POLS 4910.03 Fall 2010
Violence and Security Capstone
Course Location: McLaughlin College 114
POLS 4910: Violence and Security Capstone
Your presentation is worth 20% of your overall grade. Due to the ratio of students to weeks, you will work in groups of 3 to 4, depending on class enrollment. Once you have accepted a presentation spot, please do not change it or ask to parachute in for a later week, as this will cause a log jam at the end of term and lead to overall chaos, which is generally undesirable in an academic setting. You and your group will conduct the first half of the class to which you have been assigned (1.5 hours). The first 30 minutes or so of the seminar should focus directly on the readings for the week. You may then divide up the class time in any way you wish. Examples might be to come with a list of issues for open discussion, a short film or documentary, a short piece of additional reading (such as a poem or short story. You can divide the class up for a debate or role play if you wish. You can stick the class in small groups (but only toward some larger purpose, please!). You can stage a dramatic play for part of the class, or take us somewhere on campus for an artistic event. The only thing I require is that you do not regurgitate the readings for the week. I say again, please do not present the readings or prepare any slides or handouts that summarize the readings. You should prepare your presentation with the assumption that your classmates have read the selections for the week. Above all, use the opportunity to be creative. Your grade will not be based on how well it worked, but on how much thought, energy, and effort you put into it. You should note, however, that the more thought, energy, and effort you put into it, the more likely it is to work. The classroom will be equipped with video, computer, and projector.
**Finally, some of you are inclined to take up too much responsibility, while others tend to slack. Please, each of you, try to do your part in making the presentation worthwhile. If one person seems inclined to want to do everything, don’t let him or her. Offer to take on some responsibility, so you can all benefit fairly from the outcome. If someone seems to be slacking, it might just be that they need to be asked for their thoughts and ideas. If someone is truly slacking, let them know. You need to function as a group, and setting off on a fair footing in terms of task allocation is critical. If something is going completely wrong, let me know before the presentation.
Essay Workshop: Powerpoint version, PDF version
POLS 4910 3.0 – Violence and Security Capstone
Essay Proposal Guidelines
Date: November 2, 2010
Your essay plan must be cleared with me before you begin writing. However, in order to have any real sense of what you want to write about – and to determine if it is feasible – you must do a little reading and research first. The purpose of the essay plan is to basically test drive a project in order to determine whether it is viable. In the early stages, the three biggest obstacles to writing a strong essay are 1.) the student has taken on too much material and thus cannot draw out a comprehensive, logical argument, 2.) the student has taken on material that is contradictory or otherwise incompatible and thus cannot draw out a coherent, logical argument, and 3.) the student has not read very much at all and therefore attempts to draw a coherent, logical argument out of thin air. Number 3 is the most common error. The essay plan is designed as a way for the student to synthesize the material s/he has gathered in order to determine as painlessly as possible whether there is an essay to be found there, and to troubleshoot its potential problems and pitfalls. Your essay plan should be somewhere in the realm of 3 double-spaced pages. It should include a thesis statement, a theoretical approach, a set of supporting, analytical arguments, a guess at what the conclusions might be, and a bibliography of material, divided into what has already been read, and what is still to be read. It is very important for you to have read as much as you can before you begin the essay plan. This is because the articles we have identified online through their promising titles are often completely irrelevant to what we think we want to write, and we only find out about this when it is too late.
The thesis statement is basically a one or two sentence statement detailing what the main argument of the essay will be. It should be clear and it should take a position that the subsequent arguments will support. Having a clear thesis early on will be of enormous help to you as you read and research. It will allow you to assess material very quickly as to its relevance. This will help you decide which articles and books are helpful, and which are not helpful. (Note: this does not mean that you should ignore material that contradicts your thesis – only that you can now sift through material more quickly in terms of determining its relevance to your project.) One of the main obstacles students face is the risk of ‘getting lost’ in tons of material whose relevance is unclear. Once you have read enough to develop a thesis, you should find it relatively painless to assess material for its relevance. If you do not have a strong thesis, everything you read will sway you in a million directions, and you will either 1.) never start writing, or 2.) not be able to develop a clear set of arguments toward a larger goal. Neither of these is a desirable position to find yourself in.
You need to know whether you are writing from a realist approach, a liberal approach, a feminist approach, a poststructuralist approach, etc., and you need to indicate this in the proposal.
In order to demonstrate that your thesis is reasonable, you will need to have a series of supporting arguments whose combined goal is to illustrate the value of the thesis. All arguments should lead back to the thesis in some way. Do not stray from the thesis when pursuing your arguments. If you absolutely must include something whose relevance is in doubt, put it in a footnote. That’s one of the reasons they’re there!
Drawing Preliminary Conclusions:
You cannot know in advance what conclusions you will draw from your research. But you can make a reasonable set of assumptions concerning the material you have already read by looking at what conclusions the authors draw. Having some sense of what conclusions you might draw will help you to stay on track as you read and research. Bear in mind that these might shift and change as you learn more about your topic.
This is a crucially important component of any argumentative essay. It involves being able to draw your own conclusions from the material you are using. Good analysis works to interpret material, and not just describe it. Your essay plan should have some preliminary analytical content – i.e., how you plan to interpret the material in support of your overall argument.
Annotated Preliminary Bibliography:
An annotated bibliography must be appended to your essay plan. This bibliography must make a clear distinction between what you have already read, and what you plan to read. Please divide this into different sections so I can see what you’ve already read, and what you still plan to read (I understand that you will still be reading other material as the essay progresses that might not appear in this preliminary bibliography). For the material you have already read, please add 2 or 3 sentences describing the usefulness of the book or article so I can see its actual relevance to your essay. This will also help you to recall the content of material quickly when you’re sitting there with all that research around you at 3 am.
Your essay plan is worth 20% of your overall grade. I will provide written feedback that will help you to troubleshoot challenges, hone lines of argument, and avoid or address obstacles. The other advantage of the essay plan is that if things are really going wrong, we can catch it early on so you will not be in a panic on the day before the essay is due. For those of you who submit comprehensive plans that need little feedback, the essay plan exercise will provide reassurance that you are on the right track, so you don’t panic halfway through writing it, wondering if your topic or the way you have approached it is viable. Everyone needs feedback on their work. It is a standard part of all human achievement.
- Get started thinking about the essay early on. You don’t have to have the whole thing worked out by reading week, but you should at least have a few concrete ideas that you have begun to pursue. To facilitate time for research, there is no class on October 26. This is not a vacation day. It is a research day.
- When you find an article or book that is really helpful, do take a look at the author’s footnotes and references and, if applicable, pursue some of these ‘leads’. Do this judiciously, however, as you do not want to replicate someone else’s argument or lift a complete list of sources from someone else’s research.
- Do drop by during office hours (or make an appointment via email) if you want to discuss your essay, or the track you are on. Little things here and there might raise questions or cause you to be unsure. Please note, however, that I cannot read actual drafts of your essay before it is submitted, although we can talk about your approach and lines of argument.
- I am available during office hours to discuss your essay and its development. If you have concerns about your essay writing skills on a more general level, please make use of the Centre for Academic Writing, located in S329 Ross. They are available via appointment for one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, and drop-in appointments. Sign up early if you think you might want to pay them a visit. They fill up quickly…
- Finally, have confidence in yourself and in your abilities! After all, 4th year marks are important, you’ve made it this far, and it’s almost over!