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COURSE NAME: "Research Practicum"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

EMAIL: lyawn@johncabot.edu
HOURS: MW 3:00-4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing

This upper level seminar/practicum provides rigorous, practical preparation for the writing of professional art-historical research papers, including the Senior Thesis, through four discrete units: an individual portfolio review; a research tools and methods seminar; intensive, directed bibliographic research; and the formulation of a presentation to the class on the thesis topic, together with a new 'foundation' portfolio demonstrating mastery of the research skills, competencies, and bibliography necessary for advanced art-historical research writing. The course is intended for JCU Degree Seeking students, but advanced visiting students studying Art History are welcome.
This seminar-practicum leads students through the process of self-review, practical skills acquisition, and bibliography building needed for successful research and writing of their Senior Theses and other advanced projects in the history of art. In service of these objectives, participants read about and discuss the research and writing process; review their own past research, as well as the published theses of past JCU students; take part in workshops on research tools and methods; keep a research diary and carry out intensive bibliographic research through the term; share their progress through periodic updates and round tables; and write and present a thesis prospectus and a state-of-the-question-essay. The material generated during the practicum forms a foundation portfolio for use during the thesis-writing semester and demonstrates mastery of the research skills, competencies, and bibliography necessary for writing the thesis or another article-length study. A highlight of the course will be visits to important research libraries in Rome, with hands-on exercises. While the course is aimed at degree-seeking art history majors, all advanced students with the appropriate pre-requisites and an interest in refining their professional research and publication skills are welcome.

Thesis topic guidelines

1. Topic

The topic of the thesis must grow out of courses done or fields studied at John Cabot University. The student must have demonstrated some prior competency in the area of topic, for instance through course-work done or other close study. 

2. Subject

The core subject of the thesis must be a work of art or architecture, or a contained group of such works. The work(s) must have a rich and adequate scholarly bibliography for the student to draw upon.

An essential component of the thesis must be a close analysis of the work or works chosen. This includes visual details and historical contextualization.  Students are urged to focus on a work or works that can be examined and re-queried first hand during the period of thesis writing.


3. Research questions

The investigation of the thesis topic should be defined through a series of research questions. Research starts with a question, not with a statement of fact. Similarly, any conclusions drawn must be based on these questions; research is an investigation. Well-formulated research questions are invaluable guides as well as secure points of reference in the process of research and writing. 

4. Perspectives & Methods

Any historical, theoretical, or thematic perspective used to investigate the subject (i.e. to respond to the guiding questions) must be defined and explained with clarity. The approach must be methodologically appropriate and pertinent to the topic and works chosen. Perspectives and methods should not be chosen or imposed a priori but should instead grow out of the research process, in response to the topic and guiding questions.


Students will:

·       formulate and refine a senior thesis topic through the evaluation of their own prior research, the keeping of a research diary, and  identification, reading, and assessment of pertinent, peer-reviewed bibliography;

·       assemble and summarize an exhaustive bibliography pertinent to the thesis topic, together with a personal, professional research portfolio, or “tool box” for use during the writing of the Senior Thesis

·       master the practical skills, especially bibliographic development, research-library use, record keeping and style-specific citation, required for writing the senior thesis and other professional-level publications in art history.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral ThesisJoan BolkerOwl BooksISBN-10: 080504891X; ISBN-13: 978-0805048919REF LB2369 .B57 1998The instructor has a few copies of this book for loan.
How to Write a ThesisEco, UmbertoMIT Press9780262328753 0262328755 1336183330 9781336183339Available as an ebook through JCU Discovery 

