Response Papers

Participants will write three short response papers (750-1000 words) that critically discuss a given week’s readings. You may also write more than three papers and drop the least successful one from your grade. All papers are due on the Monday preceding class. To ensure unbiased grading, please put your name on a separate page at the end of the paper.


First, the papers due on the Monday before class. To ensure unbiased grading, put your name on a separate page at the end of the paper.

In 750-1000 words, you only have time to raise one or two points in your response papers. Ideally, you should make some sort of overarching argument that synthesizes ideas from a number of different readings, but it is of course impossible to touch on all of the readings. As with leading class discussion, it’s better to be interesting than exhaustive.

Examples of Potential Papers

  • A paper that identifies a point of disagreement among different readings and makes an argument about how the readings disagree because they are actually trying to explain different things, or because they are looking at different contexts. A related approach would be to argue that two readings that seem to disagree actually do not because of X.
  • A paper that makes an argument about how some readings are more useful than others in terms of advancing conceptual or theoretical understanding, or explains why one part of a reading may be useful but other parts may have shortcomings that can, however, be addressed with parts from another reading.
  • A paper that identifies what you think is a strength or shortcoming common to multiple readings and that makes an argument about why it is a strength or shortcoming. If you are identifying a shortcoming, perhaps discuss how the shortcoming could be improved upon.

These are only some of the possible approaches. Feel free to bounce an idea that you have for a paper off of me via email. In general, I’m looking for papers that make a coherent argument or incisive observation, synthesize several of the readings, provide evidence for the argument from the readings and also perhaps other material with which you are familiar - and demonstrate that you have thought deeply and analytically about several of the readings.

Example Student Response Papers

WEEK #7 ( PDF) Courtesy of anonymous student. Used with permission.

WEEK #9 ( PDF) Courtesy of Anat Binur. Used with permission.

WEEK #10 ( PDF) Courtesy of Rodrigo Canales. Used with permission.

WEEK #12 ( PDF) Courtesy of Reo Matsuzaki. Used with permission.

Final Papers

Finally, participants will write a research proposal (3500-4000 words) for an original research project. The proposal should review the relevant theoretical literature, assessing existing approaches to the research question; derive testable hypotheses to be evaluated in the proposed project; and describe a methodology for testing these hypotheses. A 1-2 page prospectus for this proposal is due in class on Week #8. The research proposal is due six days after Week #13.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples