Additional Guidelines: Senior Essay

You don’t have to follow any of my recommendations; I’m your guide, not your boss! On the other hand, remember that skepticism can be carried too far. What you will need most, in reading mine and the panelists’ comments, is self-confidence and open-mindedness.

The quality of your senior essay, and of that part of your life in the Winter and Spring of 2002, depends on your attitude. If you look upon this senior essay project as a valuable learning experience, this is exactly what it’s going to be. If you look upon it as a drag, a chore, busywork, a product, an assignment, assembly line work, a requirement, a means to an end, a license, one more step to obtaining a piece of paper and promotion, then that’s what it’s going to be. The irony is that people who see the sunnier side of this process end up doing better academically as well. This is another example of life’s unfairness—the people who enjoy themselves, who honestly believe that learning and their instructors are the bee’s knees, often end up getting the better grades!

Do not send me a complete essay right away. If you do, this will be simply returned to you unread. The whole idea is gradually building your essay and skills, and improving as you go along. That’s the main reason, by the way, why we had the other writing assignments. So do not send me more than 5 pages, to begin with. When we get to know what to expect from each other, 10 pages will be OK. But that’s about the upper limit.

If you send me e-mail attachments, please label the subject line (e.g., Chapter 1), and label the attachment beginning with your name, e.g., Abdo ch. 1.doc; Coachman Preface.doc. So your e-mail will like something like this:

The e-mail itself can be in a .doc, .htm, .html, .rtf, .wpd, or .wps, formats. The best format for me is .doc (Word 97). If you use an earlier version of Word, no problem. If you use a more recent version, go to FILE, SAVE your manuscript AS Word 97 document, then send it to me. Don’t use a .zip format, or any format other than the ones above. If you can’t use the formats mentioned, you’ll need to give me hard copies.

By now, you should have your two panelists as part of your team of four (besides you and I). If you don’t, look up ISP faculty and get in touch with them soon. To find out what our faculty are interested in and how to get in touch with them, consult Coursepack, pp. 19-21.

You may wish to get some input from your panelists about your choice of topic and your outline. From that point on, send them nothing, and only send your material to me. In most cases, serving on your panel is voluntary, and involves quite a bit of extra work for them, so you can’t expect your panelists to read your paper over and over again. Additionally, if you only work with me to begin with, they will like your work more and give you a better grade! I’ll tell you when it’s time to send your complete essay to your panelists.

I’m always available for consultations at my home (see map in Coursepack, p. 1) or in the Oakland Center of Wayne State, Farmington Hills (near 12 Mile Rd. and Farmington Rd). Appointments at the ISP can be arranged as well, especially on the day of our class or on the day of my other campus class (TBD).

Don’t procrastinate. You may be able to start and finish everything in one month, but I won’t. It’s as simple as that. Looking at it objectively, one 40-page essay submitted late was a bit too much for me, time-wise. So, if you do things at the last moment, I shall have to plead lack of time and give you an Incomplete. In that case, we’ll continue through the summer.

If you do get an I, you can remove it by continuing to work with me until mid-July, 2002. By early August, I shall be away, incommunicado, maybe in the jungles of Thailand, and I’ll stay away for a year. So you if you don’t make it by July, you’ll have to switch instructors, and perhaps, repay tuition (a few instructors in our programs decline to work with someone else’s Is, and you may be just unlucky enough to get one of them!) and start all over again. Forewarned is forearmed!

Format of Essay:

Center and boldface all main titles above.

You can use the first person throughout the narrative and write fairly informally, or you can adopt a formal, safe, writing style. The choice is yours.

The preface should be written in the first person. Among other things it may include the following topics: Why did I choose this project? How did I go about it? My main conclusions? Any special take-home lessons for me? Any special message to reader?

If you feel your panelists deserve this, the last paragraph of your Preface should contain some words of acknowledgments to your panelists, who often do this on a voluntary basis. It should contain no words of acknowledgments to me (it matters a great deal to me what you think about this class, but I don’t think it’s appropriate).

So far, one new essay—our first—is posted. Besides, Dave Nied’s essay is still available online. The new one (Crystal Truman’s) gives you a better idea of what I look for. But remember, Crystal’s is a capstone essay; yours will have to be at least 55 pages! To find the links to both essays, go to:

E-mail attachments work fine, if you like them, and they certainly have the advantages of speed, convenience, legibility, and environmental friendliness. But the one-before-last draft of your paper (I’ll tell you when we get to this stage) must be handed or sent in as a hard copy. The main reason for this requirement is that I can better detect errors in a hard copy than on a computer screen. Your panelists will tell you whether they want a hard copy of the next draft, or an e-mail attachment.

Disregard early instructions: You don’t need to reserve an office for the oral examination. We’ll just use my office: ISP, Rm. 2134 (pretty messy—my apologies, but convenience in my view overrides decor). However, you’ll still need to coordinate the meeting by finding a good time for you, me, and the two panelists.

The oral examination itself will last about 1 hour. It will begin with a 5-10 minute presentation by you. Here you’ll tell us why you chose this topic, your main conclusions, your main personal, lifelong lessons from it, and any other items which, in your view, belong to that presentation. This will be followed by questions from the panelists (see your Coursepack, p. 26, for examples of questions they may ask). At the end, you’ll be asked to leave the room, and the 3 panelists will independently grade your essay. The grades will be averaged, and that average will be 60% of your final grade for this class.

The other 40% of the final grade will be determined by the quality of your earlier essay drafts, your ability to learn from your mistakes and improve your paper, effort, attendance (including not showing up for scheduled appointments), professionalism, class presentations, other reading and writing assignments (e.g., book review).

After the oral examination, you’ll probably need to revise the paper one more time. The final, bound and signed copy should reach me within a week after the oral. This signed copy will be deposited in the ISP archives. As well, within a week you’ll need to send me an attachment of the paper (if possible, as an .htm file; if not, as a .doc file).

Overall, this can be a memorable journey for you, if you just invest something of yourself into it, if you maintain a measure of childlike curiosity about your topic, if you work hard, and if you welcome constructive criticisms of your work—or, in other words, if you just look at the sunny side, remember the positives, and ignore the rest! [this, incidentally, is also a recipe for a happy life!]

In our first meeting of next semester, you’ll need to let me know:

Senior Essay, Main Page