by idiosynchronic | 4/23/2008 11:31:00 PM
I recently had the pleasure of writing a term paper - while actually not writing a term paper based in any form of true scholarship. I wrote 5 2-4 page summaries of journal articles. 18 pages of work for little actual gain beyond a grade counting 10% of the semester. Phhppt. Like I could ever use this in a sample submission.

I think - and my wife gave me this idea - the point was to make the class read academic research journals, have us write something, but then sidestep plagiarism issues. What does this academic readership think?

Bib below the fold in case anyone's interested. The summaries are . . summaries, and even if I was a truly gifted writer, I wouldn't dare bore any of you.

““So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By”:
African American Automobility and Cold-War Liberalism”
Cotton Seiler, American Quarterly, 2006, Vol. 58, iss. 4, pp. 1091-1117

The primary sources were a series of traveler's guides for African-Americans from 1936-196X. These guides would be fascinating to page through.

“Precision Targets: GPS and the Militarization of the U.S. Consumer Identity”
Caren Kaplan, American Quarterly, 2006, Vol 58, Iss 3, pp. 693-713

How are GPS and zip-code consumer marketing related?

“The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the New Deal”
Laura Kalman, American History Review, October 2005, pp1052-1080

I was completely unaware of the whole 1937 Constitutional Revolution undergoing a revision between traditional externalists and lawyerly internalist arguing that the Court changed its New Deal opinions because of changing legal philosophies.

“The Carswell Affair: The Politics of a Supreme Court Nomination in the Nixon Administration”
Bruce H. Kalk, The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 42, No. 3. (Jul., 1998), pp. 261-287

This was fun, even though that wasn't the author's point. It was nice to see another White House flounder just as badly as what we've gotten used to. In the shower this morning, it struck me that the Carswell nomination would make a damn fine comedic farce or . . shudder . . musical. :)

“The Omniscient Narrator and the Unreliable Narrator: The Case of Atomic Café”
Jon Wiener, Film & History, Jan 2007, Vol. 37, Iss. 1

I've never seen Atomic Café, but I went out and found a copy to watch in the next few days. It looks fascinating, especially since the filmmakers didn't do anything but splice together other film materials. No narration or other new materials were created to help the film narrative.



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Blogger Pete Jones on 4/24/2008 2:09 AM:

I understand the usefulness of historiographical exercises in learning X field. Or comparing Y topic with many disciplinary lenses. But comparing those articles? Is this "Towards New Histories of Consumer-Legal-Cultural Criticism" or just, here's 5 articles on the Twentieth Century I enjoyed reading once.



Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/24/2008 2:22 AM:

That's something I make undergrads do: I would expect graduate students to be doing analytical, critical and comparative pieces, not busy-work. Oh, and as a term paper? No way.

I think Atomic Cafe -- which I've never seen myself -- is a metaphor for the whole assignment.

The only way I could justify this melange would be in a 20c US survey. One with a very distinctive take on modern society....


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/24/2008 8:45 AM:

Id, great to have you back!

Ahistoricality, I think Id is taking an undergraduate course. I have to say that I'm very sensitive to busywork in undergrad courses, and this sounds exactly like busywork to me. I wouldn't ever do something like this. If my students have to write, they should write something meaningful.


Blogger idiosynchronic on 4/24/2008 10:50 AM:

Hi gang- I am taking a undergrad 20C US Cultural and Social history class. The 5 articles were from a list 18 I compiled, and several I found were in series. Instructor looked at the list and said I could do any 5 that were discrete. So we have a rollicking melange. But that matches the syllabus.

If anything, this 300-level class has given me a few chances to decide on if I want to specialize on anything. I knew I was drawn to US 20C topics. Law & Court are interesting, but I don't want to really deeply investigate the Court because I ultimately find law arguments tedious. Cultural history - like being an art historian with having to be an art critic - that I find deeply fascinating.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/24/2008 7:17 PM:

I've definitely done book reviews (and article reviews) and summaries as ways to keep students focused on the work. I still couldn't justify, as a teacher, replacing some kind of integrated assignment with these summaries.

That said, my final papers and exam questions are notorious for their integrative scope. I've always felt that students should come out of a survey capable of some kind of master narrative and demonstrating the full range of required analytic skills. Most people don't ask quite so much....


Blogger AndrewMc on 4/25/2008 5:48 AM:

I've always felt that students should come out of a survey capable of some kind of master narrative

To to that end, I give my students a list of 20 categories, with 3 terms in each category. The categories are chronological and the terms are very loosely related.

The assignment is to pick one term from each category and construct a chronological narrative history of the US.

I assign this in my Intro to US survey. No page min/max, but I've seen them run upward of 25-30 pages. All history majors, social studies [teaching] majors, and journalism majors have to go through this class.

The idea is to get them to think about US history as an overarching "whole." It's a tremendously difficult assignment for most, since they rarely are asked to think about over-arching narrative in their history classes. They're asked about themes, discrete events, etc.