Topic is King!

The topic is the most important part of the entire project.
  1. It has to match the requirements my instructor has chosen. If it doesn't match the requirements, I won't get a good grade.
  2. It has to be something I am really interested in. If I am not interested in it, it is unlikely that I will do good research or convince Mr. Sydow that he should be interested in what I have to say about it.
I have to be able to find at least 7 good information sources and I have to be able to cover the topic in 5-10 pages, so it has to be something narrow enough to cover in a limited number of pages, but broad enough for me to find multiple sources.

Step 2: Picking a Topic

I am a librarian, so being able to locate good, reliable information is important to me. At the same time, I've been shocked, horrified, and dismayed by the news about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. I want to research and write about the coverage of the Ebola epidemic and the importance of reliable information in combating it.

The previous Ebola epidemic will provide historical context for the current outbreak, so I can use books and journal articles for that. The current Ebola epidemic is relatively new, so I will have to depend up news broadcasts and newspaper articles, press releases, and some authoritative Web sites for information about it.

How Did I Come Up with My Topic?

Early in the summer I began reading about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Each week I learned something new and horrible. I thought the worst was the day a student told me that it had just been leaked that five researchers who had authored an article on Ebola had died before the article was published, but later I read an article that Sheik Umar Khan, a leading expert who had contracted Ebola, was not given the experimental vaccine, which was later given to two U.S. aid workers. There seems to be no "worst" event anymore. It's just a cascade of increasingly horrific events and reports.

Looking for more information, I watched a PBS Frontline special on Ebola.The documentary followed a man and his wife. After the death of her father-in-law from Ebola, the wife became sick and was sent to a quarantine clinic. A few days later, her husband was brought in sick as well. Their children were alone in the village. Fortunately for the children, one parent survived, but one parent died.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to know, but I didn't really think it could be much more horrific until I read about the killing of an Ebola education team and journalists in Guinea and about the under-reporting of deaths in Freetown, Liberia.

Along with damage to the population numbers and families, the horrible disease and death tolls are irreparably damaging and changing the cultures of many African people. When I was a grad student at WVU, one of the French grad students was from Sierra Leone, the Hausa tutor was from Nigeria, and I taught a group of five Nigerian students. I also met several African students on campus. All of them were warm, friendly, and generous men. They reflected the openness and generosity of their cultures. Ebola has made a major impact on those cultures in terms of handshakes, hugs, funerals, and fear of strangers.

There are so many ways this topic could be researched: organizational reporting vs. media reporting, the impact on culture, the fear and anxiety of contagion, the problems of educating people about staying safe, the bravery of the health workers, the slow global response, and more. I want to look at efforts to use information to prevent the spread of Ebola and to drum up support (funding/resources/personnel) to treat and eradicate Ebola.

Video Links
Google Apps: Logging In & Logging Out
Google Apps: Research Log

Research Log Example

Topic Question
How can organizations use broadcast media and information to prevent the spread of Ebola and drum up support to treat and eradicate Ebola?

Search Strategy - Concepts and Synonyms
Concept 1
Concept 2
Concept 3
Concept 4
Concept 5
United Nations
health organizations
United States
MSF - Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
New York & New Jersey
WHO - World Health Organization

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