Research in the Disciplines is a Core Curriculum certified course that allows students to earn credit for the WcR or WcD requirement in Writing and Communication. We offer topics across most disciplinary fields at the university, so students can hone the skills of writing and revision through inquiry relevant to their major or interest. Many of our topics are interdisciplinary, and all engage with important and interesting questions for research.

Students in Research in the Disciplines select their own research topic, and work to advance the conversation about it from a critical and analytical point of view. They learn the process of searching for books, journal articles, and Internet sources; develop strategies for managing notes and citations; extend their synthetic and analytical skills; respond to instructor and peer feedback; and become able to differentiate between and assess scholarly, credible, and non-credible sources.

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SAS Students: 201 is Core certified to meet either the Revision-Based (WCr) or the Discipline-Based (WCd) Writing & Communication goals. The course may be taken to fulfill either of these requirements, but not both.

SEBS Students: 201 meets Core Curriculum Requirements in Area VI: Oral and Written Communication

Other Students: 201 meets requirements for most schools at RU.  Please check with your advisor.

Transfer Students:  If you did not take Expository Writing at RU, you may wish to register for 301: College Writing and Research, which is designed specifically for transfer students and meets all the same core requirements as 201.  Information on 301 may be found here: https://wp.rutgers.edu/courses/146-301 

 

201 Topics Spring 2024

Consult your Course Schedule Planner for specific times and locations.

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Blade RunnerThe Matrix. Artificial intelligence has long been the subject of science fiction. But now—with the advent of Siri and Alexa; self-driving cars; machine learning that informs corporate decision-making; chat bots that generate conversation indistinguishable from that of a human; AI-generated art that wins awards; Elon Musk’s efforts, with his company Nueralink, toward a computer-brain interface—artificial intelligence has become a very real part of our lives. And it promises, in the future, to become even more so. In this course, students will explore a range of ethical quandaries posed by both the utopic and dystopic potential of AI. Drawing from a variety of texts, from film to philosophy, we’ll ask the question that lies at the heart, perhaps, of all fears of artificial intelligence: What does it mean to be human? And in asking this question, we’ll be asking—in the spirit of Morpheus, with his blue and red pills—what is the nature of the real.

  

CREATIVITY

Exploring creativity! Where does it come from—the cosmos, the muses, our DNA? Do creative people think outside the “box?” What is the “box?” How do we break through to our innate originality and live it rather than conceal it in order to fit in? Are imagination, innovation, and inspiration the exclusive domain of the arts and sciences, or essential components for enriching our lives as well as our diverse profession? Those are some of the issues we’ll investigate. Research topics to consider include: creative ability and autism; effects of drugs on creative output; advertising and creative persuasion; the dark side and curse of creativity; left-handedness; the use of the Golden Mean—the mysterious number employed to establish order and beauty in art. Ultimately, you are free to follow your inspiration to discover other related topics.

 

FANS & FANDOM

What does it mean to be a fan or to be part of a fandom? How do fandoms work? How do fans signal their places in the fandom? How are the different approaches to fandom gendered? In this section, we will look at fandoms of all kinds from Bronies to the BTS army to football hooligans from cultural, psychological, and literary perspectives. As you write your research project, you will gain a new perspective on your favorite or not-so-favorite fandom.

 

FASHION AND STYLE

How did something as essential as clothing evolve into something as frivolous as fashion, constantly changing and regularly discarded? How did the verb "to fashion", which means, "to make," end up as a noun that describes the latest and hottest garment to be worn, a word synonymous with change? This class will explore these questions. We will also examine how fashion is used to define individuals and how fashion is a form of communication and culture with rules, values, and prohibitions. From fashion design and designers, to beauty and marketing, to subcultures and politics, this course will look at fashion as a social and cultural language today. Some possible research topics are: the cultural significance of specific designers; an examination of fashion trends as subculture; or a history of cosmetic use and its evolution in the last 100 years.

