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Home   Graduate   Courses and Syllabi Second Year Seminar

The Second Year Seminar

Beginning in fall 2013, all doctoral students are required to take the Second-Year Research Seminar in the spring of their second year. The goal of the course will be the production of the second-year research paper required of all students. It will be a paper of approximately 10,000 words and should aspire to be of article quality. It should be based on research into primary materials, placed in the context of a larger historiographical conversation. This paper may be a preliminary investigation into a student’s dissertation topic, or may be on an unrelated subject.

This paper will be used to assess the students’ facility with historiographical discussion and their ability to locate and work with primary-source materials. It will also allow assessment of the students’ writing skills. Beginning in 2014-2015, the Second-Year Seminar Paper will be assessed by the Graduate Committee and the faculty member who taught the Second-Year Seminar. The Graduate Coordinator will not participate in this review.

The Committee will evaluate all the papers submitted using assessment criteria adopted by the department and will prepare a report to the Graduate Coordinator setting out its assessment. The Committee’s report will include a brief statement summarizing its conclusions and indicating whether the student’s paper as a whole is satisfactory or unsatisfactory. (The only two assessments given will be satisfactory or unsatisfactory; there will be no “low passes,” “high passes,” or “conditional passes.”) To pass a paper needs to be judged satisfactory in each of the three assessment criteria. A student whose paper is considered unsatisfactory will be asked to withdraw from the program.

The Committee will issue its reports to the Graduate Coordinator, who will then submit them to the dissertation committee for each student being assessed. In the case of students who are asked to withdraw from the program based on their performance on the second-year paper, the dissertation committee may ask the Graduate Coordinator to review the Committee’s determination. Such a request must be accompanied by evidence to support the claim the student is making satisfactory progress in the program and that the paper meets the evaluation standards set out here.

The Graduate Coordinator’s decision on any appeal is final.

Assessment principles for second-year research paper:

The principles that will be used assessing the second-year research paper are set out below.

In evaluating the second-year paper, the Graduate Committee should look for evidence of competence and potential, rather than perfection. Papers will not be assessed as to substance (which, obviously, are properly within the purview of the section and the advisor), but rather for their demonstration of scholarly skills.

To assure uniformity of assessment, we adopt the following guidelines. Each of the three main aspects set out below will be weighed equally, and papers will be graded satisfactory or unsatisfactory on each aspect, using the criteria listed below. There will be no “high pass,” “low pass,” “highly satisfactory,” or borderline satisfactory assessments given.

A. Assessment criteria for primary-source research:

  1. Appropriate selection of primary sources (this may include an assessment of the student’s use of materials in a language other than English)
  2. Contextualization of primary sources
  3. Analysis of primary sources
  4. Use of primary sources to support argument

To receive a satisfactory assessment for this criterion, the student must receive a satisfactory assessment on at least three of these four categories.

B. Assessment criteria for use of scholarly literature:

  1. Appropriate breadth of secondary sources (it is expected that the paper will rely on a combination of books and articles, and, to the extent possible, will engage a problem that involves both recent and older works)
  2. Appropriate relationship between secondary sources and topic
  3. Analysis of secondary sources
  4. Use of secondary sources to frame research question

To receive a satisfactory assessment for this criterion, the student must receive a satisfactory assessment on at least three of these four categories.

C. Assessment criteria for writing:

  1. Statement of thesis or question and relationship between thesis (or question) and discussion
  2. Structure and organization
  3. Clarity of writing
  4. Adequacy of citation form

To receive a satisfactory assessment for this criterion, the student must receive a satisfactory assessment on at least three of these four categories.

Coordination of Second-Year Seminar and Qualifying Exams:

Beginning with the graduate class entering in Fall 2013, students who successfully complete the second-year research paper are expected to take their qualifying exams within two semesters (summers excluded) of successful completion of the second-year paper. Students who are unable to prepare for their qualifying exams within that period may petition to have their qualifying exams postponed, once. This petition must be presented to the grad office before the exam period of the second semester after the student successfully completed the second-year paper.

The petition must include: 1) a statement about why an extension is necessary, 2) a statement from the dissertation committee endorsing the petition, and 3) a timeline for completing the qualifying exams. Extensions of more than two semesters will not be granted unless a student has had to go on leave for a semester or more for health or personal reasons. These petitions will be reviewed by the Graduate Committee; the Graduate Committee’s decision is final.

Students who fail to complete their qualifying exams within the extension granted by the Graduate Committee will be asked to leave the program at the end of the semester in which they failed to complete the exams.

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