Go Forth!

Meeting with each of you this week in conference to talk about your writing projects is an exciting time for me. You have read a book that has helped you think about nature and culture, you have taken part in class discussions of wildness, and you have considered questions that you might pursue during the next ten weeks.

I now need you to pull out your planners and look ahead to the schedule for the next few weeks. Below you will find an outline of the work you need to complete before spring break. Please go through the steps carefully and let me know if you have any questions.

1. Overview
Our individual conferences this week are dedicated to clarifying a question (or questions) to help you begin your research. Then, at our first class meeting next week, you will submit (in class, hard copy!) your first research installment. This document gives me a window into the work you have been doing. The first research installment will also help you prepare for the workshop with our research and technology fellow at our second meeting next week. This workshop will lead to the second research installment and the first version of the essay that you will complete before spring break.

Here is what the schedule looks like:

Week 6 Research Installment #1
Week 7 Research Installment #2
Week 8 Due: Version 1 of Essay
Week 9 Spring Break

The first version of the essay should be the best piece of writing you are able to produce. The first version of your essay will reflect your effort and accomplishment in the first half of the course and therefore I will factor the quality of your first version into the final course grade. The essay will also be read by many people. So do your very best to present a document worth reading so that you don’t end up wasting anyone’s time.

2. Research Installment #1
This progress report has a specific format that I detail on the writing page. You fill find there a link to a PDF file with instructions about the annotated works cited page (or bibliography) and the reflective letter

As I have said in class, we learn by doing. Hence it is important to me that you begin this process by searching for information on your own. Use the search strategies that have worked for you in the past. Pay attention to the decisions you are making about where to look, how you are using sources to find other sources, and where you are reaching dead ends or information that feels to be less reliable.

Remember that you should

  • search web and print materials; but please make every effort to include a range of resources
  • plan to spend at least five hours in the library researching and preparing your notes for the document; and set aside additional time to write the document
  • make sure that your Research Installment is presented exactly right with complete works cited entries using MLA style (see the examples on the instructions). If your document is not presented according to the specifications I will ask you to revise it. (See grading page).

3. Resources Page
After you have done some poking around on your own please spend some of your time this week familiarizing yourself with the Resources page on the course web site. At this point in the course, more specifically, you will find the “Integrative Thinking & Writing Research Guide” to be a useful portal for teaching yourself how to do effective and efficient searches:

  • The “Search for Background Info & Key Words” is helpful for poking and prying with a purpose.
  • The “Get More out of Google” post will help as you begin looking around using key terms (learn about and use Google Scholar)
  • The pages and video tutorials on how to search the library paper holdings (books, journals), how to search electronic databases and resources (EBSCO, E-Library), and how to asses the source (currency, reliability, authority, purpose)

We will be using these materials in our writing workshops in the coming weeks. And the Research and Technology Fellow who visits our class will be helping you harness the research tools and strategies we make available for you. But these workshops will be far more productive if you are already familiar with some of this material.

If you have any questions about the direction of your research, please let me know. I am happy to answer e-mails or to meet with you at any time I am able. Also, remember that the Mason Library staff is able to help you at any stage of the process as you seek and assess resources for your work in this course.