Exploratory Draft

I know, I know, it’s early!!  But before we go much further, I’d like you to take the opportunity to track the themes/ideas/questions/positions that you’ve returned to over the course of your thinking thus far; to reconsider some of the terms and theorists that we’ve encountered, and to begin to do some brainstorming about particular research and project directions that you might be interested in pursuing as we go forward.

To that end, I’ll leave some very specific directions here about how to assemble and write an exploratory draft (6-8 pages) to send to me by Friday March 8 @ noon.  DON’T PANIC.  This is to get the juices flowing, and to pause and reassess where your own ideas and proclivities fall within the heuristics that our readings thus far have constructed.

The idea of an exploratory draft is that you use writing as a process to arrive at new ideas and insights that will help you to formulate a question to research and explore, and that will later evolve into a thesis for your final project.  If you got to the end of your exploratory draft and said: “hey!  THAT’S a question I’m interested in pursuing!” it would be successful.  If, along the way, you manage to create some usable text for your paper, that’s an added bonus, but it’s pretty rare.

So what does an exploratory draft look like?  These are the elements I’d like to see.

  • First, I’d suggest that you use your blog posts, comments, and tweets as the impetus for your work here.  Read back over them.  You’re looking for common threads, or ideas/questions that you haven’t yet answered to your satisfaction.  Look for places where your ideas have changed with respect to later readings, and post-class discussion.  How might these serve as a place to begin exploring for this draft?  [All of this is your own language, so USE passages from your posts and comments in your draft—quote them, and explain the ways that you think about this now, in retrospect.  Have your reactions deepened?  Changed?  In what ways?  It might be useful for me to see those in context, so if you do use material from the blog, please provide the title/date of the post or comment so I can refer back to it.]
  • Second, please put a statement of some sort at the top so I know what I’m looking at.  You might write your tentative argument, or some key terms that you’re investigating, a question/questions that have animated your reading thus far, etc. Anything that indicates where you’re going as you start the draft.
  • Third, and this should be the bulk of the draft, I’d like to see you work closely with at least 4 sources, primary and secondary.  By “work closely” I mean engage with their arguments and direct quotations.  [Note: you should know that I’m a sucker for close reading.  Be advised.]  What do you see in these quotes?  What ideas/themes/conundrums does it relate to?  What are its aesthetic/political/cultural functions?  What kind of work do these passages perform?  What about them draws you in or repels you?  How do you see them in relation to one another, or to other sources or contexts? Dig deep!
  • Third—and IMPORTANT, when you’ve finished, read over what you’ve written and write a few sentences that describe where you are NOW.  What do you see that’s new in your thinking?  What new insights or questions did you write your way toward?  Make sure that you attempt to explain what the implications of your ideas might be—in other words, why might this idea matter, and to whom?

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