Students are expected to have completed the assigned readings and to contribute to class discussion and activities. Participation is evaluated using the following criteria:

1. Reading Posts

For each class, you are expected to post one question and one comment about the day’s readings. For each class, we will use one or more of these posts as prompts for our in-class writings and or discussion.

Reading posts should:

  • Be between 50-250 words (for questions) and 100-250 words (for comments),
  • Make direct reference to the reading(s), including citing pages,
  • Show insight and engagement with our course content. For questions, this can come in the form of contextualizing or framing a question, and it is always appropriate, even encouraged, to ask questions about the sections of the readings with which you are struggling,
  • Allow room for others to respond as part of a conversation when appropriate,
  • Encouraged: Bring in (link to) additional resources. If you find a reading or a video or something else that related to the week’s texts, assignments, and/or activities, you can create a post that explores the connections between what you’ve found and what we’re doing that week.

Reading Posts, both questions and comments, should be posted to the appropriate channel in Slack, and are due by 12:00 PM (noon) the day of class.

Additional comments and suggested prompts based on our March 1 discussion

  • The idea behind the reading posts is to give you a formal but low-stakes way of thinking about the readings prior to class discussion. I recognize many of the readings are hard, and reading such texts is a skill we develop over time through practice.
  • These reading posts can engage all the readings in a broad way or can focus in on a particular issue raised by one of the texts.
  • You’re not always going to have a full understanding of the readings, and that’s okay. The goal here is to work with what you understand or what you believe you got out of the reading(s).
  • You might find yourself just listing four or five things you took from the readings presented in a bulleted list. That too is okay. What I ask in such cases is that you seek to write more than a short sentence but try to offer a bit of summary or contextualization. For example, consider Brian Stock’s “concept of ‘textual communities’ he introduces on pp. 22-23, starting at the bottom of page 22. Rather than simply write, “Brian Stock introduces the term ‘textual communities’ (23), try for something like “In studying the interplay between orality and literacy in medieval Europe, Brian Stock suggests the term ‘textual community,’ which he defines as ‘microsocities organized around the common understanding of a script’ (23).” Even better might be “Brian Stock introduces the concept of ‘textual communities’ as a way of understanding the interplay of orality and literacy in medieval Europe. He notes that as society became more literate during the eleventh century not because everyone learned to read but because society increasingly organized itself around written texts. To function as a textual community, as a literate community, a group needed only one literate member who could read or explain the written text to everyone else” (23).
  • The question part of your reading post should be rooted in the readings. While the idea is to try to think of a good discussion prompt that we might use as a way to start talking about the reading, you can also frame a question around something you don’t understand. For instance, maybe on pp. 22-23 of the Brian Stock reading you picked up on the idea of “textual communities” but you’re not sure why Stock thinks the concept is useful or how it relates to the issue of writing in terms of the study of history. You might write something like, “On page 23, Brian Stock introduces the concept of textual community, which he defines as ‘microsocities organized around the common understanding of a script.’ Why does he think the concept is helpful for historians?”
  • Having shifted into looking at how various disciplines examine, theorize, work with, or use writing as their subject of study, you can approach the readings for the rest of the semester, you can approach each of the readings with this basic prompt: As a member of discipline X, how does this author examine, theorize, work with, or use writing as the subject of study.

2. Critical Review

Once during the semester you will write a 250-500 word critical review of one of our readings, submit the review to me for review, revise and edit as necessary, and then share the review with the class. These readings should be of scholarly sources (not the student-selected popular reading for the What We Know Project) and should not be one of the readings you present on as part of the What We Know Project. The audience for your critical review will be other members of the class.

A critical review offers both a summary of and comment on a text, making use of both analysis and evaluation. In addition to the traditional summary and comment, please briefly draw connections to other readings from the semester. Such connections often come in one or more of the following forms: agreement or disagreement, offering similar or different approaches, and/or relying upon shared sources.

Resources to help you get started include:


  • Instructor feedback draft: April 28, 10:00 PM
  • Revised draft posted to Slack: May 9, 10:00 PM

3. Peer Review

We will have at least one formal peer-review for one of the major assignments and opportunities to offer in-progress feedback on others. Peer-review activities count as part of the participation grade activities.

4. In-class Work

Through the term we will engage in a number of in-class writing and research assignments. These count as part of the participation grade as well.