LITR 5731
Seminar in Multicultural Literature: American Minority

Research Option:

1 research journal


Research Journal option (due by email 1 December; 30-40%):

Purpose: Students will extend their range of knowledge or familiarity with the field of minority literature or one of its subject areas. In brief, the journal might answer the question, "What do I want to know about this field of study, and in what types of sources or references do I find this knowledge most accessible?"

Some sample subject areas: The Harlem Renaissance, Native American poetry (or song), Mexican American literature in Texas or Houston, The Arte Publico Press of Houston, African American autobiography, Native American oral traditions, the corridos of the Border country, performance poetry by minority writers (e. g., Sapphire, Sherman Alexie), missionary literature of the American Indians, slave narratives, the Underground Railroad in literature, literature of the Civil Rights Movement, theories of "multicultural literature," literature associated with Martin Luther King, publishing by minorities, the rise of African American popular literature in the 1990s (bestsellers, Oprah's Club, etc.).

Length: Approximately 15-20 pages, though longer submissions are acceptable. Content: Specific suggestions are given below, but overall the journal should demonstrate that you have, however briefly or tentatively, initiated research in several related subjects.

Quality: Be careful not to let the label of "journal" make you lazy. All your writings should be readable and interesting, and none should look like first drafts.

Coherence: A journal provides opportunities for variety in learning, but students should look for opportunities to organize their diverse sources into larger themes according to the purposes of the assignment. The introduction and conclusion provide the primary opportunity for you to generalize on your learning. Also you may make connections between parts of your journal as they appear.

Warning regarding grading: If you choose the journal option, you are not choosing an option that involves less work than the traditional research paper option. You are expected to do just as much work and your writing will be judged by similar standards. However, the writing may be less centrally or consistently focused on one subject. Thus you may pursue several subjects, which may not perfectly cohere, but the journal must be “readable.” That is, your writing should lead the reader and connect from page to page. In brief, the journal I read should not be your first drafts, and it has to be going somewhere. If you drop subjects and introduce new ones without accounting for the shift, this amounts to bad writing in a journal just as it does in an essay. If the progression of the material doesn’t create a desire in your reader to keep reading, this is a problem in a journal just as it is in an essay.


Research journal--suggested contents: (page suggestions are for double-spaced print)

(Except for the introduction and conclusion, all the items and page numbers below are optional or variable according to your interests and findings. In no case should your journal be over 20 pages. Other options besides those listed are possible.)

·        Introduction (required): rationale: what you wanted to learn and how; preview contents, general themes, choices (1-1 & 1/2 pages)

(All the following “body” components are optional for inclusion or variable in length according to your topics and findings)

·        Reviews of two or more secondary sources. What kinds of issues and challenges does the article or book raise? What does the reader leave with, and what remains unresolved? (1 page)

·        Review of 2-3 websites (1-2 paragraphs on each site?)

·        Historical report on a major event or series of events in the cultural history of the minority you're studying. (1-2 pages)

·        Biographical report plus primary and secondary bibliography on a major minority author (2-3 pages)

·        You may suggest other possible items for inclusion in your journal.

·        Conclusion (required): In terms either of variety, priority, or unity, what have you learned from the gathering of your journal? Where might this knowledge take your studies or your teaching? What new issues have been introduced that you might like to study next? (2-3 pages)

For examples of previous student journals, see Model Assignments.