Up: Grading and Evaluation.

Goals of this Course

  1. This course involves a writing component.. The point of it is to get more practice learning to write papers, and this involves planning and method. I require you to hand in things in stages---bibliographies, outlines, early drafts etc. of your paper so you can get help improving it before the end of the semester. The first requirement will be during the second and third weeks of the semester, when you will meet with me to discuss your ideas for a project. Please bring a one-paragraph statement of what you intend to do with your project, and some bibliography, if you have it. This may have to be revised, with a deadline for a coherent proposal and bibliography due two weeks later (see Deadlines .)

  2. Length, Footnotes and Bibliography. The paper should be 15--20 pages in length and contain an reasonably adequate bibliography. A good piece of original research distinguishes between other people's ideas and ones own ideas (or what is generally known) by footnoting them and giving references. Too often term papers exhibit a blasé attitude toward authorshipof ideas. We will be very hard on you in preliminary versions of your paper so that the final product will not be problematical in this regard.

  3. Content. I would like to learn something from your paper. If your paper is a rehash of someone else's work, it will not get an A. It should indicate a familiarity with things discussed in class and in the assigned readings. All the topics covered in this course are somehow interrelated, so a study of any one of them has bearing on most of the others. There should be some evidence that the author of the paper recognizes these interrelationships.

  4. Form. The paper should present a problem (idea, question, topic), that is pertinent to the course and integrate it with ideas (questions, topics, problems) discussed in the readings and lectures. There should be a statement of the topic (problem, idea, question), a discussion/analysis of its history, development, complexity and pertinence and then a conclusion stating your analysis of the question (problem, idea, topic.) You are not expected to agree with everything anyone else has said or claimed about your topic but when you disagree, you are expected to give well-reasoned arguments for your own conclusions. It is not sufficient simply to paste together snippets of quotations from various sources with no analysis, no original thought, and no attribution of sources. The kind of writing that is expected in this course is expository writing. It is not creative writing of a personal sort; it is not journal keeping or poetry writing or short-story writing. I have ordered for purchase a book entitled The Craft of Research by Booth, Colomb and Williams (Chicago 1995) which should be of much help in understanding the difference between expository writing and other kinds of writing. It also emphasizes not only the construction of good sentences, but of good arguments (This has to be understood early in the game so that you are not disappointed when I start criticizing your writing.)

  5. Spelling, proofreading, typos, etc. There is never any excuse for term papers to be full of spelling errors, typos, strikeovers, etc. If you can't spell, get someone to proofread your paper, or use the spell-checker on your word-processor. Follow a manual of style. Use an eraser. Papers full of mistakes, or that have obviously not been proofread do not get an A, even if they are otherwise brilliant. In the real world (outside academia), neatness counts.

  6. Helpful Hints. I have put on my web site some things I have found useful to help students in the writing of term papers. Please read these guidelines and take their advice; if your paper is missing, e.g. a Review of the Literature, or a Conclusion, or a Statement of Purpose, you will get a chance to supply one, following the form described in Helpful Hints.
Papers lacking this characteristic will be graded down. An inability to credit others for their own ideas, statements, or research is known as plagiarism and outside the academic world is a criminal offence. Inside academia, plagiarism is severely frowned upon, and can constitute grounds for dismissal from the University.

If I can arrange it, during the 2nd week there will be a guided tour of the Van Pelt libraries by one of the librarians, or if that doesn't work, a visit to the class to talk about resources and ways the library can help you. (S)he will also be glad to give extra help at other times---as a Reference Librarian, that is their job. I will inform you when this will be possible; if you cannot attend this session you can join in other `tours' of the facilities. Do not assume that all the materials you need for your project are available via Web; many bibliographical items pertinent to your subject may not be, or may not even be in the electronic online catalogue, such as materials published before 1968. If you need any archival materials, they will not be in electronic form.

Up: Grading and Evaluation.

Harold Schiffman
last modified 9/6/2005