Research Posts (2 installments + review in final exam)
ssignment: Write and submit two “adventures / experiments in research.”
Essential information: Research posts are not essays of literary criticism but reports on your research findings on literary criticism or history concerning early American literature and culture.
Sources: At least 4 sources.
Length: 4 paragraphs (though you may add 1-2 more paragraphs if the alternative is "monster paragraphs")
Works Cited / Bibliography? As the models demonstrate, some research posts feature a Works Cited at the end; others provide documentation as they cite in the text; and others do some combination.
Length: 4-7 paragraphs, plus or minus bibliographic information
Bibliographic requirements and information: At least 4 sources, at least some of which should be from reputable scholarship and not just stray internet postings. MLA style is expected. Information may be included in text or more completely in listings at end of post.
Published scholarship has the most prestige and professionalism, but for some subjects consider interviews with experts or practitioners. For instance, some teaching issues may offer little research, so interview someone who may have more knowledge, like a former teacher or professor.
Posting to webpage: Email contents to instructor at whiteC@uhcl.edu. Instructor will post to webpage and email notification of posting with a brief reaction. This may be all the feedback the student will receive until final grade report, though students may always confer with instructor to review. (See “grading” below.)
Provide a title for your entry to serve as a link. The title should indicate your post's content. The title may take the form of a question.
1st paragraph: Introduce and frame a question you want to answer or a topic you want to know more about.
2nd and 3rd paragraphs: Describe your search for answers to your question or topic.
4th paragraph: What is the answer to your question?
These paragraph descriptions are only guidelines, not absolute rules.
You may write more than 4 paragraphs, but more than 6 or 7 paragraphs may push the assignment too far.
Grading schedule: Grades for research posts are not returned until the Final Grade Report
Instead of a grade and extended review for your first post, on receipt of your submission instructor sends a brief email summarizing overall impression of your submission + suggestions for next moves.
Your two research posts together receive a single grade, which appears in your Final Grade Report because your final exam will reference one or both of your Research Posts.
This description may sound tricky, and some students like their grade outcomes better than others, but in several semesters of such assignments I've had no direct complaints—only questions, which you're welcome to ask. Overall students appear to find research posts less disruptive than full-fledged term papers.
Grading standards: Research Post grades are based on readability, interest, quality of research, and learning.
Your topic may narrow or otherwise transform as you research—OK. Review the change in your post.
Often a student will start a subject that proves too big for the assignment—consider doing it in two parts, or follow where your research leads you and report on your best material.
An author or set of texts associated with Early American Literature
A defining historical event or movement relevant to early American literature or cultural development
Other artistic, literary, or cultural movements associated with early America
Secondary critical research concerning a work, author, or issue related to our subject. (You would find several critical articles or books relevant to your interest, then summarize what you gained or learned from reviewing them.)
Past student work for the course, or theses concerning
colonial or postcolonial texts:
Edgar Allan Poe—he's
after this course.
Topic (Salem witch trials) must contain proviso:
Every semester several students want to research the Salem Witch Trials. No problem except that, no matter how many times our course materials reinforce that there was no witchcraft involved, but only mass hysteria, some students continue to write as though witchcraft and satanism really happened, or that some great mystery remains, when the only definite fact is that 19 innocent people were murdered by the courts of Salem.
Therefore, if you choose to write a research post on the witch trials of Salem, or if you write extensively about this subject in an exam, you must either preface such materials with the following qualifying statement (to appear before the text of your report or essay), or else include similar qualifying statements in your own text:
The reason the Salem Witch Trials should be interesting to later Americans is not because there were evil witches at Salem but because there weren't, yet for a number of reasons—social change, insecurity, childish pranks, adult encouragement, "moral hysteria"—normal people including responsible authorities talked each other into believing that witches were causing the community's problems, resulting in the execution of 19 innocent citizens and the imprisonment, corruption, and misery of many others despite the absence of any evidence that should be legally admissible in a modern court.
If anyone was evil or wrong, they were not the people who were accused of being witches but those who accused them of being witches, or people who succumbed to social pressure and cooperated with such persecutions. In these regards, the occurrences at Salem in 1692-3 more closely resemble the Day-care Sex-Abuse Hysteria of the 1980s and other moral hysterias here and there throughout human history.
If you have a special reason for asserting that witchcraft and satanism did in fact occur at Salem, such as your own personal practice of witchcraft or satanism, you may do what you can with such material, but respect the historical facts over what you see in movies or on TV.
Response to Research Proposal