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For this stage of the term paper process, each of you should turn in, both to your peer-review partner and to me, a fully-elaborated, careful critique of your peer-review partner’s paper. This critique might take the form of a letter; you should use this letter to help your partner improve his or her paper by giving the author constructive and specific criticism and advice. Some questions to help guide your response are below:
What is your sense of the author’s argument? Restate that argument in your letter — this will help the author to make sure that their intended argument is coming across to the reader. If you have difficulty discerning what the paper’s argument is, say so. If you have a clear sense of the argument, but feel that it could be made more complex or interesting, suggest how the author might go about improving things.
How well substantiated is the argument? How important is the theory to the author’s argument? How well does the author use evidence from the texts to support his or her points? Are there places where the evidence presented might have been more carefully analyzed? Are there places where you needed more evidence? Are there places where your interpretation significantly differs from the author?
What is the experience of reading the paper like? Is the paper coherent and fluid, or could the sentence-level writing use help? Are there other problems, whether mechanical or argumentative, that you want to draw the author’s attention to?
Finally — and most importantly — how interesting do you find the paper? Does the author give you a good sense of the “so what?” factor? If not, how can the author make the importance of his or her argument more apparent?
At last, the draft: On this day, unless you have made other arrangements in advance, you must turn in both to me and to your peer-review partner a draft of your term paper. This draft should be as complete as you can possibly make it, such that you get in return the best possible comments to help you revise. You should accompany this draft with a brief note asking your peer review partner (and me) specific questions aimed at soliciting the kinds of help you need.
This is the last stage of the term paper process prior to drafting the paper itself. At this point, you should turn in a bibliography of at least seven non-class texts and two class texts that you expect to use in your. These texts must be annotated more substantively than they were in the preliminary bibliography. Make use of these annotations to think seriously about how these texts connect to your argument, and how you’ll use them in your paper.
For this stage of the term paper assignment, you should turn in a revised project proposal, which should be approximately 2 pages, double-spaced, this time with a full statement of what you intend to accomplish in your paper, including (and this is the most important part) a clear sense of what your thesis will be. This is not to say, again, that things won’t change as you continue working, but it is to say that I want a very clear sense of the direction you’re heading.
For this second stage of the term paper assignment, you need to do some preliminary research. On Monday, October 4, you will turn in to me a bibliography listing at least ten secondary sources that you intend to consult in the process of working on your term paper. These sources should include critical books and articles on (or related to) the topic you intend to pursue, and should be scholarly in nature (meaning you need to pay attention to the provenance of these sources, ensuring that they’re well-researched and authoritative; stuff grabbed off the internet may not suffice). These sources should not include class readings, though of course you’ll want to use class readings as sources in the term paper itself. Each entry in the bibliography should be followed by a one-sentence description of what the source is, and why you think it might be important to your research.
For this first stage of the term paper assignment, please write 250 to 500 words about the topic that you think you’ll want to work on this semester. The term paper assignment asks that you use your deep understanding of Marxist cultural theory to do a careful, thorough, interesting analysis of some media text or phenomenon; in your preliminary project proposal, you should give me a sense of what media object you’d like to explore, what questions you have about that object, and how you expect Marxist cultural theory will help you in this analysis.