Bibliography with content summariesFull bibliographic citations and content summaries of at least twenty-six substantial, scholarly, peer-reviewed sources (articles, books, book chapters) or scholarly editions of primary sources pertinent to the intended thesis topic. Two summaries are due at the end of each week during the term starting the second week of class and are kept in the student's personal dropbox folder for the course. Total minimum number of summaries required for the term: 26. For citations please use Chicago-Notes and Bibliography (https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-1.html) or Turabian style (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/turabian/turabian_citationguide.html). Summaries should be 200-300 words long but may be more substantial. Important: this is not an annotated bibliography but rather a bibliography with summaries of real content. Reading the summary should be an adequate, if abbreviated, substitute for reading the source itself.20
Research diary and toolkitA personal journal, kept daily, narrating progress on the choice and development of the thesis topic and, as the semester progresses, gradually becoming the 'zero draft' of your thesis. Diaries should include daily entries through the term, recording ongoing thoughts about the project, the discovery of sources and resources, frustrations, road-blocks, questions and break-through discoveries, the gradual formulation and refinement of the chief research questions, and, eventually, a writing up of your findings that can be used as the building blocks of your thesis. Diaries may be keep as digital files, blogs, or handwritten journals. Students are encouraged to illustrate and document the diaries with photographs and drawings. The diaries are a means of thinking and exploring in writing and have as their objectives: defining and refining a thesis topic, documenting the thought process, 'forming a writing addiction' (Joan Bolker's term), and beginning the process of actual thesis writing by 'thinking on paper' or on a computer screen. In addition to the research diaries, students are required to write a brief summary (150-300 words) of each reading, in-class exercise, guest lecture, library lesson, or library visit undertaken during the course, as well as a review of their own past research papers and short reviews of three past JCU theses. These items are kept together in a dropbox folder and gradually come to constitute a toolkit for reference during the thesis-writing process.20
Thesis prospectus and literature reviewA concise, written exposition of the thesis topic, specifying work(s) to be analysed and the guiding research questions, accompanied by a state-of-the-question essay with a critical review of the chief primary and secondary literature on the topic and a timetable for completion of the thesis. All elements must be approved by the student's First Reader before the end of term. 20
ProfessionalismWeekly exercises, assiduous note-taking, collegiality, punctuality, presence at all class meetings, positive attitude and active engagement, contribution to discussion, constant inquiry, openness to new approaches and methods, independent exploration of resources for research: libraries, museums, galleries, attendance at scholarly conferences and talks, correspondence with other scholars, etc.20
Final presentation to the classAn illustrated, state-of-the-question presentation to the class on the chosen thesis topic, in the form of a verbal grant application20

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Attendance and punctuality at all class meetings are mandatory. Term grades and progress will depend heavily upon active participation.

Some class meetings will necessarily take place outside of the normal course schedule and will be decided in consultation with the students once the semester is underway. Flexibility is essential.

If you have a mobile phone, please turn it off at the start of each class meeting and do not turn it on again until class has ended. If you use a mobile phone during class, including for sms messaging, you will be asked to leave the class, with a resulting unexcused absence.  The same holds true for computers, except on those occasions when the instructor authorizes their use for class exercises. Please come prepared to take notes with a pen or pencil and paper all class meetings.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Sample Syllabus of Meetings - Working draft, subject to change. We will formulate dates together based on the needs of the class and of individual projects. Please see updated version each week in class folder.

Class no.


Assignments due


Introduction to the course: rationale, structure, assignments, goals

Nota bene: There are three regular assignments through the term: (1) Two bibliographic entries with content summaries per week, strarting the second week of the term; (2) Daily research diary entries; (3) A very short (100-150-word) pro memoria for each reading, library lesson, library visit, or special lecture. Items (1) and (3) should be kept in your personal dropbox folder for the course. Item (2) should be kept there, as well, if you are keeping the diary in digital form. Additional special assignments are noted below.


Discuss Bolker Intro and Chs. 1-4



Discuss Eco, Chs. 1-2



Open forum - Your ideas for the thesis



Discuss Bolker 5-7



Analysis of Your Past Research Papers - strengths, ideas, things to improve



Analysis of Your Past Research Papers - strengths, ideas, things to improve

Submit summary of your analysis of past research papers in dropbox.


Eco Ch. 3; Topic progress reports w/ pictures & questions (5 slides maximum)



Library visit: BIASA - Meet at 1:15 at front entrance of Palazzo di Venevia. Class will end at about 4:00. Bring a government-issued picture ID and search terms for your topic.



Day off to compensate for double class meeting on 2/13



Library lesson with Eleonora Moccia



No class meeting



Topic presentations w/ pictures and questions (continued)



Special Library Friday: GNAM (9:30), MAAXI (11:30), BNCR (2:00-c.3:30)



JCU Past Theses - in-library exercise and analysis



JCU Past Theses (continued); Student reports (continued)




See 'Footnotes examples' in dropbox. Please peruse the three articles and assess the fucntions of their footnotes. How many different kinds of footnotes can you detect? How different purposes?


Library lesson with Eleonora Moccia






Lit reviews



Lit reviews



End-of-term assignments: overview



Abstracts: preliminary & ex post facto



Abstracts (cont.)

Please submit a draft of your prospectus to dropbox before your come to class.


Visit to the Norwegian School Library. Meet at front door of Guarini at 1:15 pm



Final presentations


Final exam period

Final presentations