Context Pages

The challenge of “contextualizing” a project is to find a workable balance, under tight constraints, between ignoring critical social, cultural or ecological dynamics influencing your work and it’s prospects for success, and going “too big” by taking on themes that are so large (“Since the dawn of civilization…”) that one is left with little time to wrestle with practical issues of immediate project relevance. The guidance below is to help you learn to strike this balance, and to develop skills for researching and reporting on those contextual issues you decide to address.

Research Question Pages

Projects begin with questions — What are we trying to accomplish? What problem(s) are we addressing? What’s been tried already? What do we do first? Research Questions are those few big questions that you determine in consultation with advisors and others are necessary to investigate in order to adequately understand and conduct your project. Research question pages begin early in prep and continue throughout the project. They are a main way for you to systematically investigate what has been learned about your project topic by others, whether in Cape Town or elsewhere around the world.

During the prep, you will focus  on the work of researchers, practitioners and other experts as published in professional journals, government reports, and other sources of high quality information. Interviews with project sponsor liaisons and other experts can also help you pose and answer questions. During the field phase, Research Questions are often investigated through interviews, field observation and other methods providing insight specific to the project locale

In most other IQPs, this research process is organized as a “Background Chapter” (or “Literature review”) in the IQP proposal and final report. Here, you will have a series of research pages tied together eventually through your executive summaries. Each student will be responsible for taking the lead on developing at least one Research Question page. All pages will be fully cited and referenced using sound academic practice. Pages will develop over time, building from a list of potential sources, to a set of organized notes, to a well-developed analysis of the question.

Research Question Guidance

Cape Town Project Centre Context Page

One of your early Research Question Pages should address the question, “How does our project fit within the mission and history of the Cape Town Project Centre?” Use this page to help you learn from past projects and articles about the CTPC — what important insights can you draw from other CTPC projects related to your work’s topic (e.g., water and sanitation), place (e.g., Maitland Garden Village) or key strategies (e.g., working with co-researchers)? Cite CTPC projects like other reports or websites. You can (and should) also cite CTPC projects wherever they help you address other research questions you’ve posed.

Other Context Pages

Feel free to write pages on other topics that contextualize or advance your project. For example, through summer research activities you will have thought about and discussed with your summer groups important issues of South African history and culture. Perhaps you’d like to write about how apartheid, or the struggles of a new democracy, or music and art in informal settlements relate to your project? Such wider thinking might help you advance your understanding of the broad context of your work, and generate ideas for the project that might not otherwise emerge through a tight focus on the project itself. Given tight time frames, however, you’ll want to be strategic and discuss with advisors your writing priorities.