requirements

The requirements for the course are as follows: (1) Blog (40%.); (2) class participation (10%); (3) a final essay (10-15 pages, typed, double-spaced) based on a document similar to one studied in the course (40%); 4) an oral pecha kucha presentation (10%); 5) self-evaluation (1 page, typed, single-spaced) assessing your performance in the course (not graded but required).

blog posts & blog comments

There are 11 posts and 11 comments required for the course. They are due at least TWO days before the class in which they are due to give class participants a chance to react to your post. Usually your blog posts will involve the solution to a “mystery” or a discussion of a problem, although other options are certainly welcome providing they pertain to the course. Although the posts result in short pieces, a good deal of thinking and drafting is necessary to prepare a good post.m

Mysteries & Problems

Problems will be handed out in class or made available on the website.

final project & oral presentation

The final paper requirements will be distributed in class during the third week of classes and discussed during the same class period. Because our time is short, it is a good idea to begin thinking about your final paper as soon as is practical. A description of the pecha kucha presentations will also be distributed early and discussed as the semester progresses.

the good blog post

Students often ask about writing a good post. Essentially, a TypePad entry should be three to four paragraphs—roughly 400-500 words or the equivalent of 1–2 double-spaced pages. You might want to draft your entry in a text editing program first and copy and paste after you have finished. Use a plain text editor, such as Notepad on a Wintel platform or Tex-Edit on a Mac, to avoid pasting in all sorts of weird characters that result from using MS Word. In other words, do not write your post in MS Word and then copy and paste it into your blog editing window. Although we will discuss the elements of a good post and comment post extensively in class, these paragraphs are offered as a reference and a summary of how your posts will be evaluated.

Promptness

Punctuality is a virtue. Assignments that are submitted on time receive full credit; late assignments are docked 10 points. Late assignments have one week’s grace period. After that time, they receive no credit or a zero.

Title & Introductory Paragraph

A good post begins with a good title. A good title gets the reader's attention immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the entry. A title, such as “Entry #1,” is not particularly effective or even interesting. Since this is a class, you must number the entries so that the reader knows which assignment you are addressing. Examples might include: “#1: Edenton’s Women: Early Politics” or “No. 8: SimUtopia: Pleasantville.” You can be much more creative, but your post must have a number. And if you use a catchy title that might be confusing or ambiguous, be sure that the document title(s) is indicated in the first paragraph.

Once you've decided on an interesting title, the next step is framing an introduction. An introductory paragraph can take many forms, but in a blog post, two strategies are usually successful: the brief anecdote or narrative or the quotation. How might these work? Here are two examples.

The New Yorker magazine observed, “We believe that the truth can turn up in a cartoon, in one of the magazine’s covers, in a poem, in a short story,….” The New Yorker statement might well apply to the British reactions to events preceding the Revolutionary War depicted in an early cartoon. [The quotation]

In 1770, Boston citizens skirmished with a small band of British soldiers in front of the Customs House. Although witnesses to the event differed on who was responsible for the starting the altercation, the results were not in dispute—five dead Bostonians. Four years later, the women of Edenton decided to oppose the British Tea Act by boycotting tea. [The short anecdote or narrative]

The last sentence of the introductory paragraph should be the thesis. You should be aware that it is acceptable (and often necessary because of time constraints) to skip the introductory sentences in an essay examination question and begin immediately with a thesis statement.

Thesis

A thesis is a proposition or statement of an argument. It is not “stage direction” (e.g., “In this paper I will tell you about the British and American attitudes toward pre-revolutionary activism, and then I’ll show…). An adequate thesis is a clear, precise, declarative statement:  “The British cartoon ‘Women of Edenton, North Carolina,’ suggests that the British attitude toward patriot activism was _________ and _________. Obviously, your interpretation of the source will determine what you put in the blanks. Note, too, that this statement identifies the source.

Argument

The body of your post follows the terms of your thesis and outlines your argument, beginning with a transitional sentence. (The easiest way to frame a transitional sentence is to take an important word or phrase from the sentence in the preceding paragraph and build on it.) In the Edenton example, the next paragraph would discuss the first “blank” and include the supporting evidence. The second paragraph would follow with a discussion of the second “blank” (usually its best to put the most compelling evidence last) and its evidence. The third paragraph would take up the conclusion.

A conclusion not only summarizes your argument—usually in a sentence or two—but also discusses its historical significance. The last is the most critical. A conclusion puts your argument into “the big picture,” as Richard Nixon was fond of saying. It is an effort to relate your findings to a broader theme in the course. Does Edenton cartoon say something about how the British viewed patriot seriousness of purpose? Does the image offer any insights into British and American views on gender and politics? Et le voilà—your blog post is finished, and you have a nicely ordered 3–4 paragraph post.

Evidence

Evidence is a summary description or a short quotation from the source that supports the point that you wish to make in your paragraphs or provides a attribution for an author’s idea. For example: “The cartoonist suggested that the patriotic women of North Carolina were ________ and __________ by depicting the women’s careless parenting (the child under the table) and slovenly housekeeping (spilled food and the dog’s urinating under the table).” If you use a quotation from a source other than the documents that are part of the assignment, you must use quotation marks and a citation. Since footnotes and endnotes are difficult to achieve on the web, we’ll go with the bracketed reference mark [1] at the end of the sentence containing the quoted material and a bracketed reference mark at the end of your post with the source. Your post must contain at least one reference to the textbook either as a summary or direct quotation.

Grammar

Grammar and mechanics are important for a variety of reasons—all of them good. All your posts should be grammatically correct in all their particulars. Correctness includes spelling, punctuation, diction, and mechanics. A list of common grammar errors and suggestions for correcting them appears elsewhere. A PDF can be downloaded from: http://www.archiva.net/writing.html.

Format

Online writing and reading differs from print for a variety of reasons. Clarity is the name of the game. Each post must conform to the following format:

  1. Post number
  2. Post title
  3. Underlined or bolded thesis sentence
  4. Space between paragraphs
  5. Titles of books should be italicized, titles of articles or documents should put in quotation marks, and so on.
  6. Use text links to comments should use the author’s name. Do not simply use a URL.
  7. Use text links to sources on the web. Do not simply use a URL.

Bonus
Bonus points are awarded for an especially creative, original, or stylistically sophisticated post. Those who go the extra mile will be rewarded.

grammar for historians & others

Here are some common grammatical problems that arise in history papers. They can be downloaded from: http://www.archiva.net/writing.html. These are the grammatical errors that count in your blog posts, so it is a good idea to look these over.