will an audience expect when they read this research? This point, of course, requires you to address questions of audience. Who do you imagine as readers of this research account: scholars, students, parents, workers in a particular field, some group of people identifiable on the basis of interests, affinities, careers, or hobbies?
4. Can you identify and gather, in the time we have available, sources appropriate to the development of this researched project? How will you proceed? Do you anticipate any pitfalls?

Farther along in the Prologue, the authors explain that "[d]oing research is not like strolling along an easy, well-marked path to a familiar destination; it's more like zigzagging up and down a rocky hill through overgrown woods, sometimes in a fog, searching for something you won't recognize until you see it. But no matter how indirect your path, you can make progress if at each step of the way you plan for predictable detours (and maybe even avoid some of them)" (33). So, while the inquiry memo is a crucial planning document, you should nevertheless anticipate surprises and detours as you proceed this semester.

Assignment Details
The Inquiry Memo should be a minimum of 1200 words. Format P1 as you would an interoffice memo, with TO:, FROM:, DATE:, and SUBJECT: headings. Typeface, line spacing, and the formatting of subheadings should be deliberate, but you have some flexibility in adapting these features of the document to fit with your aims. Submit your work by sharing a Google Doc containing your Inquiry Memo with me no later than the start of class (i.e., 11 a.m.) on Wednesday, September 29. Bring a printed copy of your inquiry memo to our conference that week.

Evaluation Criteria

Each of the four criteria listed above will be evaluated on the following scale:


EX: Exceptional. The writer has addressed the criterion thoughtfully and with distinction.
AC: Acceptable/meets expectations. The writer has addressed the criterion to a satisfactory degree.
NI: Needs improvement. The writer has minimally addressed the criterion in the project.
NA: Not applied. The writer has not addressed the criterion in the project.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Really, we should say 'worknet' instead of 'network'. It's the work, and the movement, and the flow, and the changes that should be stressed." —Bruno Latour, "A Dialogue on ANT"

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