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COURSE NAME: "Research and Writing in the Humanities"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Annette Merle Bryson
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: T1:30 PM 4:25 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Senior Standing or Permission of the student's Advisor and Department
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

This course provides practical preparation for designing and carrying out a significant thesis-length research project and a brief, but sophisticated introduction to key methodologies and theoretical approaches used in humanities disciplines. Students will be guided through the processes of setting up a problem to investigate; determining what kind of sources, how many, and which sources are appropriate to use; evaluating and analyzing those sources; reviewing academic literature in the Humanities on their topics; developing a clear and well-researched thesis proposal; and formulating and writing convincing arguments.

This course develops students’ understanding of research and writing in the humanities and their skills in both, in preparation for the senior thesis. Students will learn how to develop the research questions, materials, methodologies, and arguments of a research project, and how to use appropriate styles, structures, and techniques in drafting and revising their writing. They will also begin to prepare a possible project for their senior theses. Classes will be based on readings about relevant techniques, analyses of academic samples, library and writing sessions, criticism and review of exercises and writing, and much class discussion.

The course proposed below is divided into two main parts: students first consider the aspects of a research project and how to develop them, and prepare a critical study of materials and an introduction, outline, and schedule for a possible project; students then consider academic writing style and how to draft and revise texts, and prepare a chapter for their project. However, this is simply an initial proposal – the topics, structure, and requirements of the course will be decided as it proceeds, and in consultation with the students.


More specifically, by the end of the course students will be able to:

• formulate and evaluate research topics and questions;
• prepare project summaries, outlines, and schedules;
• identify and evaluate the relevance of primary and secondary materials;
• prepare annotated bibliographies and critical studies of relevant materials;
• explain and evaluate relevant methodologies;
• analyze and develop appropriate forms of argument;
• employ academic writing styles and techniques of drafting and reviewing texts;
• prepare chapters of a research project;
• explain and analyze course material orally and in written forms, and in individual and group contexts.


Class participationClasses will be focused on understanding, practicing, and evaluating techniques of research and writing, and on explaining, discussing, and revising your own and other students’ research and writing work. Your active involvement in class and your thorough preparation outside class are therefore essential. I will give you a percentage grade for each class, and the average of these grades will constitute your final participation grade. The grades will be based on four criteria: how sophisticated an understanding of the relevant materials you display, how successfully you undertake the relevant exercises, how critically and thoroughly you show that you reflect on the issues raised, and how clearly and attentively you respond to what I and others say. 30%
Forum contributionsThe forums on the Moodle site will be used primarily to discuss topics and raise difficulties and to circulate completed exercises before each class. You will be expected to post on the forum by 12 midnight on the Friday of the week before class. Since the class forum is intended to allow for free discussion and expression, I will not assess the content of your posts. Your grade for this assessment will be simply the percentage of times that you post on time, out of the possible total posts.10%
Project and chapter You will prepare, present, and discuss a critical study of materials and a summary, outline, and schedule of a possible project in weeks 7 and 8, and a chapter of the project in weeks 11-14. For each, you will receive a grade for both a draft and the final version, and a grade for your critique of another student’s submission. The grades for these written assignments will be based on how well they reflect the relevant requirements and advice discussed in the preceding classes. Thus the critical study of materials and the summary, outline, and schedule should reflect the outcomes of our discussions of research questions, materials, methodologies, and arguments, and the chapter should reflect those and the outcomes of our discussions of academic style, drafting, and revising. For each, 10% draft, 10% final, and 10% critique

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 cours
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.


A maximum of one unexcused absence from class will be accepted. Beyond this, a zero grade will be given for each unexcused absence, bringing your average grade down. It is your responsibility to inform me if you miss or cannot participate fully in a class for a good reason, and therefore should be excused. Good reasons include sickness, unavoidable appointments, religious holidays, and transport strikes, but not trips, guests, or malfunctioning alarm clocks. Note that arriving late to class, leaving for lengthy ‘toilet breaks’, and using a mobile phone in class also count as ‘unexcused absences’.

You may make up a missed assessment only with the permission of the Dean’s Office. This permission is granted only in cases of serious impediment – such as a documented illness, hospitalization, or attendance at an immediate family member’s funeral – and when you notify the Dean’s Office beforehand.

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.


Week 1:           Introductions                                      

How to develop a research project

Week 2:           Research questions                                                                            

Weeks 3-4:      Materials

Week 6:           Methodologies                                                

Week 7:           Arguments

Project preparation

Week 8:           Critical study of materials                                                                 

Week 9:           Introduction, outline, and schedule

How to write a chapter

Week 10:          Planning, drafting, and revising 

Week 11:          Academic style

Chapter preparation

Weeks 12-14:  Presentation, peer review, and writing sessions