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Jonathan Frank, Bryan Gallion

Karinna Hudyma, Natnael Tsegaw


ENGL297
18 October 2017

Research Proposal for Ethnographic Research Project

Introduction:
This research project will study aspects of journalism, relating specifically to foreign relations and
governmental affairs. We plan to discover how foreign correspondence differs from reporting on domestic
affairs, as well as how the writing process differs when reporting on issues happening outside the United
States. This ethnographic report will analyze a professionals writing process and how each step
influences his published stories. To learn more about our subjects writing practices, we will employ
research methods such as reliable online resources, interviews, our subjects stories and other journalistic
writing. This data will be analyzed by focusing on the importance of foreign correspondence and the role
it plays in the overall field of journalism.

Research Questions:
In regard to the field of journalism within the context of foreign relations, what happens in the
background in order to create these articles remains somewhat of a mystery. Unlike journalism in a
domestic context, reporting on international affairs requires one to communicate not only to potential
sources outside ones culture for information, but also to communicate this information to your own
domestic audience. With this in mind there are several research questions we hope to ask that may
provide us with a better understanding of the methods employed within the field to write well within that
professional context. Questions such as how to build rapport with those outside of your culture and what
norms within his/her correspondence are most important will guide a large part of our research. In
addition we will try to understand how it is that the journalist successfully converts those communications
with individuals with international relations information into digestible articles for an American domestic
audience to read. Within the context of the domestic audience, some guiding research questions include,
how much background is necessary to include in an article of this genre, does it differ from issue to issue,
and how is the importance of each topic communicated. By getting an answer to these questions our
group will create a framework to understand writing in this context and most importantly to write in it as
well.

Research Subject:
The research subject of the project is Joe Davidson of the Washington Post. He is a Federal Insider
Columnist who focuses his writing largely on governmental issues on an international context.
Furthermore, he has experience working as a foreign correspondent at The Wall Street Journal. His
current position at the Washington Post is one that reflects his experience and contacts gained within the
field. It is prestigious and filled with competition from several other news sources, which ensures that
work published must be of great quality. Given the research questions we have, it makes sense to study
this person because of their experience with having foreign contacts, American government officials, and
writing news articles. Every research question we have pertains to the job he currently has and subject of
writing he employs on a daily basis. Mr. Davidson would be a prime candidate for us to understand how
those within this field collect information and write on these subjects.

Data Collection Methods:


We will first contact our subject via email. After communicating with Mr. Davidson, we will then
conduct an interview. Preferably in person, the interview will include both an observation component and
a question-answer component. The interview will provide us with direct information from a professional
writer in the field in a discourse-based setting. We hope to ask Mr. Davidson questions regarding the
steps involved in gathering data, developing a professional relationship with different cultures,
interpreting different types of foreign correspondence, methods in writing about foreign relations and
what makes foreign correspondence journalism so unique. Undeniably difficult, working with
correspondence from different parts of the world takes much skill, and we hope to learn more about
techniques for interpreting these documents. The fieldnotes observation will include details about our
subject, his work environment, his interactions with his colleagues, etc. Each of us will take our own
fieldnotes during the observation period and we will combine them later to allow for a better analysis. We
will compare the work of our subject to that of domestic journalists from a variety of news outlets. We
will also research different types of foreign correspondence and documents, like governmental
documents, press releases, policies and white papers, that are useful to foreign journalism. Throughout the
process, we will examine how Mr. Davidsons writing process influences the final product. We hope to
gain a big picture view of the steps required to write about foreign relations.

Data Analysis:
We plan to analyze the steps Mr. Davidson takes to produce a story and how different elements of his
research informs his published products. Each journalist takes different steps along the way before they
publish stories. We hope to analyze his entire writing process, including planning, researching, drafting,
revising and publishing. Each step influences what information is included in the final story. We plan to
compare Mr. Davidsons stories to other foreign correspondents, as well as stories written on different
beats, such as domestic affairs and local news. Events and information is never reported in the same way
by each journalist who reports on it, so we plan to analyze similar news events, as well as differing
stories. In addition to Mr. Davidsons published stories, we will review notes and other personal
correspondence that we are provided. We will evaluate the results of the on-site observation of our
research subject and will draw conclusions regarding what aligns with course material, and what does not.
Mr. Davidsons answers to our interview questions will also be reviewed. His answers will be seen as
launch points into more research that will be conducted after the interview. Our extensive data analysis
will provide us the information necessary to develop our final ethnographic report on a foreign
correspondent.

Schedule of Work:
Thursday, October 13
Email research subject to introduce ourselves and schedule an interview/observation date

Friday, November 10
Latest interview/observation date scheduling target
Friday-Sunday, November 10-12
Compile fieldnotes from observation and transcribe interview

Wednesday, November 15
Draft of ethnography

Saturday-Monday, November 18-20


Edit and revise ethnography based upon peer feedback

Monday, November 20
Final draft of ethnography

*Research for the ethnography is an ongoing process and is occurring for the duration of the entire
project.