Every Thursday at the beginning
of class, I will assess your preparation for that week by collecting reading
notes at random from a small number of students; this will begin
with the second week of class, on Thursday, January 30th. Since you
will not know when your notes will be collected, you should come to class
each Thursday prepared to turn in notes covering all the assigned readings
since the previous Thursday. I will collect each student's reading notes
between 3-5 times over the course of the term: the more collections,
the less each will be worth, and vice versa. If you do not bring class
notes with you on the day when I ask to collect yours, or if you are
absent on that day without a valid excuse, a zero out of ten
will be factored into your overall grade for the term.
Your Task: For each week's readings, demonstrate the extent of your reading by addressing one of the three numbered options listed below, making sure that you cover most of what was assigned. (You don't have to use the same option every week.)
1. Outline of Key Points: state what you see as the (explicit or implicit) primary claim of the assigned source [footnote 1], followed by an outline of the main points addressed in it; write two or more shorter outlines if you are dealing with more than one work. This is like picking apart the pieces of an engine, and showing where each piece fits in with respect to the whole. Use numbers and letters to indicate general issues and sub-points, organizing these to reflect the logic of the author's argument.
2. Prose Summary of Key Themes/Issues: compose 150-200 words (i.e, a couple of short paragraphs) giving an overview of the connecting themes, issues, or questions that hold the source's statements together; once again you should inlcude a separate short paragraph if you are dealing with more than one work. In terms of the engine analogy mentioned in #2, this summary is like pinpointing the energy source and the specific forces that drive the engine.
3. Design-your-own Study Questions: compose five questions that you would ask someone else in the class, in order to find out how thoroughly they have done the reading (including covering different sources is there are several); and then answer your own questions. The questions should be specific enough that a person would not be able to answer them without having read the assigned text, but not so specific that they would have had to memorize every minute detail in order to respond; the answers should reflect the same level of familiarity. Regarding the engine analogy, this practice is like posing and then answering diagnostic questions that help to determine how exactly key parts of the engine actually work.
If you don't like one or more of these formats, propose one or more different ones to me and I'll consider letting whether to allow a substitute. You may handwrite your notes if you like, as long as the handwriting is legible, but should keep them in a looseleaf binder rather than a bound notebook so that you can turn in individual pages as needed.
Point Values: I'll assign a number (out of 10 possible points) to each set of notes, but each point will probably not correspond exactly to each percent of your overall grade, since for students whose notes are collected more often there will be more points to average together. The total of all your notes combined (10 points x 3, 4, or 5) will be worth 30 % of the final grade.
Criteria for Evaluation: Your notes should be both thorough and concise. Whatever your write down should deal with details from a variety of different sections in the assigned source or sources--drawing from distinct reserve readings when those are assigned--rather than from the same few pages or paragraphs. In addition I will consider the following for each of the three items listed above:
1. the precision with which you isolate the overall claim, and then distinguish between general issues and sub-points to highlight the relative importance of each.
2. your success in pinpointing the themes, issues, and/or questions that motivate a given source's prose (& occasionally verse), and hold together all the particular statements made. Avoid giving your own reactions to and off-the-cuff impressions of what the source says; this should be reserved for the journal.
3. the extent to which your study questions reflect knowledge of details beyond what has already been mentioned in our class conversations (especially with regards to sections of the reading which have been discussed on Tuesday of a given week).
Citation: Although you should generally paraphrase rather than quoting the assigned reading, you should make frequent and explicit references to specific page numbers (see “Notes on Written Work, #11-12” regarding the format for doing this). This doesn't mean your notes have to be long. Rather, you can condense a large number of essential details and examples using paraphrase and then indicate via page number references that you know exactly where those particular details are found. If you cite material from more than one page or set of pages, you should include a separate citation for each page or set of pages.
Reminders aboutdeadlines: must be brought to class at the start of each Thursday's meeting; and medium:legibly hand-written or word-processed, kept in a separate folder or binder so that they may be easily accessed and separated, and paper-clipped together if there is more than one sheet. Also make sure to review the “Notes on Written Work,” especially regarding parenthetical references, loose pages, and the limits of consulting with others
 For this class, the claims you articulate should fit the following formula: "[author X] claims/argues/emphasizes/suggests/etc. that..." The exact verb you use will depend on how strongly the author (or alternately you yourself) makes her or his point; but you should at all costs avoid constructions such as "[author X] talks about/discusses/focuses on..." as these lead away from specific articulation of the author's underlying intent and towards general descriptions of the topics covered. If you think that the claim you have articulated might be too general, test to see if there is at least one viable counter-argumen; if not, it is probably too obvious a point on which to build a summary.[back to text]
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