Student Instructions

Weekly Seminar Discussions

The purpose of weekly seminar mini-essays is to work through the main concepts in each week’s unit of reading in your own writing. The mental step of moving from simple note taking to writing about our understanding of–and questions about–new concepts and information is key to learning how to work in a field or discipline. It’s how we gain competence and confidence in dealing with the questions and issues involved.

The weekly seminar writing assignments combine the functions of a personal intellectual journal and a shared discussion forum where you “think out loud” with others exploring the same questions. The shared essay format (in the blog or wiki context) provides a common space for all members of the seminar to reflect on readings and key concepts, ask questions, try out ideas, and find interesting examples for seminar topics.

The Web architecture (blog or wiki) allows us to present ideas in the way we actually think today: we’re familiar with everything being interconnected, and we can think about ideas or specific cases as being nodes in networks of other information, concepts, and arguments. You can use links to other documents you create in Google Docs, and embed image and videos.

The Weekly Writing Assignment: Instructions

For weekly discussion, in at least 2-3 substantial paragraphs, reflect on the key ideas or information points in readings for the week, but without summary or “coverage” (we’re all reading the same things, so no need to summarize). Work with a concept or approach to show how it helps you think about specific cases, or opens up questions and problems that need to be addressed. Ask questions about whatever is unclear or needs more background.

Since we will be reading a wide range of views and possible ways of getting at a question or a research topic, we need to understand and question the approaches, assumptions, and wider implications of all views: nothing is to be accepted as doctrine or mere academic knowledge.

Use examples that allow you to apply the ideas of the seminar and other references you would like to add. Provide acknowledgment of sources and references you discuss (references for all links or quoted material). You can use embedded images, embedded video and other web content, links to videos, whatever sources you find relevant.

Use a title and sign your name at the top of your post. You can always go back and edit your comments and respond to other students’ ideas.