Research Proposal on civic engagement

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Diana Ryan

ED 300

Jack Dougherty

Research Question: How have high school requirements for civic engagement changed and affected students’ long-term civic engagement?

Relevance:Today, more and more high schools are requiring their students to participate in community service. While it is obvious to me why one should be involved in their community, to others it might seem like a burden or chore. Given the different takes on civic engagement, it is important to know how it actually affects students, not just in their future participation, but in the rest of their daily lives. Many times I have seen students fight the requirement, dissatisfied with the administration’s reasoning for the coerced sense of volunteering, I would like my research to demonstrate the benefits and any cons that I may discover. Ultimately, I would like to know how civic engagement, whether voluntary or involuntary, shapes high school students into citizens.

Finding Resources: First I searched through Google Scholar to find some articles, but I found more on civics courses or service learning, but I found one article, the first listed in my bibliography. From there, I looked through that article’s bibliography and found some potentially useful readings. I also looked through the Education Week newspaper I picked up in class last week and found an article entitled, “Restoring Civic Purpose in Schools,” which I could also potentially use. I also used JSTOR, ERIC (which is where I found my first article), and searched through the Education Week website. I also used the education section of the NY Times and the Hartford Courant. Some of the search terms I utilized to find the resources I have thus far are the following “civic engagement high school”, “community service required high school”, “community service high school”, and “civic service.” I plan to make an appointment with a librarian to help me narrow my search and find more information on this recent high school movement to be civically engaged.


Dávila, Alberto, and Marie T. Mora. “Civic Engagement and High School Academic Progress: An Analysis Using NELS Data, [Part I of An Assessment of Civic Engagement and Academic Progress.” In University of Maryland, 2007.

Metz, Edward C., and James Youniss. “Longitudinal Gains in Civic Development Through School-Based Required Service.” Political Psychology 26, no. 3 (June 1, 2005): 413–437.

Serow, Robert C. “Students and Voluntarism: Looking into the Motives of Community Service Participants.” American Educational Research Journal 28, no. 3 (October 1, 1991): 543–556.

Shipps, Dorothy. “Pulling Together: Civic Capacity and Urban School Reform.” American Educational Research Journal 40, no. 4 (December 1, 2003): 841–878.

White, James E. Davis, H. Michael Hartoonian, Richard D. Van Scotter, & William E. “Restoring Civic Purpose in Schools.” Education Week, March 7, 2012.

“Community Service In High School – New York Times”, n.d.

“High School To Require Community Service.” Hartford Courant, n.d.

“Flunking Community Service Threatens High School Diploma.” Hartford Courant, n.d.

3 thoughts on “Research Proposal on civic engagement”

  1. Diana, this is a great topic and you’ve done some preliminary investigation to prove it’s workable. I encourage you to revise the wording of your RQ to make it fit the change/continuity over time aspect of the assignment, and also to keep it manageable. For example, you could reframe it slightly this way:
    a) How and why have civic engagement requirements for US public high school students changed since (insert decade), and to what extent has this affected their long-term outcomes as citizens?

    The version above adds a deeper how & why analysis about the type and factors behind the changes (such as state/federal policy mandates/incentives), frames the time period, and looks into this third piece of your idea about citizenry.

    I’m pleased that you found some longitudinal social science studies on civic engagement that appear to be very helpful for the third piece of your question. Let’s explore the Shipps piece (may not be relevant) and look for more about the origins of recent expansions of civic engagement policies at state and district level during our conversation.

  2. In WorldCat, try this advanced search, subject = young volunteers in social service, perhaps with keyword = policy to narrow it down for sources regarding the origins of this recent wave.

    Also look through EdWeek archive 1981-more recent years for “community service” and search by relevance for the most in-depth news article.

  3. Diana — Since you emailed me about looking for additional sources, here are a few items I found that may be relevant to your essay.

    It turns out that WorldCat does list a subject entry for “service learning,” which combined with keyword “history” yielded this title. Although it emphasizes higher education, you may find it useful for recent origins of secondary ed:

    Stanton (1999) Service-learning : a movement’s pioneers reflect on its origins, practice, and future

    See also NSSE, Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 96th, pt. 1 (special issue on service learning, 1997)
    Abstract: “While service learning is not a new concept, as Joan Schine points out in her preface, it is increasingly being regarded as a component of schooling rich with promise as schools seek to enhance students’ classroom learning with real life experiences outside the school.”

    While looking for these sources, I found references to the National and Community Service Act of 1990, with this brief legislative history:

    This led me to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse website
    where you can look up resources on specific topics, such as
    Impacts and Outcomes of Service-Learning in K-12 Settings

    and here’s one more longitudinal study that I happened to see on WorldCat:
    Syvertsen (2011) Thirty-Year Trends in U.S. Adolescents’ Civic Engagement: A Story of Changing Participation and Educational Differences

    hope that helps

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