AGS 4991:  Senior Essay (or Project), Part I

Section: 001 || Call#: 16083 || Credits: 4

AGS 4992:  Capstone Essay (or Project)

Section: 001 || Call#: 19084 || Credits: 4

Time & Place: Monday, 6:00-9:40 p.m., 28 Manoogian, WSU Campus

More—much more—information is available at our class website:

Instructor’s Work Address: Moti Nissani, Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Rm. 2134, 2nd floor, 5700 Cass, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202.

Tel.:  313-577-6576

To find out how to get to my office from anywhere in North America, click here please. Once the connection to this link has been established, type in your street address, then zipcode (below: "2. Fill in the address information"). Next, click "get directions." Step by step driving instructions will then appear.

Instructor’s Home Address: 28645 Briar Hill, Farmington Hills, MI 48336


Tel.: 248.427.1957 (h) (12-9 p.m. every day)

To find out how to get to my home from anywhere in North America, click here please. Once the connection to this link has been established, type in your street address, then zipcode (below: "2. Fill in the address information"). Next, click "get directions." Step by step driving instructions will then appear.




Instructor’s Internet Homepage:

Class Internet Address: :

Office hours: Call or e-mail for to arrange an appointment

Course Description: You and I will see each other at least once every two weeks throughout the term.  We begin by choosing a topic, developing an outline (or plan of work for creative projects), improving your information retrieval skills, brushing up on your research, reading, and writing skills, and then moving into your essay writing, one chapter at a time.

In addition to satisfying the graduation requirements of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, AGS 499-4996 and AGS 4992 prepare you for graduate research and lifelong fact-finding missions. As well, AGS 4991satisfies WSU’s General Education’s Intermediate Composition requirement, while AGS 4992 and AGS 4996 satisfy the Writing Intensive in the Major requirement.

Grading: 40% of your grade will be based on effort, minor writing assignments, quality of first completed draft of your essay/project, participation, and attendance. The other 60% will be based on the grade you will receive for the essay/project from members of your committee (20% for each member for Senior Essay, 30% for each member of Capstone).

Things to Avoid:  This is a hard class for anyone, and it is even more so for those still developing basic reading, writing and research skills.  It’s going to be a rough journey for all of us, and a test of character as well.  Just tell yourself that you’ve gotten this far, and that you can write that essay too!  I’ll do everything in my power to make this possible tool.  But even good writers must watch our for:

Procrastination: You need to start working on this class right away and to keep going, week after week, even if your final draft is due months and months from now. A major essay/project is not the kind of thing that can be done at the last possible moment; it requires steady progress. For example, by the first week, you need to come close to finalizing your topic. By the second week, a rough outline is due, and so on. Moreover, by May 2004 I may be out of the country (or in orbit, for all I know), and may stay there for almost a year, so an Incomplete grade, especially for Senior Essayists, is not really an option. Another way of putting this: for the duration of this class, you, your partner, and I are penpals who need to see each other, or write to each other, at least once every two weeks. If you vanish for three months, your cheat yourself out of a major life accomplishment.  The second roadblock is far more unpleasant:

Plagiarism Advisory

The whole idea of the Senior/Capstone Essay/Project is to give you a chance to assert yourself, to speak with your own voice, to present your own views, to bring your pertinent life experiences to bear on the topic or project you chose, to make mistakes and learn from them. Obviously, you will obtain a great deal of information and opinions from others, but these will only be minor bricks in the edifice that you will build. That means that you can’t simply take someone else’s words or ideas and call them your own. When the words are someone else’s, you put them in quotes and give the source (see Documenting Scholarly Essays elsewhere in this packet). You always write with closed books, closed internet, closed everything.  When the ideas are someone else’s, you give that person credit. Failure to do so will result in failure in this class: plagiarism = E.

I'm willing to work with just about anyone, regardless of their skills.  But I do not tolerate plagiarism.  Some habitual plagiarists ignore this early warning, only to find out that with me plagiarism is unlikely to succeed.  If that is how you hope to get your degree, you don't want to take a class from me, believe me.

A note about computers: If you don’t have a computer already, seriously think about getting a laptop (or a desktop) for  $800 or so. It will pay for itself in a few months—in time saved, in higher grades, in spelling checks, in library trips, newspaper subscriptions, consumer information . . . Likewise, I can’t overemphasize the usefulness of e-mail. I check my e-mail daily, so you can speed up your progress in this class immensely by having an e-mail account. Without e-mails, weeks pass by between writing a chapter and getting my input; with computers, the entire process can be condensed into days. With e-mail, we can sometimes meet in cyberspace, instead of face to face. Likewise, you’ll need to access information from WSU library, and with a computer, you can do so from home. I could go on, but really, the point is simple: a student, nowadays, must have a computer. Some universities wisely give students laptops; since Wayne doesn’t, you will do yourself a great service by getting one yourself.

Instructional Philosophy (or: Consumer Information):  I want you to look back on this class, five years down the road, and say to yourself, "Yes, I really learned something in that class." Now, to achieve this goal you have to work hard; I can only give you your money’s worth by requiring that you come to every appointment, that you submit your work on time, that you endlessly write and rewrite, and that you give this class everything you have got. Moreover, learning often involves open-mindedly considering (but not always accepting) viewpoints other than your own, on any subject under the sun. If you are willing to work hard and question everything, you’ll enjoy yourself in this class and learn a lot.

Class format:  You and I will meet at least once every two weeks, during class time.  At a certain point, if you are a proficient e-mail user and a pretty good writer, we may switch to an ongoing e-mail dialog.

Choose your Examiner(s) as soon as you can: By the fourth week of class, especially if you are a capstone student (or if you plan to complete your Senior Essay this semester), you need to get in touch with an  examiner (usually, but not always, an ISP professor) .  You then need to schedule the oral examination, by finding a time slot that can be attended by me (your class instructor) and the examiner (two examiners for Senior Essay). Then call She’re Hartsfiled-Davis (313-577-4612) or LaJoyce Jones (313-577-4613) and reserve a conference room as well.



"White Veil," 1909, by Willard Metcalf, Detroit Institute of Arts.

Activities for the Week 1

(see also weekly schedule)

I. Technical: Introduction to course, differences between AGS 4991/6 and AGS 4992; syllabus, schedule, requirements; class roster (sign up on my computer);  procrastination, plagiarism. Sign up for regular consultation with class instructor.  Where shall we meet?

II. A few words about the value of education (so that you think twice before giving up):  a.  Oprah Winfreyb. Emily Dickinson

He ate and drank the precious words,

His spirit grew robust;

He knew no more that he was poor,

Nor that his fame was dust.

He danced along the dingy days,

And this bequest of wings

Was but a book! What liberty

A loosened spirit brings!

--Emily Dickinson

What’s Dickinson’s point? Is she right? Have you ever had a similar experience? Are you here because you are in search of precisely such experiences? (in that case, you are in the right place).

III. Tentatively Choose your Topic

IV. Developing an Outline.

Assignments for Next Week:

  1. Send me an e-mail as soon as possible, with the title of your topic. We’ll continue the dialog we started in class until we reach an agreement on 1-2 topics.
  2. As soon as this is done, develop a tentative outline for your senior essay. If there is time, send this outline to me via e-mail.  If there is no time, print it and bring it to our next meeting.


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