History 2055 -- Ancient Civilizations


Journal Writing Guidelines

Rather than try to assess your "participation" in HIST 2055, I propose replacing the participation mark with a journal writing mark worth 10% of your final grade.   I have found over the last few years that student journals encourage (in some students at least) original thinking.   They also provide a better way of showing me your level of involvement in the subject of the course than how often you ask questions or make comments in class, or simple attendance.

If the class approves my grading scheme, you will be expected to write a critical journal through the course, in which you comment on and explore the lecture material, the books, the primary sources, and any other material  you think is relevant.

Here are some questions you might have about how this scheme would work.

1. What is a critical journal?

 Here are some things a critical journal is not:

Instead, a journal is a collection of thoughtful pieces of writing on various aspects of the course. I am setting some requirements (see below), but within them you have the freedom -- and the necessity -- to find aspects of ancient history  that are important, interesting, or puzzling to you. When you find one, you will write a piece of appropriate length expressing why you find it interesting. A number of such pieces taken together will form your journal.

 Vague? Keep reading.

2. What are the requirements for journals in HIST 2055?

 Here they are:

That is the minimum. To get a good grade, I want you to do the following: 3. How on earth am I going to do this?

It's simpler than you think, as long as you are willing to work systematically.

First, write something every week.    There's no way I can enforce this, of course, but the whole point of the journal is to encourage you to do something active with the course material every single week.

Second, remember that your main raw materials are the lectures (and lecture notes on the NU web site), the source readings, and the books. Come to class, listen to the lectures, and read. Ask questions about the lectures and readings. Find something you are interested in reacting to. Read more about it. Ask more questions.

Third, when you stumble across interesting material, write something down immediately. Get that idea or reaction in black and white.

Fourth, sit down later and develop the idea. More reading, in the course materials, in the library, on the net, may help.

Fifth, before you submit the journal, take what you have written, select the pieces you think are best, and rewrite. Give yourself enough time to do it.

That's all there is to it, but it does require you to be thinking about and working on the course on a regular basis. The more you read and write and think on a week-by-week basis, the more raw material you will have to work with. The more carefully you re-write, the better the final product will be.

4.  What's the point of doing this (especially for a mere 10%)?

5.   What if the class decides against a journal writing requirement?

That will depend in part on the class, but I would propose making the second paper worth 30% instead of 20% of your course grade.