Class Consciousness

Stephen W. Potts



These assignments are designed to encourage independent investigation of literature and related issues. Because the quizzes demand a focus on assigned texts, lectures, and class discussions, the papers provide you the opportunity to explore original territory in the field.They also monitor your abilities to formulate questions, topics, and theses of your own; to generate a thoughtful program of investigation and research; and to demonstrate your rhetorical and linguistic skills through the use of evidence and argumentation — of these valuable critical thinking tools you will need in any professional discipline.

Each paper must be 1500 words long (roughly five pages double-spaced in 12-point font) and make use of outside resources for purposes of quotation, evidence, and authoritative support. In most cases, that means a bibliography or “Works Cited” list of four to six sources, mostly critical works. You will find advice on how and where to seek acceptable sources on “Starting Points for Research” (below). Take advantage of it. Take advantage as well of my office hours, which will be expanded on the days indicated on the syllabus. I can help you formulate a topic that will interest you and a good thesis. Further suggestions for writing an “A” paper are appended as “Words for the Wise.”


  1. There are many literary works that conventionally find their way into secondary school literature classes and reading lists although they do not appear to have originally been written for adolescents. Choose one — perhaps one from your own school experience — and analyze it, as we have done in class. You may consider what justifies its inclusion as adolescent literature, looking back at adolescent themes outlined in the first week of lecture, or argue another thesis entirely. For this topic, your choice should not be a book on the syllabus.
  2. You may select a novel we have read in the first half of the quarter (through Week Five) and explore it from a standpoint other than one advanced in class. This could be a critical response to issues mentioned in lecture or something completely original. Whatever you do, do not simply reprise material we have already covered.


  1. Select a literary work that is not already acknowledged adolescent reading and make the case that it should be, either because of its literary value or a relevant theme.
  2. Choose a book that is clearly aimed at the YA or adolescent reader, or that has been made popular by young readers, and argue a thesis for it. Some will be literary in orientation (e.g, Diary of a Wallflower), but many will be genre fiction like the later Harry Potter novels or the Hunger Games series. You might consider why your choice appeals to teen readers.
  3. You may select a novel we have read in the second half of the quarter and pursue the same topic as Midterm (2) above.

THE LONG PROJECT OPTION: Some students will be allowed to turn in one long project instead of the two short papers. This project should be 3000 words long or the equivalent in other media. You must sign the permission sheet. To receive said permission you must:

  1.  Offer a topic that can best be presented in the longer form;
  2. Convince me that you have some background in producing projects of this length and depth;
  3. Agree to turn the project in on the last day of instruction. Long projects turned in later will be graded as late.

The Fine Print:  The university and the department have stringent regulations regarding cheating, plagiarizing, and turning in papers copied off the internet.  We are asked to inform you that we have access to the same online sites and term paper services as you do, and means for comparison and identification.   Past offenders can be visited in the cadaver vaults at the medical college.




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, you need to 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 much 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 secondary school. That includes Wikipedia, which is simply an online encyclopedia; it may be useful for background and ideas, but it is not a quotable resource; at best it can point you to quotable resources. Instead, begin by turning to the many excellent reference works or databases available through the library website. Fortunately, UCSD offers access to many electronic journals and other potential research materials  alongside the non-virtual books and periodicals in the library building itself.

Despite the many useful online sources, books and articles in print have information that is not available online. Use research in many media; anything else will look like intellectual short cuts.


About runawayserfer

I am a writer and editor living on the Left Coast & writing my first novel: a 1980s-era political thriller titled El Imperio.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 18, 2014 by and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: