All undergraduate students will be responsible for each week’s reading and will write 10 weekly response papers of approximately 400–600 words. Response papers may focus on study questions provided in the text, on questions raised in class, in the media, or in personal reflection on the assigned reading.
For undergraduate students, a longer research paper (min. 2500 words) will be due during the last class. A 300 word project proposal must be submitted by Session 13, and a draft must be submitted by Session 22.
For graduate students, a single 20–25 page research paper is due at the end of the term. A paper proposal should be submitted by Session 13.
Your final paper should address a topic relevant to the subject matter of the course. You may draw entirely on required readings, or include recommended readings, or draw on other research beyond what the class offers. All material consulted in preparing the paper should be included in a bibliography. The term paper should pose a clear question and defend a thesis in response to the question with arguments. Possible paper formats include:
- A critical evaluation of one of the assigned or recommended readings.
- A comparison of two or more of the assigned or recommended readings.
- A critical analysis of a text, image, event, not discussed in class, e.g., in the media or other academic source, drawing on concepts or methods discussed in class.
- A response to a question posed by one or more of the readings, drawing on whatever materials are relevant. (You might want to consider using one of the questions on a handout? Or your own question in discussion?)
- An application of an idea or argument discussed in class to a different phenomenon.
Papers will be evaluated on the degree to which they:
- Demonstrate a grasp of the relevant material covered in class and in the readings.
- Offer a clear presentation of the topic question and thesis.
- Provide sound arguments in support of the thesis.
- Show insight into the issues that goes beyond what has been covered in class.
Project proposals should address the following questions:
- What is the general topic of your paper?
- What specific question will you address?
- What is your tentative answer to the question? (This is the thesis you hope to defend.)
- What do you think are the strongest reasons supporting this answer?
- What do you think are the weaknesses of this answer?
- What are the next steps you plan to take in order to clarify your thesis and develop your arguments? Note that it is permissible to refine your question (or even change it, if necessary!) and / or change your answer during the process of drafting your paper. Your proposal is not written in stone. It is a tool to help you prepare a solid final paper.
This example appears courtesy of a MIT student and is used with permission.