  

FILM

E.T. The dance of death at sunset. Gangsters, hangovers, and martial arts. A slumdog millionaire. Perhaps no other art form in the last century has left an impact on culture the way that film has. Through the images on screen, audiences engage in their hopes and fears, find their heroes, and confront their demons. Hollywood, Bollywood, the indie, the foreign film, documentaries and animation--the categories that fall under the art form have left a lasting legacy on our imaginations. This course will explore the nature of film as an art form and look at its power to inspire and enchant. Students may write about the lasting influence of a particular film, a director, or the significance of a genre.

 

HAPPINESS

What does it mean to be happy? How is happiness achieved? What are the differences between “the good life” and “a good life?” What forms does happiness take and which of these seem the most desirable or elusive? Readings from philosophers, essayists, journalists, and those in the “happiness-providing industry” will guide our journey to the answers--or, perhaps, leave us with even more questions.

 

INCARCERATION, JUSTICE & THE LAW

Americans make up only 4.22 percent of the world’s population, yet we house 22% percent of the world’s prison population. Our nation’s prisoners are majority black and Hispanic, nearly all come from poverty, and 45% suffer from mental illness. How can we as a nation commit to meaningful legal reform? What principles guide--or should guide--our judicial philosophies and legal statutes? How can we address violent vs. non-violent offenders and those suffering from addiction? What models exist for successful rehabilitation? In this course, we will analyze the mechanisms of law enforcement, the causes of mass incarceration, judicial interpretation and application of criminal law, and the rhetoric of criminal justice. Topics that students can explore in individual research projects include the economic incentives behind the carceral state, race and policing, the death penalty, drug offenses, prison abolition, ethical philosophies of justice, the reality of violent crime and its victims, wrongful conviction, mental health and prisons, the political and popular rhetoric of crime and incarceration in the United States, and more.

 

INTO THE WILD & OFF THE GRID

The call of the Appalachian Trail. The crash of ocean waves. The awe of a starlit night. Why do we hike into great forests, ascend mountains, and leap into the almost magnetic pull of the wild? Do we seek healing or imagine escape? Escape from what? Emptiness? Conformity? Countless hours glued to a soul-sucking Instagram feed? This course invites students to explore such questions in a way that fascinates or inspires them. Topics may include but are not limited to: transformative journeys; pilgrimage; voluntary simplicity; alternative energy, housing, and economic practices; radical sustainability; intentional communities; survivalism; urban exploration (urbexing); traditional arts and trades; "opting out" of social/technological norms; religious influences; ethics; nature; and spirituality. The sky's the limit!

 

LAW & CULTURE

We sometimes think of the law and legal language as occupying its own specialized domain – law offices, courtrooms, or halls of government. In this course we will explore legal documents, like Supreme Court cases and the US Constitution, to look for the ways they represent and impact daily life. This means reading the law alongside acts of cultural expression: works of art, film, music, and protest. Our focus will be on the legal and cultural meanings of moving freely through public space in the U.S. – as well as on the protest movements in American history that have demanded freedom. We will read widely about “freedom movements,” and you will be encouraged to explore your own interests by researching deeply into a particular moment in history, a particular legal or cultural document, or a particular movement.

 

LEADERS AND LEADERSHIP

The history of human affairs has been a history often defined by the decisions and actions of leaders. We think of leaders as individuals who look beyond their own narrow interests and enhance the prosperity and wellbeing of others. Great leaders emerge and can be recognized across different cultures, historical periods, and political contexts. But what are the qualities necessary for leadership? Why are good leaders esteemed so highly? How do we differentiate between good leaders and bad ones? Do we need leaders at all? If leaders are exemplars for others to follow, what is the relationship between leadership and public opinion? Students will conduct research on the significance of leadership and leaders in a variety of different contexts, including: politics, science, military affairs, business, art, religion, among other topics.

