6.803 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

The Human Intelligence Enterprise

Schedule of Activities



Please familiarize yourself with the project descriptions for your section [Note: Not available to OCW users], so that you will be better prepared to provide feedback in the coming week.

Once you have read the recommendation letter assignment below, read “A Message to Garcia.”


For those doing a project

To fit everything in, you will have only 10 minutes for your presentation. We will bring a computer that speaks PowerPoint and Impress. You can either plug in your machine or loan us your memory stick. If you need an adapter for a Mac, please bring one or let us know what you need.

You are also to provide us with your annotated slides. You can prepare this after your presentation; we will not be looking for it until Friday, or some other negotiated date.

We prefer to receive the slides via an emailed pdf file, but we will live with whatever is easy for you to produce.

For everyone

Part I

There are two required parts to this assignment. Part I has two options.

Option I: Attend the classes devoted to project presentations and provide constructive advice to the presenters, using forms to be provided. Please be punctual; we start at 9:30 sharp and 11:05 sharp.

Option II: If you are unable to come to class, you are to prepare a comprehensive review of western thought, in not less than 100 pages or more than 200, starting with Aristotle, clearly identifying the slogan and symbol best associated with each significant thinker, as well as a synopsis of that thinker’s most salient ideas. Identify all surprises and comment on whether the thinker used stories to covey his ideas.

Here are some helpful references:

 A Brief History of Western Philosophy by Anthony John Patrick Kenny. Wiley-Blackwell, 1998. ISBN: 9780631187912.

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers by Will Durant. Pocket Books, 1991. ISBN: 9780671739164.

Part II

This part of the assignment is due at the final class; however, we will not be looking for it until Friday, or some other negotiated date.

You have just decided to apply for something that requires you to submit recommendations. You know you can rely on your UROP supervisor to help out, and your advisor, once prompted with your name, will scribble out something pro forma and pretty much useless, as all s/he can do is recite your transcript and say that s/he has never observed you do drugs in her/his presence. Alas, the application asks for three recommendations.

Fortunately, you took 6.803, so you know Winston maintains a dossier of your 6.803 work. Also, the dossier is augmented from time to time as you send him notes describing how you are progressing through life and how 6.803 has been of use. Accordingly, you send Winston the following note:

Professor Winston:
I am applying for graduate school/law school/medical school/a faculty job/etc. Do you think you know me well enough, from my 6.803 work, to write a favorable recommendation for such a position? If so, I append a few talking points, in the form of a draft letter, which I think will save you some time and strengthen what you can say. Also, if you can help, I will, of course, arrange to come by for a chat and drop off copies of all the material I am submitting.

Your job is to supply the draft letter, written as if by Winston. Mention your GPA along with any explanation you would like to have delivered if it is not high. Explain UROP work, if any, with special emphasis on what was fun. Describe extracurricular activities and achievements, if any. Explain passions and goals, if any. Detail reasons for wanting the position applied for and how having you will enhance the reputation of the place that takes you on.

In all sections, remember to use the press release style:

  • Most important things first
  • Write in a way that chunks can be used with minimal rephrasing

But wait!—you may say—I don’t know the first thing about writing about myself. Do you have any advice? Read “A Message to Garcia,” is the reply. Your mission, in effect, is to get the message to Garcia.

Note: When you do get around to needing a recommendation, send a copy of your letter, along with the following:

An explanation of characteristics the deciding organization is known to look for, how you fit the profile, and how that fit might be expressed or emphasized.

A few bulletized items that will be useful to Winston in understanding you, even if the bulletized material would be unlikely to be used explicitly in Winston’s letter. In this category, you might mention heroes (possibly in multiple categories), how you plan to change the world, most influential book, most enjoyable book, most influential subject (other than 6.803, of course), most enjoyable subject (other than 6.803, of course), favorite music, high-impact experiences, and so on.

Also, explain why it will be fun to have the position you are seeking and why you will be a better person for having got it, why the world will be better off if you get it.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments