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Paper notes

After speaking with a few of you after class today, I wanted to clarify a few things about the papers. I'll probably add to this list as I get around to reading your papers myself over the weekend I've put up the slides from the in-class feedback in the Students section of the site.


  • Writing Style: In the assignment guidelines, I've used pretty formal, ``scientific" language to describe the assignment. I did this to get you in the right frame of mind: virtually all of our assignments in this class have required that you actively seek out information about the world: in our class survey, in your media journals, in your blog entries, etc. So your assignments this semester have not just been busy work making you regurgitate facts and figures---they constitute data about the world that you yourself gathered. Now, this does not mean that I expect you to, say, stick to third person writing in your paper. I'm totally okay with the whole paper being written from a first person narrative perspective. What's important is that you approach the material in the right way: the goal is not to simply write an op-ed style rant about some political issue, but to find real puzzling questions about how the world works and then try to answer those questions by drawing on empirical evidence. You can do this from a first-person perspective: in fact, look to two of our books this semester (Wolfe & Pinker...probably others as well) for examples of this.

  • The ``Data and Research Question" section: This confusion about writing style seems to be the worst with respect to the ``Data & Research Question" part of your papers. For this section, I like the way I worded it on the peer review sheet from today's class: ``Does the `Data and Research Question' section provide a detailed description---with specific examples---of what the author found this semester and how this lead them to a research question for this paper?' Remember, treat your work from this semester as data about the world and your research question as a question that this data inspired you to ask. Now pretend your friend asked you, ``Why on earth is this question worth asking? What did you find this semester that lead you to this question?" That's what you need to answer. Again, a first-person narrative is just fine! And don't be afraid to give a broad answer. If your topic is media bias, for example, your justification for why this matters can incorporate the discussions & readings we've had about the relationship between the media and democracy, theories about why the media represents the world the way it does, etc.

  • On Choosing Sides: You may feel more confused at the end of this project than you did going in. Remember when I said this paper wasn't like an op-ed piece? Well, here's one big reason why: you don't have to come down firmly on one side of any issue. You may not have an answer to your question. This is fine! The key is to explain why you feel this way in light of the evidence & arguments you've encountered. Similarly, if you do come to some firm conclusion, you need to justify that conclusion!

  • I put up more notes from class today under the Students Only link.