Final project – overview

What is it?

  • Your final contribution will be equivalent to appr. 1200 words.
  • You may write about any topic connected to Chinese material culture (that is: tangible, physical objects) in historical context, illustrated with materials housed in North American collections.
  • Example: you write one longer analytical essay about a specific topic. You use examples and illustrations from North-American museum collections (or libraries).
    • This can be an art- or archaeology-focused essay, or an essay about how a collection came into existence, the problems with provenance, tomb looting etc. We will talk more about these topics during the course.
    • North American collections often have “Open Access” or “Public Domain” policies for sharing images of their objects. That makes it easier for us to share the images in our projects.
  • You can also write multiple “catalog” entries and captions/labels for various objects.
    • You may hop between types of objects, or stay within a limited sphere (e.g. only bronzes). E.g three entries of ±400 words each is a perfectly acceptable contribution.
  • Good collections to explore include (but are not limited to):

“Scaffolded design”: Timeline

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! How do you write a larger paper with a research component? One step at a time.

1. Pitching ideas: Proposal (due Feb. 13)

(More details and tips for brainstorming on this webpage)

  • Submit as a blog post, so other students can provide feedback and be inspired by your awesome ideas!
  • “My idea for the final project”: write down your ideas and the reasons why you are in a particular topic for your part of the final project.
    • Dig a bit deeper than for instance “oracle bones are cool” (they are, I agree!): what in the course has guided you to this topic? what in the readings or class materials has sparked your curiosity? What would you like to know, what questions do you have, and why do you think other people should know or care about this topic?
    • The more detailed, the better!
    • Have a look for sources, in addition to what we covered in class. At first glance, do you find the types of scholarly, reliable materials we can use for an academic project? Tweak your search terms (e.g. convert from Wade Giles to pinyin or vice versa for Chinese terms; zoom out to more general level or zoom in to more specific objects,…). This will help you decide if your project is feasible, or how you have to reframe it to make it work.
    • Useful starting points for materials, in addition to the Collections listed above: our course’s subject guide in the library, check the bibliography of Credo reference or if you use Wikipedia, check the “References/Works Cited” section rather than the Wikipedia page itself. We want the source, not the second hand information. We’re historians, after all!
  • Note: this exercise does not mean you are locked into this project; likely the topic will change a bit as you find out in later stages what materials are available, and what objects you can use to illustrate the story you want to share with us about China’s material culture. Such changes are a natural part of the research process.
  • Remember I am also a resource to help you frame a project or find a different focus, and to point you to further materials.

2. Finding sources: Annotated bibliography (March 6)

Share as a google doc, with commenting or “suggestions” switched on. This is the most effective way for me to  provide feedback. An annotated bibliography is a list of sources you have read and assessed as useful for further use.

  • Use Chicago Notes and Bibliography 17th ed. style- use the Bibliography formatting for this exercise.
    • Tip: add your sources in Zotero and choose “Create Bibliography from Item” > “Bibliography”, pick the right style, and “Copy to clipboard. Then paste in your google doc.
    • OR: use the Zotero Menu and the Add Bibliography feature.
    • Check the resulting bibliography: it will need manual cleaning up but the heavy lifting is done.
  • Strive for at least three sources (chapters, articles, or full-length books). If you cannot find three reputable sources, provide an overview of your search process: where did you search, which terms etc. Remember for Chinese terms there may be an alternative transcription. This will help me to guide you towards more/other materials.
    • If you really cannot find three good quality sources, you will have to tweak your topic a bit- I can help you.
  • Each annotation should include:
    • A brief (3 sentence) summary of the contents of each.
    • A brief explanation of how you intend to use this information.
    • Shortcomings you noticed in the source (doesn’t answer a particular question, reasons why you think it is not sufficiently scholarly to use as your main source, etc.)
  • Here are useful instructions on the format and some examples from Trexler Library, and here are some concrete examples from the OWL at Purdue. Remember what we learned at the Library session and use the course’s Subject Guide as a starting point for finding good scholarly sources.
  • Additional useful source (On reserve at the front desk of the library): Wilkinson, Endymion Porter, and Harvard University. Asia Center. Chinese History : A New Manual. Fifth ed. Cambridge, MA: Endymion Wilkinson, C/o Harvard University Asia Center, 2018.
    • This book contains a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics, and lists authoritative studies and other reference works. There is a subject index in the back, if the Table of Contents at the front does not provide clear directions.
  • Note that your list of useful resources will grow, and may change if your topic leads you in a different direction. This is a normal part of the research process. (If you already had all the answers, where is the fun and excitement in research?)

3. Planning and beginning to write: Outline and a paragraph (due March 30)

Share as a google doc, with the title “Draft: Outline and paragraph”.

  • Provide an outline. The more detailed, the better.
  • Use bullet points, and lay out your ideas and contents for the reader to follow easily.
  • Work out one paragraph in full prose, with the appropriate notes and references.
    • Why? This helps us to find out where your strengths are as a writer, and which areas have room for improvement, to provide you with better feedback and pointers for the next stage.
    • Note that if you choose to work out your introduction in full, you may have to rewrite it as your writing and research progresses, as you discover new ideas and insights and need to adjust. I often rewrite the introduction from scratch as I complete a piece of writing, because then I finally know what I am writing about!
  • Remember to add the list of sources you are drawing from – add footnotes.

4. The whole thing: completing a full draft (due April 20)

  • Include references in Chicago Style (notes and bibliography)
  • Indicate where you want to make further changes, or need some assistance
  • Post as a blog post on your site: it will take that shape, after all.
    • Use the footnote plugin we recommend
    • Use the title (or change to): “Full draft:” and insert a working title

In the final week of class, you will read through each other’s work in class, provide feedback, comments, and suggestions for improvement, and I will also provide feedback for everyone. Your collaboration as an editor/peer reviewer counts towards the participation and professionalism component.

It is important that everybody looks at as many projects as possible, because this will provide you with suggestions for how to improve your own project, and how to create a more homogenous text and better experience for the visitors to the online project.

5. Full final version placed online (due May 8)

Submit on the “SPLOT” (Smallest Possible Learning Online Tool). You will write your post on your blog, and then submit the link on a dedicated website. It’s pretty simple: you just fill out a form, and add an image/screenshot. Try out the prototype website.

Rework the full draft from April 18, and respond to comments and feedback suggestions to make sure your project is the best it can be: a coherent piece (or set of pieces), for a total of appr. 1200 words, ideally with illustrations from North American collections. It should be as free from typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes as reasonable, and should include reference in Chicago Notes and Bibliography style.

Include captions for the images which include name of object, source, and add a hyperlink to the collection (Museum or library etc.)

From May 9 onwards, you can share the project with friends, family and strangers by sending them links. You can pat yourself on the back for completing a digital project with a research component, and for learning a lot about Chinese material culture and its history.