This outlines my expectations for the J7B term essay or project.
Just like there are hundreds of varieties of cherry trees even if we say "Those are cherry trees," there are many types of college-level term essays and projects. The type of essay I expect in J7B has these basic qualities:
First and above all it is not a report (collection and organization of data) but rather is your interpretation, analysis and perhaps conclusions (less important) on a well-defined, relatively narrow topic.
Second, it is outward-oriented; that is, it is written (and rewritten) to communicate your ideas. In higher-level work you must also show a sense for what others would want to read on your topic (the scholarly debates that are in progress, the general direction of your field and so on). For the J7B essay or project do the work sufficiently and unhurriedly; if you submit an unfinished or messy project where you hope the reader/grader will intuit what you wanted to say but didn't clearly say you will score low. To communicate well your essay or project incorporates good form, good structure, and a sense of bringing forward the interest of the topic.
Finally, I expect your work to be credible, which requires that a skeptical or cautious reader becomes convinced in your ability to select credible sources, convinced that you know how to accurately and honestly use them, and persuaded that your argument is not driven by an agenda (is not rhetorical but rather is intended to help understand the topic) or otherwise prejudiced.
So, given that I want you to write a paper that is analytic in content, communicates it ideas well (and, hopefully communicates why those ideas should be considered interesting), and is credible (so, "analysis-oriented / interesting content / credible") here are the areas I grade.
The first, and most important, is whether the student has used this opportunity to explore, meaningfully, an area of interest within the bounds of the course topics. By "meaningfully" I mean a lot of things: with some accuracy, with some depth (not in amount of detail but in putting one's mind to the topic), in a way that is of interest and value to the student, and so on. We mentors read, comment on, and grade the essay or project with this goal in mind.
The second area of achievement expected is not specific to the J7B topics but rather should be part of any proper humanities essay or project: the judicial selection and use of secondary sources in a way that makes the student's thinking on the topic more sophisticated (which is a broader term than more informed / data-rich). Can the student find excellent sources using his or her own good judgment and research skills? Can the student improve his or her thinking on the subject as a result of research? When we grade your work, we try to understand the connection between your sources and your own arguments.
Finally, the essay needs to use standard form, document accurately, and have benefited from a rewriting before submission to work out the rough spots and weak areas.
Needless to say all work must be yours and plagiarism must be avoided at all costs. You should definitely read my academic honesty page before writing your essay for these reasons: my "bright lines" are more strict that you are used to and there is no second chance, you will fail the essay or term project on the spot, perhaps fail the course and perhaps be reported to the University for your first infractions. We don't have time to let you test my limits first and then rewrite if you over-step them.
II. Basic expectations
Given the above, the essay will have an informative title (something that goes beyond just stating the topic but would let a research, by title, understand whether your work is of interest to him or her). So, for example, NOT "Individualism in Meiji Japan" but rather "A reconsideration of Soseki's view on 'individualism' in late Meiji Japan".
The essay will have these things as part of its "body" (the essay itself):
- Analysis and interpretation that seems reasonable, un-driven by rhetoric, and avoid sweeping conclusions
- Has good structure
- Avoids summarizing and description except when absolutely essential (good summary and description does not count towards the grade)
- Can be spare in quotations: I am not impressed by quotations, use them when they are necessary and serve a function only
- Has been spell-checked well and certain never misspells key terms and names central to the essay.
- Uses, not for every little point but in the basics, a consistent and widely accepted style for documentation (citing your sources), such as MLA. Tell your mentor before you submit your essay if you have never written a footnote.
- In particular, make sure italicize book titles but put in quote article titles and so on.
- In particular, make sure italicize book titles but put in quote article titles and so on.
- Non-native speakers, please submit your draft. If you have others help you, you can submit that, too. We will refer to it if necessary but you will be graded on your draft. (See details below.)
Your bibliography should include any source cited of course but also sources that were central to the formulation of your ideas, even if not specifically cited. Title this "Annotated Bibliography of Works Consulted"—that means, there are details besides just the basic publication information and the list includes items not necessarily cited. (There are, therefore, titles such as "Bibliography of Works Cited" and so on.)
There are three major, non-standard requirements for documentation. First, we must be able to check the source for every one of your citations. See below for how you point us to those passages. Second, we sometimes want to see your thought processes for concluding that a work is credible and how it relates to the content of your essay or project. Again, details are below. Finally, we would like you to explain the relationship of the source ideas to your essay ideas. You enable us to do these things through a specific footnote format and a specific bibliography format. Details below.
III. How to communicate with us
Once the mentor-mentee pairings have been announced, you are to correspond with your mentor, copying me if you remember to do so. All correspondence MUST start with the subject line: J7B_essay_LASTNAME_classname.
III.1 Question phases
There are times when you can contact us about various aspects of your essay. There are also times when you cannot. See the deadline sheet.
III.2 Essay is "self-propelled"
We will not help you locate topics or research material. You are on you own. We will give advice about the quality of the ideas and resources you present to us, but will only advise you in direction, not specific content or specific resources. Office hours are to be used for essays only if the written correspondence is not going well or at the discretion of your mentor. In basic practice, you communicate via email, in written words, and we respond. BRING WELL-FORMED IDEAS AND QUESTIONS TO US. Brief outlines, simple lists of resources, basic topic ideas that give no sense in what you would do with them will be turned back to you for you o further develope first.
