This class is organized around an individual research project using Scalar, a web publishing program which allows you to include media with your research. Unlike a traditional paper, this kind of project will allow you to gain both computer and historical skills at the same time. While we will be discussing Scalar often over the course of the semester, you can always look at this Scalar User's Guide if you have any questions about this program.
Your research should come from a combination of primary and secondary sources. Shoot for a 50/50 ratio, and if anything provide more primary than secondary sources. This is not intended to be the same kind of library-centered reports that you've done since middle school. It must include primary source research.
The paper should attempt to connect food history to one or more of the themes of this course. How food has changed purely for food's sake defeats the notion that the history of food in America has anything to say about food in general. While comparisons or ramifications that deal with the present are welcome, try to restrict them to the last page of the paper. This is, after all, a history course.
The topic is your choice. However, it should be specific enough so that you can cover your subject in some depth. For example, a history of dessert in America is too broad. However, a history of ice cream consumption is probably a good choice. Attempt to write a history of vanilla ice cream consumption in America and you will probably have trouble finding sources.
Should you begin with a topic and end up with few sources on it, you will have a very difficult time completing this course. Therefore, it is extremely important that you begin reading your sources as as early as possible to help you better focus your research. While you can narrow the focus of your study after submitting your topic, you will not be allowed to change to a completely different subject.
You are required to use Zotero, a research note database, in the course of this effort so that I can track both the sources that you acquire, and your progress in excerpting material. I will examine your database twice over the course of the semester. The first time in order to see how many sources you've acquired. The second time will be to see how many notes you have from those sources.
Failure to keep up with the preliminary stages of this assignment may result in my failing you on this assignment before the final product is even done. As you have to pass the paper in order to pass the course, that means that you better keep up with all the preliminary stages of this assignment. I generally adopt a two strikes and your out policy. I can understand why someone might miss the due date for a single step in this long process. Missing two due dates strongly suggests to me that you will not produce an adequate final product, so it will likely result in a failing grade for the project and course.
Step 1: Topic DueBy September 11th, you must complete the first step in the paper composition process. You must choose a topic. Choosing a topic should not be taken lightly because even at this early stage it may make or break your efforts. Perhaps the best advice I can give you is this: Make sure you have a substantial number of sources lined up BEFORE you select a topic. E-mail me a topic by the end of the class period with your topic and at least a couple of sentences which show that you've done enough research so that you can hint where you think you're going to go with this project.
Step 2: First Draft Research Prospectus
By September 20th, you must complete the first draft of a research prospectus for your project. Post this material on a page of your Scalar somewhere and send me the link. [Note: Your Scalar must be published by this point so that anyone can access it.] A successful research prospectus will contain the following elements in this order:
- A question that your research will seek to answer. Imagine that this assignment was not open-ended and write the the question that the professor might ask. This is a way to make sure that there is value to your work. By asking a good question, you can connect your subject to broader historical trends and attract readers.
- A list of primary and secondary sources that you think you might use presented in proper Turabian format (bibliographical entries). As it is good strategy to review far more sources than you will need for your final paper, I want to see at least ten sources at this stage. At this stage, it would be good if your list included 5 physical books and 5 useful websites where you've found media. This list will change by the end of the writing process.
- A brief outline of the topics you might cover over the course of your Scalar with an explanation of why discussing this topic will help you answer the question that you have set out above. This list too will undoubtedly change by the end of the writing process.
On September 27th, you should bring your laptop to class so that I can check the progress of your research. Note: You don't need Internet access for me to read your Zotero database.
Step 4: Second Draft Research Prospectus
By October 4th, you must complete your second draft research prospectus. I'm assuming it will be at the same link as the first draft was. If this isn't true, e-mail me a new link. A successful research prospectus will contain the following elements in this order:
- A paragraph explaining why you framed your question the way you did. While you are not required to keep the same question throughout the research process, if you plan on changing questions after handing in the second prospectus, please drop me an e-mail with the old one, the new one and an explanation why.
- A potential thesis. [A thesis for a Scalar is not the same as a written argument for a history research paper. Imagine your Scalar thesis as the most important general point you want the reader to take away about your subject after they visit your site].
- Twenty, rather than just ten, potential sources presented in proper Turabian format (bibliographical entries). Approximately half of those sources should be secondary sources. Approximately half should be media.
- At least a sentence (if not more) describing ten pages that you expect to include in the final Scalar book.
Before October 23rd, you should share or e-mail me a copy of your Scalar Flowchart. Build that flowchart using the program draw.io [Trust me, it's really instinctual so no training should be needed.] The final copy should have at least 12 planned pages.
On October 23rd you should bring your laptop to class so that I can check the progress of your research for a second time. Note: You don't need Internet access for me to read your Zotero database.
Step 6: Draft Scalar
By November 6, make your draft Scalar is complete. Your draft Scalar should have at least 12 planned pages, and eight of those pages should be largely completes. A 12-page Scalar should have an absolute minimum of 24 media objects. Probably more.
Among the finished pages should be your credits/acknowledgements page, which will include a biography of major sources listed in proper Turabian format.
Step 7: Final Scalar
Your Scalar projects must be done by NOVEMBER 30TH so that I have time to grade and comment upon them. It should have at least 12 complete pages and a bare minimum of 30 media objects.
You will present your research during the final exam period.
Since this research project is the reason that this course exists, you MUST pass your Scalar project in order to pass the course.