The final report proposal assisted in developing the final paper, because it required the stress-test of a research question. However, ultimately, I found that I tried to turn the very straightforward research question into a broader project that extended into something different. What I would change about the process it proposing a research question, as well as incremental steps to scale it into a full project. This would relate well to rehearsing project proposals, and designing efforts that can grow with resources such as time, funding, or both.
The review process forced me to realize that my effort to scale up inappropriately, doing more work, or confusing work, was not helpful to my goals of being a clearer and more academic writer. Generally, I have learned that others' writing can be very clear, and this is an important skill which I hope to achieve with myself also.
The main difference is that I focused less on poetic writing and historicization, and more on assessing what is the available data and making a fairly basic analysis. This was actually a step forward, because it meant the research question is clearer and that I learned what it means to sufficiently answer a research question. Sometimes less is more: it is better to answer 90% of a limited question than 5% of a broader question. I would, however, want to focus on how I can expand an initial report into a bigger project. What I would do differently is include a special section for recommendations about future directions.
Some challenges included finding some specific sources of information. After years of research as a journalist, converting that open-minded and free-association type of knowledge into something more academic was, at times, very difficult. Some citations took minutes. Other citations took hours, and one in particular — about the Assyrian patriarchate's recent relocation from Chicago to Ankawa, in Erbil, turned up no clear results. The citation was based on an article that stated the patriarch was already in Ankawa, and another article that stated the patriarch was in Chicago, which made it clear he had moved. Also, I struggled with citing some field research and qualitative interviews. I look forward to taking a far more systematic approach to transferring interviews and general knowledge into an academic, rigorous database in the future.