The primary goal of Seminar is for you to write a substantial essay based on original historical research and to make a contribution to a historiographic debate. (Yes, we officially think you can accomplish this within a fifteen-week semester.) Everything about the course is designed around this assignment, and every small task aims to keep you on the path to produced a draft of that essay shortly before Thanksgiving.
In general, we will have a brief course meeting via Zoom every Monday during our appointed class time (starting at 2:30 p.m.). Each Monday I will ask you to do some reading or prepare something for that discussion and provide an update on your progress as you’ll see below. Most of the other work for the course can be done independently, with assignments usually due on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. each week. There are no late penalties, but one of the biggest challenges of this course is simply completing the work. Keeping pace is important so that you can complete a full draft. If you are having difficulties, please reach out as soon as possible.
Research Essay (550 points)
When you’ve completed the essay, you should be able to demonstrate all of the various skills that you’ve practiced through the major. In addition, the essay has some technical requirements:
- It should be at least 6,000 words (exclusive of footnotes).
- It should include footnotes formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
- It should utilize a range of both primary and secondary sources.
- It should make an original argument.
Beyond that, every essay will be a little different. As you know from your reading, some entire books are based largely on a single diary, while others involve research in thousands of newspaper articles. Historians have spent great energy debating some topics; others have received scant attention. There is, therefore, no specific requirement for a number of sources for you to use. We’ll figure that out together based on what you choose to research.The essay itself will have three graded components:
Proposal (100 points)
This is a formal proposal that should be designed around the research you conduct in the first month or so of the course. You should include a sense of the scope of your topic, your early thinking about the historical question you’d like to address, and an early view of what that scholarly discussion about that topic already is.
Essay draft (150 points)
If you’ve worked with me before, you know how important editing is as part of the writing process. That is even more true when dealing with an essay of this magnitude. Our goal is not simply to have you finishing composing the words of an essay by the end of the semester, but to have an opportunity to refine your thinking and make your essay shine. To do that, we need a full draft from introduction to conclusion and everything in between. I’ll give you an individual due date for this assignment so that I can space out my reading and make sure that each student has to wait as little time as possible without being able to work on it.
Final essay (300 points)
This is it. The capstone assignment in the capstone course. You’ve written it and rewritten it. You’ve revised based on comments from me and from your colleagues. You’re making a historical argument and contribution to a historiographic debate. You’re ready to turn it in on the last day of classes.
Presentation (50 points)
One of our goals for the major is to have you feel comfortable discussing your work with an audience. You will, therefore, prepare a presentation about your research project, due during the final exam slot assigned to the course by the Registrar. It is a departmental requirement for the course, though obviously we need to adapt it for a remote format. I’m therefore leaving this relatively vague because we’re going to discuss what makes the most sense for you to prepare during the semester.
You can do this.
Along the way there will be a series of smaller tasks and assignments, all of which are designed to help you in some way towards the goal of producing this major essay.
Weekly Assignments (200 points / 20 points each)
These assignments are designed to guide you through the research process. They replicate—as best we can—the process that historians undertake to produce an essay of this sort. Do your best on each one. Every assignment is cumulative, so the work you put in early on to develop your topic and bibliography, for example, will pay off later.
Writing Conferences (50 points)
There are three required individual conferences during the semester (in addition to the weekly updates). We will schedule them for three points in the semester: when you’re selecting a topic, after you submit your proposal, and after you submit your first draft.
Weekly Updates (50 points)
The biggest challenge of this course is making consistent progress. And in a remote format, I can’t count on seeing you regularly. So every week I’d like you to check in and let me know how it’s going. I mean this to be completely open-ended and you should make use of it however you think will best help you.
You have three choices for how to send in an update (and you can mix and match through the semester):
- Leave a VoiceThread video or audio note
- Write a brief “memo” to me
- Schedule a live meeting with me for sometime during the week (outside of the required conferences)
These will be graded check/no-check; if you do all of them you get 100% credit. I really just want to hear from you regularly. If you’d like some prompts to get you started, here are a few questions you can try to answer:
- What successes have you met?
- What frustrations?
- What are the most exciting or promising primary sources you’ve read this week?
- What’s confused you about the secondary sources you’re reading?
- What questions do you have for me?
Participation (100 points)
Through the semester we’ll have meetings once a week via Zoom. My hope is that everyone can attend them, but because we are remote, they are not mandatory. Please do your best to make the time available as listed on the syllabus, but I understand that this semester especially our schedules are not necessarily fully in our own control.In addition to our weekly synchronous meetings there will be some common work for you that will take the place of what would have been our remaining class meetings. For each of those, you should respond to the discussion board prompt as directed and comment on what your colleagues say.