The Weekly Seminar Discussions
In class, our discussions will usually start off from everyone’s weekly writing assignment. We will all read the mini-essays before class as a way to have a background prepared for more substantive discussion in class. This means posting your weekly writing at least 4 hours ahead of class!
How to Write the Content for Your Weekly Mini-Essay
Your weekly mini-essays are not “blog posts” but an informal writing space for thinking through the main concepts, questions, and subject matter in each week’s unit of readings. There is no specific length or limit, but you can aim for at least 300-500 words (more if you are citing and quoting sources).
What you should include:
- References to, and comments on, at least two of the readings or sources for the week.
- Do not summarize, but work through the ideas and try them out on examples and cases.
- Ask questions, comment on what isn’t clear for us to discussion in class.
Why the weekly writing is important for your learning progress
The mental step of moving from simple note taking to writing about our understanding of (and questions about) new concepts and information is the key to learning how to work in any field or discipline. We need to learn how to think with new vocabulary, special terminology, and the key concepts of a field. We need to “make it our own” by learning how to think and write with the terminology and ideas of the fields that we commit to learning.
Working through and trying out new concepts in writing is how we gain competence and confidence in dealing with the questions and issues involved in any field of study. In interdisciplinary studies, this is all the more important because we are combining terms, concepts, assumptions, and approaches from more than one field or discipline.
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 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.
How to “Post” Your Writing in WordPress:
In the WordPress course site, click on “New” in the top nav bar, and choose “Post”. You will get an edit window. Give it a title and add your name at the top of the edit window. When you click on “Publish,” choose the appropriate Week in the list of Categories that you can choose. You can always go back and edit your writing and respond to other students’ ideas.
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.
Using Examples and Citing Sources
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) at the end of the mini-essay. You can use embedded images, embedded video and other web content, and links to sources you find relevant.
Do not use Wikipedia as a main reference (unless the content of the Wikipedia page is itself a topic of discussion), and do not cite blogs or other websites that only recycle other information. Dig into the primary research or statements on a subject/topic. If you have time to go further in research for a week’s topic, use the online library of journal and other primary research resources through the GU Library. (If off campus, you’ll be prompted for NetID and password.)
In Zotero, you can create a Bibliography of items and paste them into your weekly post. Highlight items and (right mouse click) “Create Bibliography” (from menu) in any standard citation style, send it your clipboard, and then edit/paste/insert (whether PC or Mac) into your WordPress edit window. You may need to do a bit of clean-up formatting, but you’re good to go!