Stephen W. Potts
LTWL 120 has now concluded. If you’re thinking about taking the class in the future and are curious about the midterm paper assignments, I’ve retained some general guidelines here:
MIDTERM: For the first paper, the emphasis was on the subject matter of the first half of the quarter, twentieth-century youth culture up to 1970. You had, of course, a wide range of topics to choose from. In most cases you would want to settle on one specific period (e.g., the Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, the Late Sixties). You could work with a single medium: literature, music, movies, television, comics. You may deal with clothing styles, fads, or other social practices. Or you may take a historical, sociological, or developmental approach to some aspect of youth in the period in question. See sample topics below.
As models for possible topics, reflect on issues brought up in specific course lectures: e.g., the controversies over various media and juvenile delinquency; subcultures like the hipsters, beats, bikers, surfers, or hippies; specific books (fiction or non-fiction) mentioned in class but not read in full; specific music genres or artists; the role of fashion and style in culture and subcultures; the changing image of young women in magazines of the time; aspects of ethnic subcultures such as latino, African-American, a specific Asian or Asian-American group, etc. The basis of a good topic is a precise question you would like to answer. It should be about something that interests you or that you are curious about.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is to define your topic narrowly enough that the finished project is focused and deep rather than general and broad. You must do some research outside of course materials, using books, articles, websites (but not alone; see next page), or other information that you have gathered yourself. We will expect a handful of sources at least (4-6 books, articles, reviews, interviews, documentaries, etc.). Papers will be approximately 1500 words each, with attached bibliography/list of works cited. You are also welcome to attempt projects in other media — say, CD, DVD, website, or artwork — provided the work demonstrates research and effort equivalent to a written paper.
TERM PROJECTS: In certain cases, students may be permitted — with instructor approval — to do a single long term project that will satisfy both midterm and final paper requirements Permission hinges on the nature of the project and the student’s background, and can cover periods or topics too large for a 1500-word paper or its equivalent.
OFFICE VISITS are recommended for anyone who is unsure what to do for either of the assignments. I can help you focus on a good topic and thesis, and point you in the direction of research. I even have copies of papers from last year, in case you would like to see what topics your predecessors have covered. Get a head start, and talk to me before the office gets crowded, which it will the week before a paper is due.
In the age of the Internet, an increasing number of students have come to believe that “research” means Googling for half an hour. While there are now more excellent resources than ever online, relatively few know how to find them or evaluate their usefulness. Besides, as students at UCSD, you are paying a lot for your education, some of which goes to support a superb library/research system on campus. Get your money’s worth: take advantage of this university’s facilities and its reputation for higher learning. As UCSD students, in fact, you may even access most of the university’s library and online resources from the comfort of your own home.
Not all research materials, whether in print or in photons, are created equal. For example, Cliff Notes, SparkNotes, and their equivalent are for high school students who haven’t done the reading, not for college students supporting critical arguments. Likewise, most general encyclopedias are so-oo secondary school. That includes Wikipedia, which is simply an online encyclopedia; it may be useful for inspiration and direction, but it is not a quotable resource. Instead, begin by seeking out the many focused series in encyclopedia format recommended below or turning to the databases available through the library website. Fortunately, UCSD offers access to many electronic journals and other potential research materials (see “Words for the Wise“), alongside the non-virtual books and periodicals in the library building itself.
There are some useful online sources, like those mentioned in “Words for the Wise.” However, countless books and articles have been written about the Jazz Age, the Fifties, and the Sixties, so don’t overlook print sources about them. A 1500-word paper should have at least a handful of sources in “Works Cited” — that is, 4-6 items. Furthermore, these should actually be quoted and cited in your paper.