Expectations for Response Papers
A response paper, concerning the reading assignment for October 11, is due by the start of section. 10% OF COURSE GRADE
A response paper is a student’s considered response to the reading for that day. Its primary aim is not to summarize the book. That is, the assignment is not a book report where the main goal is to describe what you have read. Rather, the main goal is to reflect on what has been read, explain why it is important or significant or interesting, or offer one’s own insight or interpretation of the reading. The argument about what is significant or important, or the insight or interpretation being presented, ought to form the basis for a paper’s thesis.
This paper, of approximately 2 double-spaced pages, may concern any aspect of the reading. One way to find a topic is to answer one of the study questions for that day’s reading. Another way to find a topic is to compare and contrast the day’s reading to readings done earlier. It is all right for students to pose questions in their paper, i.e. to identify issues that perhaps cannot be answered with the reading or that at least call out for more discussion.
A good response paper has an argument or thesis that is presented near the start of the paper and developed throughout. We do not expect a full-blown essay (which would take 4-6 pages) and therefore do not anticipate lengthy introductions, but we do expect to see students making a case of some kind from the start of their essays. That case should be supported by evidence, which is normally drawn from the reading itself. That is, your insight or thesis should be supported through references to passages in the reading. Formal footnotes are not required, but you ought to identify specific passages, either by citing them verbatim or summarizing them, and by identifying the page numbers where readers can find them. If you are only using one book (say Ulrich), then you can simply give the page numbers in parentheses, as in (48). If you are comparing more than one title, then you need to identify the author as well as the page number, as in (Ulrich 48) and (Youngs 42).
By the way, in working with historical materials it is always a good idea to be able to identify specific passages in the readings that support your point or have importance for some reason. This includes participating in discussion sections.
Response papers are due at the beginning of the section when the reading in question is to be discussed. Please upload an e-copy of the paper to the course website, and bring a hard copy of the paper to the section. One goal of this assignment is to generate better discussions. Having to write about the reading before discussing it usually means that students have done lots of thinking about the reading. Even when a paper is not assigned, try to do plenty of thinking about a reading before attending Friday sections. The aim is to be sure to think before speaking up.