Assignments and Grades

Grading Standards:

I follow the College of Wooster guidelines for grading.  “A” grades reflect excellent work, “B” grades very good work, “C” grades adequate work, and “D” minimal work.  Grades of “F” are reserved for work that is unsatisfactory in its content, relationship to the assignment, and/or degree of effort.  Plagiarism will always result in a failing grade.

Grade Components:

Professionalism & Participation (20%):

Your active participation in class activities and discussion are crucial to the success of the course.  You are expected to come to class fully prepared to discuss the day’s readings; this includes bringing copies of your reading assignments so that you can support your ideas with specific examples, as well as your notes and questions on the material.  You will be graded on the quality of your contributions to our class discussions.  You cannot earn an excellent grade (A) in a discussion-based class like this one if you do not regularly contribute to our discussions. You will also be tasked with turning in 2 discussion questions each week to If your question is chosen to help lead class discussion, you will be exempt from that day’s quiz. Simply attending class without any further involvement in our discussions will result in a participation grade of “C” or “Satisfactory.”

Reading Quizzes/Midterms: (30%):

Each week we will take a very short quiz on that week’s reading. These quizzes are designed solely to insure that you have done the reading. You will receive a score of 0-10 on this short written quiz. There will be no makeup quizzes; you will either be in class to take the quiz or you won’t. Your two lowest quiz scores will be dropped. Those who have had a discussion question chosen will be exempt from that week’s quiz and will receive full credit. Students can be exempt for a total of 2 quizzes. Twice this semester we will take a longer midterm examination that will be worth 20 points. These will be cumulative. .

Building a Research Project: (50%):

There will be four different types of paper projects for this course. Students will not be allowed to move from one stage to the next until they have demonstrated they have mastered each stage of historical writing. Mastery will be defined as a B+ or higher in each writing project. Stage one will be a paragraph, stage two, a short (500 words)  response paper, stage three a short (2000 words) research paper, and stage four a 6000-word research paper.

Stage I: The Paragraph (15%)

This is the building block of writing. You must master this most basic form of writing, before moving on to response papers. The paragraph is a self-contained unit of expression. In most non-fiction writing, the paragraph develops one main idea and supports that idea with facts. There are four essential elements to the paragraph: unity, coherence, a strong topic sentence, and development. Unity simply means that it only develops one main idea. Coherence refers to the logical arrangement of the information and sentences connected with helpful transitions. A topic sentence is the point where you the author express the idea that you will develop, with evidence, over the rest of the paragraph. And development means that you support your ideas with adequate an appropriate evidence that support your contention.  You will write a paragraph free of grammatical, stylistic, or structural errors that makes a particular and well supported point about the book or film under consideration. You will not move onto the response paper until you have turned in two assignments that have demonstrated your mastery of the paragraph. You must master this skill to pass this course.

Grading: There will be two forms of grading on these assignments: the standard letter grades will apply, but only on those paragraphs that have received a B+ or higher. Any grade below B+ will receive credit for completion and feedback for future work.

Stage II: Response Papers (15%)

This is the first step in historical writing/analysis. Once individual students have mastered the paragraph, they will then turn in weekly response papers. These short (500-word) analyses of a particular theme in western film and literature will demonstrate proficiency in both analysis and writing. The essential elements of a response paper are a succinct summary of the subject (book or film), analysis/argument, organization, and connections. Short summaries are just that, but these should be limited to just a few sentences. Analysis/Argument is a particular point you wish to make about the subject, offering a potential way to “read” a novel or film. Organization refers to the way that arrange your sentences and paragraphs to build your argument and explain your analysis logically. Connections mean tying the work under consideration to other secondary or primary sources that help you bring your subject into larger discussions by scholars. Response papers should be free of grammatical, stylistic, or structural errors. Once a student has demonstrated mastery of the response paper (2 B+ papers), they will no longer be required to turn in these papers and will move on toward the short research paper.

Grading: There will be two forms of grading on these assignments: the standard letter grades will apply, but only on those response papers that have received a B+ or higher. Any grade below B+ will receive credit for completion and feedback for future work. After Spring Break, however, all response papers will receive numeric grades as well as feedback. If a student does advance past the the response paper stage, their research project grade will be their response paper average x .5 (Note, this means only 90 total available points.

Stage III: Short Research Papers (20%)

This is the next step in historical writing/analysis. Building upon themes addressed in previous paragraphs and response papers, students will write a short research paper. You will need to consult with me about topic, question, and sources at least one week in advance of turning this in. These 1500-word papers will explore a theme in western film, literature, music, television, and other forms of popular media across several texts. Moreover, they will place your interpretation within existing arguments made by other historians. Part of your grade will be based on your editorial work on another student’s paper. This will be done via email which you will cc me in on the conversations. Your papers should demonstrate high proficiency in analysis, contextualization, and writing. They will show a clear understanding of historiography, history, and source analysis. They will show clear understanding of the proper way to organize an argument at every level from the sentence, to the paragraph, to the section, to the overall paper.