Junior Independent Work In NES
A Junior Paper written in the Department of Near Eastern Studies is normally an essay of 20 to 30 double-spaced pages that is clearly focused on one—or several related—questions, problems or issues.
The range of subjects suitable for such essays is very wide in NES. But most projects involve one or more of the following elements:
- defining a significant question, formulating a hypothesis, gathering and assessing evidence
- reviewing critically the work of others on this subject, evaluating alternative methods of inquiry
- critically reviewing one's own arguments, and relating one's findings and conclusions to a larger context of issues.
Some juniors will have acquired enough language proficiency to be able to use sources in their language of specialization, and if so, they are encouraged to do so.
The Junior Paper is not a passive review of the existing literature nor just a summary of facts. It presents a critical and creative analysis of a question, problem or issue. A presentation of the student's own well-reasoned views is an essential part of this exercise.
The Writing Center and its team of graduate Fellows offers a variety of support for junior paper writers in collaboration with the Director of Undergraduate Research and the Residential Colleges. Opportunities include workshops, peer review groups, and the popular boot camp series.
The middle part of the semester is spent writing the paper and consulting with their faculty advisors on an individual basis.
Advisors may be counted upon to help students define a topic (usually the largest obstacle to be overcome), develop a project of appropriate length and difficulty, develop a bibliography, find sources of data, select appropriate methods, and present a lucid analysis. Students should feel free to meet with and to ask their advisors for comments during office hours on outlines and first drafts; but it is the juniors responsibility to initiate meetings, or work out a schedule to meet on a regular basis, if necessary.
It is wise to begin thinking about the topic of a senior thesis during the junior year. Often students write their junior paper on a topic that will lead to a thesis. Some discover that the subject is not the one they want after all; for others it encourages summer research on the thesis that simplifies and enriches their thesis work during their senior year.
Standards for Grading JUNIOR PAPERS
The junior paper provides NES majors with their first opportunity to engage in independent scholarly research. Junior papers are supposed to define a significant question or problem and to answer it through a process of systematic research which may, depending on the nature of the topic selected, involve reading primary and secondary literature or original documents, interviewing, or compiling and analyzing statistical data.
A junior paper in the A range will have elements of originality in its conception of its subject, in the evidence and reasoning it brings to bear on that subject, in the analytical techniques it employs, or in all of these. It will demonstrate attention to important works on the subject, and will indicate with care and precision the importance of its questions and conclusions for the understanding of its subject. When appropriate, it will also anticipate and respond to major objections to its position. To merit an A, a junior paper should be well written, developing its arguments in an orderly way and presenting its ideas clearly and crisply. Poor grammar and style and more than occasional misspellings have no place in an A junior paper.
The mark of A+ should be reserved for junior papers that satisfy all of these criteria to a high degree. The mark of A- should be given a junior paper which demonstrates intellectual creativity but does not meet in a fully satisfactory way some other requirement of junior papers in the A range.
A junior paper in the B range is a less outstanding treatment of a significant subject. A well done case study which yields few lessons of general import, or a good critical review of a significant body of thought which does not go beyond previous work on the subject would merit a grade in this range. Like the A junior paper, one in the B range should be grounded in substantial research appropriate to its objectives, but the latter will fall short in some way, as for instance by ignoring important sources or by failing to anticipate major objections. A junior paper in the B range should be clearly written and logically organized.
A grade of B+ is appropriate for a sensibly conceived, well-written project that shows little originality or creativity. A B- is appropriate for well-conceived junior papers that have some significant flaw in execution or a number of less important shortcomings.
A junior paper in the C range is a competent but not distinguished treatment of a significant subject. It will show evidence of substantial but not wholly adequate research. It may be flawed in one or two additional ways as well: the logic of an important argument may be faulty, the conclusions or findings may not be explored adequately, or the writing may be mediocre. An informative case study that offers little analysis or a review of some body of literature that generally gets things right but does little with them should be given a grade in the C range.
A grade of C+ should be given to the most informative of the junior papers in the C range; a C- to those that meet the basic requirements of the category but have several serious flaws.
To merit the grade of D, a junior paper must treat a non-trivial subject and must show evidence that the writer has some substantial knowledge about that subject. Beyond that little can be said in praise of a junior paper in the D range.
A junior paper that does not meet the minimal requirements for the grade of D should be given an F.