III.3 How to submit
III.3A Submit before the deadline; late penalties exist.
III.3B Submit via attachment in an email sent to me and your mentor at the same time, as one email.
III.3C Use the subject line stated on the deadlines sheet.
III.3D Special requirement: Many of you will have, besides your essay, scanned material to support your citation work.
- Title those docs in some logical, easy to understand way.
- Use your computer savvy to keep the overall size of the email small. (That includes avoiding very high DPI scans, avoiding color scans except when necessary, "saving for web" and so on.)
- Also, only send the relevant pages NOT the whole article. (JSTOR and such is sort of an exception since the overall size of the article is usually pretty small anyway.)
- Please be considerate so as not to bog down or crash our email checking procedures.
IV. Some specifics on essay requirements
IV.1 Permitted topics & content:
Your essay or project must be your interpretation, analysis and thoughts (so, no "reports") on something in the visual arts, performance arts or literary arts that was created after 1868.
- You can try to propose something outside the area of these arts but your proposal should be well thought through, probably with a possible thesis and research material identified. Your alternate proposal must engage something broadly important to the culture of Japan that leads to insight of some sort.
Also, I might approve a non-traditional essay or project that includes multimedia.
All work, whether essay or project, requires additional research that engages ideas relevant to your topic by credible academic sources of good quality.
Your paper needs to be grounded in research. You will be asked to describe in your bibliography your sources and what IDEAS in them interested you. However, you must find critical distance between your ideas and those of your sources. You will be graded on the academic credibility and quality of your sources and how you use them. Web sites that do not have an author whom you can independently confirm is qualified to write on that topic are not acceptable as idea sources. They can provide data but even then it should be clear that the data is reliable. You will need to explain why you believe it is credible. "Because it is Wiki" is not acceptable as an answer. Further, you will be asked to point us to the source of a citation either by scanning that page or, if it is an electronic source, by aiming us to the correct spot. Electronic sources are very helpful for this! Consider using JSTOR, ProjectMUSE, eBrary for academic, electronic resources. All of these are proxy services if you do not use a campus computer.
IV.3 No editing by others
Your paper must be in your own words. There should be no "help" of any kind. If you want to improve your writing skills, please take the paper to our writing resources center AFTER this class is over. Mentors will work hard to capture and understand your ideas, even if the language is poor. If you have asked someone to help you, you need to submit two versions of your work: your original draft and the edited version. We will grade the original draft for its ideas and only refer to the edited version is we cannot understand something. If you have received help, you need to provide exact, accurate and honest details about that: who helped you (name), when, in what way, and what changed.
The length is what is appropriate to the topic. I have received papers between 700-9,000 words. I often feel that papers below 1,300 words haven't said much but now and then there is a student with very concise sentence structure and expression who can do that. I often feel papers that get up around 2,700 words would have benefited from editing and focus. I am not impressed at all with length. Informal statistical analysis of my grades as a factor of paper length indicate no correlation between length and grade, including the grade of A+.
V.1 Essay overall
Your paper needs to use a formal documentation system, such as MLA, and this component affects the grade. It must handle titles correctly (titles of articles, essays in books, chapters in books should be in quotations, titles of books should be italicized). Citations must be 100% correct in their spelling and data. Keywords, names of key indivuals and such should also be spelled correctly in all cases. Foreign terms, if used, can be in their native script but must always have romanization as well (in case the word processor corrupts the script) and might need an English translation so, for example: 美学 (bigaku, "aesthetics").
V.2 Footnotes, not parenthetical citation, are required
We need footnotes even if for most essays parenthetical citations are common. Parenthetical citations looks like this and they are NOT accepted, ever: "Some cherry trees are more than 1,000 years old" (Takagi, 1991).
This is because we need specific information that would be intrusive if put in the body of the essay; in other words, we need to know where is the passage you are citing. In fact, we need to know exactly where it is, to save our time in checking these.
V.3 The required "Access info:" line in every footnote
If your citation is based on an electronic resource, you will include the working URL. It is was based on a hard-copy, you will need to scan the material, title the scans, and refer to them in some logical way. For example, student's essay from Spring 2011—
The body of the paper has:
Tanizaki even goes so far as to say that "the Japanese toilet is perfection."31
And the footnote looks like this:
31 Tanizaki, "In Praise of Shadows", 5.
Access info: PDF pg. 3; first whole paragraph, first sentence.
In other words, the regular citation has, underneath it and on a new line so we can find it easily, the words "Access info:" followed by a short and precise phrase that points us to exactly where the citation was drawn from. By "exactly" I mean something like "second paragraph, third line" and so forth.
V.4 Bibliography format
V.4A As stated above, please title it "Annotated Bibliography of Works Consulted"
V.4B Put spaces between paragraphs and make other choices that aid busy and hurried readers in easily skimming through your list.
V.4C Use standard citation form for the citation. If the original language of the source is not English, we need to know that. In such cases use a format similar to this (in other words, keep everthing in romanization except in the case of the title, use the original script, a romanization of the original script, and an English translation of the title):
Watanabe Ken. 武士道 [Bushido, "Way of the warrior"]. Shueido, 1977.
V.4D Under it, have these things (and keep the underlining or make the phrases all caps), and complete them
How I accessed this:
How I used this:
(If not published in an academic journal or by an academic press) Why I consider this to be a credible source: