English 316, Section 6: Advanced Composition for the Social Sciences
Fall 2006, MW 1:50-3:20, Polk 22
Julie Shaffer shaffer@uwosh.edu

My website: www.english.uwosh.edu/shaffer
English Department website: www.english.uwosh.edu
UW System Plagiarism statement (see Section UWS 14.02)

Office: Radford 208
Office Hours: Tues 12-3
Phone: x 7288 (no answering machine
12-1 Reeve Common Room; 1-3, my office

Required Texts: Bonnie Stone Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, Fieldworking: Reading and Writing Research, 2 nd edition.

General Course Description: In this class, you will hone your skills at academic critical thinking and writing. There are lots of fields in the social sciences - social work, anthropology, sociology, political science, public administration, social work, religious studies, and criminal justice, to name just a few. Rather than try to cover what academic writing looks like in all of these fields, we will concentrate on the kind of fieldwork and writing done by those who study human subjects - particularly in anthropological and sociological studies. The work we do, however, as we perform fieldwork, reflect on it, and write about it, is pertinent to research and writing in virtually all fields, including fields in the humanities (literature, for instance) and in the fine arts (music and visual art, for instance). This is the case because all good academic writing requires formulating theses, considering our presuppositions, looking as objectively as possible at our material, reflecting on it, looking again at our material, starting to write, referring back to our material, and continuing the writing process. While this course may not focus on your specific major, in other words, it will give you the critical thinking skills and writing habits that you are sure to need in that major. Besides, our projects should be immensely fun and will perhaps provide you with new ways of thinking that may enable you to bring new skills to the work you do in your own major(s).

Written Assignments: Everything you turn in (except in-class writing) must be typed! Not surprisingly, given that this is a composition class, there will be a lot of writing. For one thing, you’ll be keeping informal field notes and writing summaries and reflections on them. These will be informal, but I will want to see them, most of them typed up, and you must provide these with your final paper! You will also do more structured written assignments that will take you along the various steps necessary for mastering fieldwork and reporting on it. Finally, you will write a longer essay (probably 9-15 pp) based on your fieldwork on the subgroup of your choosing, with clearance from me. As early as possible, you might want to think about what kind of site you want to research and write about. We will cover this during the first two weeks of class, and repeatedly thereafter.

Oral Assignments: We will discuss the readings and your individual projects. You will give the class brief, informal presentations of your project along the way. You will also give a fuller presentation at the end of the semester.

Research Partners, Research Groups: Because we are all myopic when it comes to our own research, it is vital to get input from others who can direct us to what we otherwise might miss. For this reason, I will pair you up with another classmate as research partners (there may be a case in which three of you will be paired up). I will also assign you to small research groups - generally, five of you. In addition to the other writing, I want you to write up for each other feedback at every point of your project(s). We will gain experience doing this as a group. As you write up comments for one another, you must always remain polite and as constructive as possible: simply telling each other that the material looks good, or okay to you, will not prove help your research partners to write the best paper possible. Throughout, I will ask you to provide each other with written comments about each other’s projects. At various points, I will ask you to turn these in, along with each other’s responses to the feedback you’ve been given, which you will also give to your research partner. We will go over this process adequately in class so that you’ll know what to do, and we’ll devise a list of subjects you need to think about as you examine your partner’s work and think about what to tell him/her.

In addition to handing in these comments at various points throughout the semester, I will also ask you to turn in a report on your research partners’ and group’s participation in helping you complete your project, along with a report on your participation on your partners’ and group’s work. To some extent, these reports will be self-reflective. I will also ask you to include here the extent to which you found others’ advice to be helpful; I would in fact like you to give this feedback to your partner(s) and groups as the semester progresses.

Other Forms of Participation: We will spend a lot of time discussing the readings and responding to one another’s projects and progress on those projects. It is vital for your own work and for that of your classmates that you participate fully in discussion, for a number of reasons: it will help you articulate your ideas, which may enable you to see points of exploration that you would not see were you not to articulate your ideas before others; it will help your classmates refine their own ideas and compensate for their “blind spots” - parts of their study that may not have occurred to them; others’ participation will help you in precisely the same way. If you are not here to participate in discussion, or if you are here but do not participate in discussion, you are not fulfilling the requirements of the course. We all have off-days when we have nothing to say or are feeling ill, but if you have more than one or two of these days, there will be a problem; I expect you to participate on all other days.

Attendance: While simply coming to class but not participating will not earn a high participation grade, not coming to class will harm your grade. If you miss more than two weeks’ worth of classes - four classes - your grade may fall. If you miss more than three weeks’ worth of classes - six classes - you may fail the course. That being said, please do not come to class when you are contagious with a serious illness (the flu, for instance) or are suffering from a loss of control over bodily fluids (use your imagination). At times you may also need to miss classes to spend time with a seriously ill or dying family member, or to attend a funeral of a close friend or family member. For such occasions, I need documentation of your reason for your absences. If you miss class early in semester because you don’t feel like coming and fall ill later in the semester, those early absences will harm your grade, so save them for when you really need them!

Arriving late or leaving early will count as absences. So too will coming to class utterly unprepared - for instance without your book or writing for peer review. Let your place of employment know that missing part of the class will harm your grade so that they know up front not to require you to come to work during class time. Generally, you will not be able to make up work you miss due to absences.

Late Papers: If you discuss with me beforehand that you cannot meet a deadline - for instance if you have writer’s block on occasion - you will not be marked down for your final grade on that project. Missing classes dedicated for peer review will lead to lowering your final grade for a given paper or assignment, as will handing in papers late without discussing your need to do so with me beforehand.

Quizzes: There may be occasional quizzes (generally unannounced) in which you will be expected to demonstrate understanding of key terms and concepts we have covered.

Grade Breakdown: tba

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Course Schedule
(subsequent changes as announced / posted)
All readings are from Fieldworking except where noted

Week 1

Sept 6: Introduction and brief overview of syllabus, paired interviews: what is your field in the social sciences? Introduction to our project in this class: what is a subculture (see Box 1, p6); some possible subcultures to study (pp57-58).

 Homework due Sept 11:

Begin Ch 1: “Stepping In, Stepping Out” (1-53)
This chapter introduces you to the concept of fieldwriting: Defining culture and subcultures;
Identifying our own position vis-à-vis a subgroup we study
(are we in that group? Are we outsiders looking in?)
formulating ethnographers’ questions

Homework due Sept 11, continued:

Week 2

Sept 11: Due: work assigned on Sept. 6. Discuss Chapter 1, “Stepping In and Stepping Out: Understanding Cultures,” reading assigned above.

Homework, due Sept 13:

Sept 13 Due: work assigned on Sept. 11. Class discussion: your articles and your response to them.

Homework, due Sept 18:

Week 3

Sept 18 Due: reading assigned on Sept 13; discussion of that material.

Begin Ch 2: Writing Self, Writing Cultures: Understanding Fieldwriting (55-104)
Oserving and responding to people and the environment they’re in,
doing the same with objects, writing different forms of fieldnotes

Homework, due Sept 20:

Sept 20 Discuss the assigned reading. Discuss projects

Homework, due Sept 25: Read the material on different forms of fieldnotes, the importance of including details, the double-entry form of notes, and the importance of sharing your fieldnotes for others’ responses and insight (79-88). Also read: “Look at Your Fish” (88-92) and then “Considering Analysis” (95-98).

ALSO due on the 25th:

Begin Ch 3: Reading Self, Reading Cultures: Understanding Texts (105-57)
Positioning, reading media and objects, formulating an ethics statement
(citing published and unpublished written sources to come later). Read material on positioning (105-7, 118-24).

Week 4

Sept 25 Guest presentation on informed consent. After discussion, review "Negotiating the Ethics of Entry" (124-28).

Homework, due Sept 27:

Week 5

Oct 2 Work on ethics statements (see Box 10, 116-18). Attach this to your fieldwork proposals, due on the 9th.

Oct 4 Catch up. Review: positioning, interviewing techniques (374-76). From Ch 3, discuss "Reading an Object: The Cultural Artifact" (128-31). In class, do a combination of Box 12 ("Reading an Artifact," from ch. 3, pp131-32) and Box 27 ("Using a Cultural Artifact: An Interview," from ch 7, pp 370-72. Discuss archive paper (from Ch 4, "Researching Archives" [159-166; Box 14, 172-73]). Review "The Interview: Larning to Ask," from ch 7 (368-70).

Homework, due Oct 9:

Homework, due Oct 11:

Homework, due Oct 18:

Week 6

Oct 9: Discuss reading assigned for the day. Interview each other on the small collection of stuff you brought to class. Give each other feedback on the questions asked. Type this up and bring to class on Oct 11.

Oct 11: Due: Week-long object observation (Box 7).

Week 7

Oct 16: Tba.

Oct 18: Due: archive / interview paper. In class work to be assigned.