Term Paper Assignment

MS 149 – Marxism & Cultural Studies
Term Paper Assignment

As the syllabus notes, your primary semester-long project will be a term paper of 20 pages (double-spaced, in 12 pt Times New Roman or an equivalent font, with 1-inch margins), which will involve substantial research, and will make a complex, well-defined argument in which you carefully explore the theoretical material we have covered and the cultural object or phenomenon of your choosing in some complex and compelling interrelationship. This is to say that your paper shouldn’t be a simple “application” of Marxist theory to an cultural object, but should rather think carefully about what the theory can illuminate in the object as well as what the object can illuminate in the theory.

This assignment has several stages designed to guide you toward producing that polished essay:

1. Preliminary Proposal — due Monday, September 21

Each of you should post to the blog a paragraph describing the project you think you might be interested in undertaking. Nothing in this proposal is cast in stone – in fact, at this stage, it’s entirely speculative — but it is instead designed to get you some early feedback as you start working. What cultural object or phenomenon has been brought to mind for you as you’ve done the readings and participated in the discussions so far? What concepts might you be interested in exploring futher?

This one-paragraph blog post, like all the blog posts listed in the stages below, is in addition to your regular reading response. Please title the post something that identifies it as your paper proposal, and use the “proposal” category.

2. Preliminary Bibliography — due Monday, September 28

Based upon your preliminary proposal, do some initial research; run a few searches in the library’s databases (the MLA International Bibliography and Academic Search Premier will be of particular use) to see whether there are articles related to your prospective topic. Check the library catalog for any related books. Search around and see what’s out there that seems like it might be useful. And then, by 5 pm, post a list of the sources you’ve found, in an appropriate bibliographical format (I’ll accept MLA, APA, and Chicago) to the blog. Title the post something appropriate, and use the “bibliography” catgeory.

3. Revised Proposal — due Wednesday, October 21

Based upon the research that you have done, post an elaborated and revised proposal for your paper to the blog. This revised proposal should spell out more concretely what the argument you seek to make about the interrelationship between Marxist theory and the cultural object you have chosen to work with. It should also detail the approach you plan to take in making that argument. You won’t be held to the terms of this proposal, but the more detailed you can be, the better the feedback you’ll be able to receive. Again, title the post something appropriate, and use the “proposal” category.

4. Annotated Bibliography — due Monday, November 2

Based upon the research that you have done, post to the blog an annotated bibliography detailing the extent of the work you’ve done so far. This bibliography must contain at least seven separate secondary texts (books, articles, etc.); each entry must also contain a note from you (hence the “annotated” part) about the text, explaining what this text is, what its basic argument is, and how this item will benefit your investigation. Note that you will not be required to cite all of the works you list in your paper, but this range of texts should help you find secondary texts that genuinely illuminate your argument, rather than simply fulfilling the secondary text requirement. Again, title the post something appropriate, and use the “bibliography” category.

5. Draft — due Monday, November 16

The first draft of your paper — a full and complete draft — should be turned in to your Sakai drop box by 5 pm. You will also exchange drafts with a partner in your discussion group who will be responsible for giving you feedback on the draft. I will comment on your drafts as well, but it’s important to me that you get multiple perspectives. For this reason, you must take this peer-review process seriously, both for your own paper and for that of your peer-review partner. More information in the next stage.

6. Peer review — due Monday, November 23

Each of you should both have your draft reviewed by a partner in your group and serve as the reviewer of your partner’s paper. (In groups with odd numbers, you can rotate papers — A reviews B, B reviews C, C reviews A. You’re also free to exchange papers with all members of your group, if you so choose.) You’ll be turning in a copy of your peer-reviewed paper, with your partner’s comments, with your final draft, and the quality of your comments on their paper will form part of your group work grade for this semester, so take this seriously.

In reviewing your partner’s paper, focus on ways that they can clarify their overall argument, as well as specific points where their analysis might be deepened or strengthened. Restate the paper’s central thesis for the author — it’s often a surprise to the author to find out that a reader doesn’t take from the paper exactly the meaning that had been intended. Indicate specific places where transitions can be improved or where ideas can be clarified. Overall, you should focus on helping the author make the paper as interesting and clear as it can be.

I would ideally like all of you to make these comments in electronic form, using the comments function in Microsoft Word; this way the commented version can be uploaded to Sakai with the final draft. Along which lines…

4. Final draft — due Wednesday, December 2

Your final, revised draft should be uploaded to your Sakai drop box (along with the commented, peer-reviewed version of your draft) no later than 5 pm on December 2. This final version should be flawless, both in terms of its analysis and in terms of its presentation. Any and all typos, misspellings, and grammatical problems should have been dealt with in the review process. Papers whose meaning is obscured by such errors will be returned ungraded, and will be considered late until corrected.

The paper should be 20 pages, double-spaced, in a 12-point serif font (i.e., Times New Roman or its equivalent), with 1-inch margins. All quotations and borrowings must be appropriately documented and cited.

If you have any questions about this assignment, at any stage, please come see me.