Grading & Assignments


  • Blogging (20%) (4 posts, by sign-up)
  • Blog Commenting (10%) (30 comments, two per week
  • Research Journal (15%) (13 posts, weekly except Weeks One and Ten)
  • Peer Feedback report (5%)
  • Final Written Project (50%) (a 5,000-6,000 word essay)


  • Blogging (20%) (4 posts, by sign-up)
  • Blog Commenting (10%) (30 comments, two per week)
  • Research Journal (15%) (13 posts, weekly except Weeks One and Ten)
  • Peer Feedback report (5%)
  • Final Written Project (50%) (a 7,000-8,000 word essay)

Over the course of the semester, you will choose (in advance, we’ll do a sign-up at the beginning of the term) 4 course meetings to prepare blog posts of about 800-1,200 words based on the week’s readings. These posts are not to be summaries or outlines. Rather, they are to be jumping off points for class discussion, which means that I expect them to focus on raising key questions or avenues of discussion for class. Of particular interest are posts that explore themes or parallels brought out in previous weeks’ material, fostering a sense of broader, ongoing conversation. Posts that connect reading topics with current African events are also strongly encouraged. Feel free to engage with or relate to previous posts and comments made by your classmates, and to use visual images, links to articles or other sources, embedded videos, and other outside materials to enhance your work. Finally, the blog posts do not need to be academic essays, although they should exhibit serious, rigorous thinking. Academic blogging is a different beast that academic writing more generally, and should be approached in a somewhat more casual way. Put another way, the goal is to be provocative and to start conversations, rather than prove a thesis.

The posts will be due by 2 PM either Tuesdays or Thursdays (the day of our class meetings), allowing time for your professor and classmates to read and begin commenting in advance of class the next day. My grading rubric is simple. Good, serious work (meets the word counts, takes the assignment seriously, exhibits clear reflection and engagement with the text) gets full credit. Mediocre, incomplete, or unserious posts (under word count, sloppily edited, mere summaries with no analysis that raise no questions for discussion) will receive half-credit. If you don’t post, you get zero credit. If you’re earning half-credit or zero credit, I’ll be in touch to explain why, and offer suggestions for improvement.

I also expect two comments (using the blog’s comment feature) a week. This will necessarily mean reading through the blog posts and research journal posts made by your fellow students every week. Comments can be free-form (but always civil) responses to the issues and questions raised in an original blog post, or can continue ongoing discussion threads (you can “comment” on your own post to answer a question or continue a debate, for example). Comments can be any length, but should be substantive and on-topic.

My grading rubric for the comments is purely “credit/no-credit”–either you meet bare-bones requirements of the assignment (be thoughtful and on-time), or you don’t.

The class blog will also serve as the central depository for your research journals, where you’ll be keeping track of your progress and beginning to work out your analysis.  I strongly encourage you to look at each other’s research journal postings (all of which will be tagged “research journal” to differentiate them from blog posts), and to draw on their thoughts and offer comments and suggestions (I’ll be doing the same).  I expect you to post once a week, excluding the first week of class and the week you turn in your first drafts.

Everyone will find their own style and strategy, and there’s no one way to write these research journal entries.   As with  commenting , I assume everyone will be posting quality research journal posts, and this is a  “credit/no-credit” exercise.

On Thursday, October 29, you will be submitting first (rough) drafts (3 hard copies) of your final research paper.  These drafts will likely be incomplete in some important ways, but the more you provide (in terms of argument and evidence), the more productive the feedback you’ll receive.  Each submitted draft will be distributed to two of your classmates, who will take the weekend to write up brief commentaries (details to follow) directed at improving or clarifying the paper for your final draft.  On Tuesday, November 3, we’ll be taking the class period to work on the papers in groups, discussing these commentaries and preparing plans for revision.  Again, details will follow, but this is also a credit/no credit exercise. If you complete the peer commentaries and attend/participate in the group session, you’ll receive full credit. Miss class or fail to complete the commentaries? No credit.

Your final paper for this class (5,000 to 6,000 words for the undergraduates, 7,000 to 8,000 words for the grads, 1 inch margins, title page with name) will be on a topic of your choice, chosen in consultation with me.  An initial, one-page summary of your proposed research, along with a separate page containing at least 10 prospective academic sources, is due in hardcopy on Tuesday, September 22 in class.  A first draft is due Thursday, October 29 in class.  The final draft is due (hard copy, to my mailbox in Bentley Annex) no later than  December 10, by 5 PM.

For your paper, please follow the Chicago Manual of Style’s author-date convention for in-text citation and the preparation of your bibliography.  In-text citation format rules can be found here (click on “Author-date” tab), and guidelines for the bibliography (as well as a sample paper using the correct citation style) can be found here.  Correct citation and bibliography formatting are one of those things I expect college juniors/seniors and graduate students to be able to do with relatively little guidance, so be prepared to actually make use of these online resources.


A = 100-93%
A- = 92-90%
B+ = 89-87%
B = 87-82%
B- = 81-80%
C+ = 79-77%
C = 76-70%
D = 69-61%
F = 60% and below