The weekly short papers required for the course are designed to empower you to learn how to integrate your readings into an argument regarding an important topic. The essay topics will not necessarily encompass each and every reading for the week or the material presented in all the lectures for that week. However, you should be attending the lectures and doing all the required readings. Furthermore, in writing on one week's question, you may discover that material covered in a previous week is also relevant and should be used if important. One of your goals should be to see how effectively you can use concrete evidence (especially from the primary source texts) to support your argument. You should not be looking in the first instance to find short summary statements in the secondary readings (by modern scholars) but rather should be thinking about the old Russian texts and art, and drawing conclusions based on your knowledge of them. We expect, of course, that your thinking about the primary sources will often be shaped by your reading in the secondary material and comments made in lectures. By finishing these essays prior to class discussion, you will presumably be better able to participate in discussion than would otherwise be the case.
Remember that the goal of these writing assignments is not to encourage you to find material other than that assigned (and thereby, perhaps, avoid doing the assigned readings). In other words, you should not substitute something of your own choice for assigned readings. Grades will reflect the degree to which you have effectively used the assigned material. Should you wish to go beyond the assignments and look at other materials, that is to be encouraged, but only after you have worked carefully through the specific assignments.
The essays are short--most being a maximum of 2 pg. (3 for Honors students), and two being 4-5 pp. Their brevity requires that you write especially carefully if you are to articulate clearly a convincing argument. This means having a clear structure, a good introduction, a conclusion, and a careful selection of evidence to prove your point(s). You need to make every word count. Excessive quotation is not good--you should learn how to convey ideas in your own words. Where you do quote or closely paraphrase though, you must indicate you are doing that, use quotation marks if appropriate, and cite your source (you may cite by giving author or short title in parentheses, and, if you have one, a specific page number). Not to give such appropriate credit for the ideas of others is plagiarism.
Please proofread carefully. We expect the essays to be neatly written in correct English.
You may expect that for the shorter essays the instructors likely will not assign a decimal grade but simply indicate a plus (for very good work), check (for adequate work) or minus (for work needing substantial improvement). The longer essays will be assigned decimal grades.