Teaching Thursday: Preparing a Portfolio

One of the odd little tasks that I had over the holidays is producing a syllabus for a revised class in our revamped M.A. program in History. This is not a syllabus that we’ll necessarily use, but a kind of bureaucratic step in getting a class revised for inclusion in the new program. 

The class will be a kind of capstone for our new streamlined MA. Instead of requiring a thesis, as we have in the past, the culmination of the MA program will be a portfolio that brings together an article length paper, a review or conference paper, and a reflective essay. Students will prepare this portfolio as part of an “advanced research practices” class run either by the History department or by our colleagues in English.

The following syllabus is a model for the portfolio class. The class will emphasize the practice of writing in the humanities and not simply focus on matters of style, but also include a discussion of the emotional challenges associated with academic work. It is my experience that the emotional aspects of academic writing often have as much to do with the success of a writer as their skills.

The readings for the course were partly crowd sources from a Twitter conversation and some of the class is designed to mimic the existing portfolio class offered by the English Department and taught by Eric Wolf who generously shared his syllabus. More than anything, this reflects the kind of course that I wish existed in my graduate education and exposes gaps that in my own skills that I’m still trying to fill.

 

History 503: Advanced Historical Methods and Portfolio Preparation

The goal of this class is to refine the advanced research, presentation, and publication central to a career in history and related fields.  

This course is the required capstone to the master’s program in history. It will deliberately examine major trends in research writing in the field and seek to align student’s work with broader disciplinary expectations for the various genres of research writing and presentation. The scholarly article, book review, and conference paper represent key forms of academic communication in the discipline of history and historians must acquire a range of skills, methods, and strategies necessary to contribute effectively to these forms of scholarship. More than that, they need to understand the collaborative aspects of academic knowledge making as manifest in thoughtful engagement with the work of peers, the careful articulation of critique in peer reviews, and the ongoing contributions to the seminar.

The class will be a hybrid course partly directed by the course instructor and partly by the student’s portfolio committee. The course directed by the instructor will emphasize general skills associated with producing polished, professional research outcomes and the student’s portfolio committee will emphasize sophisticated content knowledge. 

The outcome of this class will be a portfolio that demonstrates the acquisition of both the conventions of academic writing and research and the sophisticated methods and content knowledge across three forms of academic writing. 

Course Objectives

1. Demonstrate advanced skills in written academic communication.

2. Demonstrate sophisticated methodological and content knowledge in a subfield in history.

3. Contribute to the collective effort to refine and improve academic research and writing.

4. Reflect critically on the research and writing process.

Requirements

For the successful completion of this class, participants must submit the following
three papers: 

1. Article length work of historical analysis (8000-10000 words). This paper should be modeled on a publishable academic article in quality, form, and length.

2. Concise work of historical analysis or critique (2000-3000 words). This paper can be a  scholarly critical book or literature review, a conference paper, or a long-form academic encyclopedia entry.

3. Reflective Essay (2000-3000 words). This paper is a reflective essay on some aspect of the academic knowledge making. 

Required Books

Akbari, Suzanne Conklin, How We Write: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blank Page. Punctum Books 2015. https://punctumbooks.com/titles/how-we-write/

Cvetkovich, Anne. Depression: A Public Feeling. Duke 2012.

Clark, Irene L. “Entering the Conversation: Graduate Thesis Proposals as Genre.” Profession, 2005, 141-52. Accessed January 10, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25595807.

Dreyer, Benjamin, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Random House 2019.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University. Johns Hopkins 2019.

Grafton, Anthony. The Footnote: A Curious History. Faber and Faber Ltd. 1997.

Graham, Shawn, Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota 2019.

Hayot, Eric. The Elements of Academic Style. Columbia University Press. 2014.

MacDonald, Peck. Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Southern Illinois University Press. 1994.

Swales John M. and Christine B. Feak, Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Third Edition. University of Michigan Press 2012.

Other Guides (optional)

Barry, Linda, What it is. Drawn & Quarterly 2008.

Belcher, Wendy L. Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. SAGE Publications 2009.

Boice, Robert. Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. New Forums Press 1990.

Booth, Wayne C., et al., The Craft of Research. 4th  Edition. University of Chicago Press. 2016.

Germano, William. From Dissertation to Book. 2nd Edition. University of Chicago Press 2013.

Greene, Anne E. Writing Science in Plain English. University of Chicago Press 2013.

Ilyn, Natalia. Writing for the Design Mind. Bloomsbury 2019.

Kane, Thomas, New Oxford Guide to Writing. Oxford University Press 1988.

Klinkenborg, Verlyn, Several Short Sentences About Writing. Random House 2013. 

Lamott, Ann. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor 1995.

McPhee, John, Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017.

Moran, J., First You Write a Sentence. Random House 2019.

Murray, Rowena and Sarah Moore, The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. McGraw Hill 2006.

Thomas, Francis-Noël and Mark Turner, Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose. Second Edition. Princeton 2011.

Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing. Harvard University Press 2012.

Williams, Joseph, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. University of Chicago Press 1990.

Zinsser, W. On Writing Well. HarperCollins 2016.

Schedule

Week 1: The History of Academic Writing
Grafton
Novick

Week 2: Contemporary Perspectives
McDonald
Clark

Week 3: Writing with Style
Hayot
Dreyer

Week 4: Writer’s Block and Affective Writing
Cvetkovich

Week 5: Writing and Reviewing Generously
Fitzpatrick

Week 6: Failure
Graham

Week 7: Workshop
Paper 1

Week 8: Workshop
Paper 1

Week 9: Workshop
Paper 1

Week 10: Workshop
Paper 2

Week 11: Workshop
Paper 2

Week 12: Workshop
Paper 2

Week 13: Workshop
Paper 3

Week 14: Workshop
Paper 3

Week 15: Workshop
Paper 3

 

 

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