Keeping on Track
Work closely with your supervisor throughout the semester, keeping in mind that you must finish your project ten days before your scheduled master's examination.
LS850, The Master’s Project Colloquium is a three-credit pass/fail course that has two components:
Master's Project Seminar
A classroom component, the Master’s Project Seminar, which meets approximately every other week throughout the semester, provides advice and support for work in progress. Attendance at these sessions is required for at least one semester in which you are working on your project. Come prepared to discuss issues in producing your master’s project, to support your fellow master’s project students, and to receive support and advice. Samples of work-in-progress will be shared at various points in the semester.
The main work of your Master's project is essentially an independent study supervised by a graduate faculty member with some expertise in the issues or methods involved. Work on your project following the plan of goals, deadlines and meetings you worked out with your supervisor upon approval of your proposal.
- Weeks 1-3: Finish most research and begin writing. Begin submitting sections or chapters of your written work to your supervisor for feedback. (Don't forget to schedule your master's examination and apply to graduate.)
- Weeks 3-9: Continue submitting sections or chapters to your supervisor until you have submitted a first draft of the entire project.
- Weeks 9-12: Revise the first draft according to your supervisor's advice, in order to have a final good version ready to submit at least ten days before your master's examination.
You should plan to produce a full first draft within the first nine weeks of the semester, and a good final draft at least ten days before your master’s examination. We strongly suggest that you meet with your supervisor at least every two weeks to discuss your research and ideas.
Advice for Writing a Long Paper
- Set up your paper in the required format before you even start drafting. That way, you can concentrate on your content in the last weeks of the semester rather than worrying about a lot of time-consuming last-minute technical revisions.
- Longer papers of good quality can’t be knocked off in just a couple of drafts. Allow plenty of time in your writing process for invention, arrangement and presentation. Don't get so caught up in the research that you forget to write the paper.
- Break up daunting writing tasks into shorter, more manageable chapters, sections or subsections.
- Don’t write your paper straight through from beginning to end. It is nearly impossible to predict precisely how all the parts of your essay will fit together until you have written them, especially in a longer paper.
- If writing is your main form of invention, be sure to play with your drafts as you revise them, always ready to move sections of thought in order to determine the best structure for your paper, and rewriting the intro accordingly.
Analysis and Argumentation
- In a humanities paper, or in the Discussion section of a scientific paper, you can explore meanings, draw conclusions, even make qualified speculations – but do not go beyond the scope of what your evidence can reasonably support.
- In a humanities paper, your thesis will most likely not be sweeping nor make an absolute, black vs. white, zero-sum argument. Instead, it will probably be a qualified argument about how to weigh and balance various factors of your subject in determining meaning and value (“On the one hand… On the other hand…). You will definitely want to deal objectively but creatively with the arguments of “the other side.”
- In a humanities paper, articulate your argument in the form of a 1-3 sentence thesis statement. Design the introduction to set up this statement: explain crucial concepts and issues, and why you find them significant here.
- In a humanities paper, the main principle of organization should be (after any brief background) the sections of your argument. To determine the order of those sections, ask yourself what structure makes your ideas easy to follow or persuasive. It is only after those considerations that you can use, as a default organization, the real-world chronology or the ordering of your text.
- Use the beginnings of paragraphs, and especially of sections, to locate your reader in your argument, by telling me:
- How we got here. How does this connect with the previous section or paragraph? Your reader doesn’t know these crucial connections unless you articulate them.
- What your point is. Don’t just state a topic: articulate your analytical angle on that topic.
- Section breaks and headings can help your reader keep track of your argument, because they make the sections of your thought clear in a longer paper. But keep in mind that headings are supplemental: your essay cannot depend on them. And too many headings or sub-heads can interfere with your text.
- Use appendices for background details, charts, etc.
- Refer to all texts (fiction, nonfiction; print, film) in the present tense unless there is a good reason to do otherwise.
- Attribute quotations in your own text. Use appropriate grammar, punctuation and citation format in your quotations. Put commas and periods either inside quotation marks – or after a parenthetical reference, if there is one. Don’t give any information in a parenthetical reference that I already know from your essay.
- Repeat names (vs. pronouns) at the beginning of paragraphs. In other words, don’t begin a paragraph with “She also helped develop the theory of…” but with “Davis also helped develop the theory of…” After that initial reminder, pronouns are fine.