You have a great deal of freedom to pick your subject: art, politics, biography, religion, exploration, science, literature, economics, philosophy, business, etc. The only restrictions are that it must substantially concern Japan before 1700, and must be based on multiple credible sources.
There will be several assignments which help you prepare for and develop your material, including a proposal, an annotated bibliography and outline, a draft, and, at long last, the final paper, a 2000-3000 word essay on an aspect of Japanese history. The project is worth 20% of your course grade.
At each stage of this project, you will be expected to turn in the assignments in a timely fashion and to share your plans, findings, etc., with your classmates on the assigned days. This is a requirement of the class. Your assignments and presentations will not be graded, but completion and participation is a component of your final project grade.
The purpose of a research project is to identify an interesting historical question, examine the relevant scholarship and evidence, and come to a well-supported conclusion about that question. This is then presented in the form of a well-written essay (or article or book, but that’s not the goal this semester) which has a clear topic (the question), a thesis (the answer) and an argument supporting that thesis with substantial evidence and reasonable logic.
I’m not expecting you to do original research in the sense of primary archival work, but I am expecting you to present a thesis which is your own idea, the result of your investigation, and which is as specific and original as possible and which is well-substantiated by evidence and previous scholarship. Your grade will be based on the success of this project:
- Is your question interesting?
- Is your thesis original and specific?
- Is your evidence sufficient?
- Is your handling of that evidence critical and responsible?
- Is the logic of your argument sound?
- Is the presentation clear and effective?
Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course.
Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and footnote; paraphrase and footnote; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.
Research Project Schedule Due Dates
Identify possible subjects, meet with instructor whenever
You’re not actually required to meet with me, but I highly recommend it if you have questions about the suitability of your topic, the scale of the essay, resources, etc. My office hours are Tuesday and Thursday, 10-12, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10-11 and 1-2, but I can be available other times as needed, and my email (email@example.com) is always open.
Proposal (1 page) 10/20 (Tu)
A quick description of the topic you will be investigating, the sources you have found, and short discussion of what specifically you want to write about. At this point I still reserve the right to say “no” if the topic is too big, too small, or otherwise inappropriate.
Annotated Scholarly Bibliography and Outline 11/3 (Tu)
Library work! You must find at least five solid references — scholarly monographs or journal articles, not googled web pages – in addition to any relevant course materials, and you must be able to explain how they will be useful to you. That’s the “annotated” part: “Annotation” means short commentaries making it clear to your readers the value of the sources. The library catalog and digital databases are good, but don’t forget to go into the library and look around.
An outline is a more detailed schematic description of a project, broken down into sections, points, ideas and sources. It should reference your bibliographic findings, and should give the reader a clear sense of the argument you will be pursuing.
Draft of essay (2000+ words) due 11/24 (Tu)
This is draft, but it should be substantially complete. If there are sections which are missing, or which still need work, you should make note of that, so I can focus my feedback on things you may have missed.
Presentation 11/24 (Tu)
You will do a short presentation of your subject to the class, focusing on the historical context and value of the question you are writing about.
Final Version (2000-3000 words) due. 12/10 (Th)
This is the finished product: thesis, argument, conclusion, citations (bibliography, too, though that doesn’t count for word count). It should be double-spaced, with reasonable margins, with good spelling, grammar, format, and structure.
“Let the science and research of the historian find the fact and let his imagination and art make clear its significance.” — George Trevelyan