 

LOVE & SEX

Countless songs, novels, and movies focus on the same theme: love. How can we define love? What is the difference between loving someone and being in love? In this course, students will investigate the ways in which love and sex affect cultural traditions, gender norms, and the human condition. We will look at controversial issues that arise when people defy, redefine, or revisit cultural and social norms associated with love and sex.  Possible topics include acts of flirtation, gay marriage, public displays of affection, serial killers and necrophilia, sexuality in comic books, female genital mutilation, Internet sex addiction, sexual predators, and pornography.

   

NUTRITION, EXERCISE AND HEALTH

What scientific, social, cultural, economic, political, or ethical factors shape how we think about nutrition, exercise, and health in contemporary society? In this course, you can find out! Examples of potential topics include socioeconomic class and nutrition/exercise, eating disorders and body dysmorphia, childhood obesity, food and gender roles, the dieting industry, fitness and social media, Full List as of 10/27/23 the slow food movement, food insecurity in the developing world, government regulations and political lobbying, and so on.

 

RESEARCH IN A POST TRUTH ERA

One thrill of research lies in seeking independent solutions to problems. While research writers must learn to recognize “disciplinary” limits that create a sense of shared standards, new solutions have often come from outside the box of what has been "commonplace." The intention to see a problem differently has become more controversial in recent years as differences have become overlaid with accusations about lying about or ignoring or reinventing facts. How might we test the lines between revision and lies? Between prophetic efforts to change the future and “fake news”? Is this a new problem? Thinking against the grain – like any good thinking – requires that a researcher not simply accept but challenge conclusions or arguments they find. They must search for motivations and values: what the ideas do or can do in the world, and how they find a purpose. We will begin by looking at thinkers who have changed their disciplinary standards by evaluating what counts as truth, lies, facts, and stories, and how these choices are motivated. You will choose your research topic independently, but your work will pay attention to questions about boundaries and their underlying purposes both in your own writing and in that of your sources.

 

SCIENCE, MEDICINE, AND SOCIETY

“Science, Medicine and Society” focuses on ethical, social, and political controversies in a variety of medical and health fields. Research topics include biomedical engineering, nursing, pharmaceutical and insurance industries, health care, mental illness, alternative and experimental healing techniques, hospice, hospitals, and midwives. Students can also study aspects of medical training and the doctor-patient relationship.

 

SPORTS AND ATHLETICS

Organized athletics trace back to the Ancient Olympic Games in 776 B.C. and included sports like track and field, boxing, and wrestling. Today, skill sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, and football are played in large stadiums and arenas, and the athletes are stronger, faster, and more business minded. Additionally, technology has changed the game by allowing spectators to witness sports in ways never thought possible. For example, according to “Topend Sports: the Sports and Science Resource,” the 2020 US Open Tennis Championships implemented the next level Hawk-Eye Live that made line calls in real time (www.topendsports.com). In this course students may research any aspect of sports and athletics including sports management, social issues in sports, sports equity, coaching and training, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), technology and sports, professional and amateur athletes, social media and branding, and sports injuries.

 

TABOOS AND TRANSGRESSIONS

What activities are we expected not to entertain publically or even privately? Sexual deviance, death rituals, illicit drug use—why do certain taboos both appall us and appeal to us at the same time? And who gets to decide what's forbidden? In this course we will consider how our ideas of transgressions have changed throughout the years and what new codes of conduct we're expected to abide by today. Topics of exploration include all things offensive, disobedient, and unmentionable.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Technology sells the promise of doing more and more for us: one million apps and counting, drugs for all problems, TV on demand, self-driving cars, 3D printing, Internet in your glasses. Yet side-by-side with state of the art tech, we find mounting chaos: government gridlock; epidemic obesity; environmental degradation; privacy invasions; economic stagnation; debt crises, etc. This course offers students the opportunity to read and analyze research that may help connect the dots between the promise and the chaos, to step backstage and ask: Does technical progress really equal human progress? Or is the rising technical order at the expense of human/environmental chaos? Or both?

Writing Program Calendar