Assignment 2 (Summer 2023)

Assignment 2 has two parts. The first, the Research Log, is a structured opportunity for you to report to your mentor and classmates the progress you’ve made this week in exploring the literature and refining your idea. Each assignment until the Qualifier Question, you’ll submit a new Research Log documenting your research progress since the last week. The second, the Activity, is a more structured opportunity to practice one of the skills you’ll need as you move forward in the class. Each part is worth 50% of this assignment’s grade.

Research Log

Your Research Log for assignment 2 follows the same procedure as that in assignment 1. Its goal is to be general to your current progress: if you have a very clear idea for what you want to work on, the sources you’ll select will be very close to that problem or phenomenon; if you don’t yet have a strong idea, you’ll choose a greater variety of sources to keep exploring at a higher level. Either way, you’ll begin by summarizing your progress entering the week, then provide an itemization of your exploration for the week, the synthesize that with what you’ve explored before, reflect on the process, and plan for next week. If you haven’t already, you should peek forward at the requirements of Assignment 3, the Qualifier Question, and the Proposal. Your Research Log is intended to prepare you for these upcoming assignments.

Your Research Log for this week should be all-new material (as you aren’t repeating the same research you did last week!), but you can include your previous Logs as appendices if you think they provide useful context to your peer reviewers.

The sections of your Research Log will be the same as Assignment 1, although the directions differ slightly due to your greater background so far:

  • Background: In about half a page, summarize your current state. This would largely cover where you left off last week.
  • Papers: List the papers you came across this week and gave considerable attention to. We would expect the Research Log to include at least 15-20 sources (though more is fine as well), and at least 12 (preferably more) should be academic and peer-reviewed. You may include blog posts, newspaper articles, etc. as well, but you should have at least 12 academic sources, too. In the list, for each source, you’ll provide:
    • The paper’s bibliographic information (its APA citation, typically)
    • In around one sentence, how you found it (a Google Scholar search? From a conference’s proceedings? From another paper’s references? Something else?)
    • In around three sentences, a brief, original summary in your own words
    • In around three sentences, the main takeaways going forward

    You should never copy text directly from the source (including its abstract) unless you are quoting it with quotation marks and in-line citation; see How To: Avoid Plagiarism for more. Your summaries should be in your own words; if you want to quote the source directly, make sure to follow APA guidelines for in-line quotes and citations.

  • Synthesis: In about a page, summarize the overall body of work you’ve put together, both in this Log and the previous ones. What are the high-level trends, large takeaways, or open questions you’ve found? If you’ve narrowed in on a particular domain, summarize that domain; if you’re still exploring, discuss the overall direction these efforts are leading you toward. Most importantly, anchor this synthesis in the papers you provided above (and in previous Logs), citing them where appropriate.
  • Reflection: In about half a page, reflect on the process of finding sources, reading papers, synthesizing their contents, and building your understand. What was difficult, and what was easy? What are you finding yourself interested in going forward?
  • Planning: In about half a page, provide a plan for what you expect to do next week. What threads or ideas will you pursue? What questions will you seek answers to in the literature?

The goal of this Research Log is three-fold: to structure (in conjunction with the Research Guide) your exploration of the literature, to report to your mentor your progress in an externalizable and organized way, and to provide enough information for feedback from your mentor and classmates. The process of building your understanding of the literature is a personal journey that is difficult to assess, but we feel confident that if you can externalize the outcomes above, you’re taking steps in the right direction. We will expect your Research Log to show that you’re following the advice prescribed by the Research Guide.


In the Qualifier Question, the Proposal, and the Final Project, you’ll be expected in part to write a literature-backed analysis of the space surrounding your problem. To do this, you’ll need to wield sources from the literature in defense of your claims. This takes practice, and in some ways is a chicken-and-egg problem: you use the literature to explore your problem or question, but you then use your evolving problem or question to inform further exploration in the literature. It is also difficult to learn from your peers on these assessments: did they do better research, or are there just more sources for their problem?

So, to practice writing in a formal, academic style with citations, we are giving you a prompt. Use the Research Guide to explore the literature surrounding this prompt, especially the pages on finding papers to read, reading an academic paper, writing an academic paper, and using citations in your writing.

Online education and MOOCs were praised as having the potential to equalize access to education, but critics have suggested that they are having the opposite effect and are disproportionately used by already-affluent audiences. What is the truth about the relationship between online education and equity of access? Is it having an equalizing effect, or is it actually widening the gap in access to education? In answering this, you could choose to consider equity based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or other factors, but you do not need to cover them all.

Note that we do not have a correct answer in mind for this question. Instead, we are looking for the extent to which you come up with an answer and defend that answer with the available literature. Note that if you find sources with contradictory conclusions, you should not select only those that support your conclusion: you should instead include the contradictory evidence, and provide an explanation for why you maintain your conclusion despite that evidence. This is what makes a good argument: putting both the supporting and opposing evidence in context.

We expect that a good answer to this question will require around 3-4 pages, excluding references; this is neither a minimum nor a maximum, but rather just a heuristic for the depth we expect. The writing for this activity is expected to be formal: avoid personal pronouns and contractions, cite appropriate literature both in-line and in the references section using APA format, and organize your response around a central thesis that you then support with evidence.

Submission Instructions

Complete your assignment using JDF, then save your submission as a PDF. Assignments should be submitted to the corresponding assignment submission page in Canvas. You should submit a single PDF for this  assignment. This PDF will be ported over to Peer Feedback for peer review by your classmates. If your assignment involves things (like videos, working software prototypes, etc.) that cannot be provided in PDF, you should provide them separately (through OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) and submit a PDF that links to or otherwise describes how to access that material.

This is an individual assignment. Even if you already plan to work on a team for the project, this assignment should still be completed individually.

Late work is not accepted without advanced agreement except in cases of medical or family emergencies. In the case of such an emergency, please contact the Dean of Students.

Grading Information

As with all assignments in this class, this assignment will be graded on an 11-point scale (0 to 10), in accordance with the grading policy outlined in the syllabus. If your deliverable receives below a 9, you may revise and resubmit it once within one week of receiving a grade. Resubmissions may receive up to a 9. Note that this should not be treated as a de facto free pass to submit sorely lacking work initially; we reserve the right to deny resubmission or grade a resubmission more harshly if we perceive the original submission was lacking in earnest effort.

Peer Review

After submission, your assignment will be ported to Peer Feedback for review by your classmates. Grading is not the primary function of this peer review process; the primary function is simply to give you the opportunity to read and comment on your classmates’ ideas, and receive additional feedback on your own. All grades will come from the graders alone. See the course participation policy for full details about how points are awarded for completing peer reviews.