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General Teacher's Comment on 12th Wave First Semester History Term Papers (Fall 2007)

(I)     Organization

The internet has made specific information much more easily accessible than it was just a few years ago. Thus, often, sources such as the Wikipedia may give a comprehensive account of what you are expected to write about in your term paper.
If you want to do more than merely paraphrase one, two or three sources, you have to try come up with an original structure of your paper : on what aspect of the topic do you want to concentrate ? From what perspective(s) do you want to look at it ?
Kim, Hyun-Kyu chose to write about Sieges in Medieval Warfare. He selected the major sieges of the First and Fourth Crusades. Because he limited himself to a small, but significant part of medieval warfare, and he used primary sources, he wrote an original, interesting paper.
Kim, Sang Woo chose to write about The Reaction of the Papacy to French Absolutism. He limited himself to the period 1598-1685 (from proclamation to cancellation of the Edict of Nantes), organized his paper into a number of chapters by events in France/French policies, and within each chapter commented on the reaction of the papacy. An original approach.
Kim, Hong wrote about Canal Construction in Europe in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Encyclopedic sources focus on the development of canal construction technology. Hong organized his paper into two parts, one dealing with the technological aspects, the other dealt with canal construction on a country by country basis.

(II)     The Choice of Sources

Kim, Young-won wrote about Paris under Louis XIV., XV., XVI.. She used anecdotes, such as the Great Cat Massacre of the 1730es, to illustrate the situation of the Parisians at various stages of history.
Jeong, Hae-Yoon wrote about the Economic History of Italy During the Renaissance. Italy, at that time, was a cultural and geographical unit, but politically and economically diverse. Hae-Yoon divided his paper into three phases - High Renaissance, Late Renaissance, Post-Renaissance and examines different economic centers, Florence for High Renaissance, Venice for the Late Renaissance. Most textbooks list Rome as the center of Late Renaissance (from a cultural rather than economic aspect). Hae-Yoon had the courage to go against statements in encyclopedic sources, and was right in doing so.
Lee, Joo Hyung wrote on Alsace-Lorraine 1871-1945. A topic like this is sensitive, as many publications write about the topic from a biased perspective, either pro-French or pro-German. Joo Hyung went to the library of a French-language school, found academic French-language publications on the topic and described the Alsatians as victims of both a German and a French administration, neither one trusting the Alsatians and both intent on applying pressure in order to assimilate them.

(IIa)     Footnotes / Endnotes

Notes are (a) to give information on the source, if a book with precise page(s), from where a direct quote, image, table is taken from, (b) to give information on where the reader can find more detailed information, (c) to give information on where the reader can find description of a contrasting view, (d) to give a definition if deemed necessary.
Freshmen, in their first semester studying European history, frequently made footnotes type d : (Summit Canal) (1) a canal that connects two river valleys, going over the summit . Do not underestimate the intelligence and knowledge of your readers; footnotes of type d are to be given only in exceptional cases.

(III)     Achievements of Fall Semester 2007

Students have learned how to find information on given topics, organize it in concise written presentations, some in a manner more original than others. Students have learned when to give notes and how to give references.

(IV)     Goals for Spring Semester 2008

Students, in their search for sources, should try go beyond encyclopedic sources such as the Wikipedia. The Wikipedia is a rich source of information and should not be ignored. Similarly, students are encouraged to use Korean-language sources. As the name of the subject is "European History", Korean-language sources should not do more than supplement European language sources you use.
When describing, for instance, the History of the Gold Standard, of Russian Society in the 18th Century etc. students should limit their topic and express so in the title/subtitle and try to come up with a more complete description / analysis of what they examined. Such a move achieves a greater degree of originality and independence.
Papers in the first semester often focussed on fact-collecting and arranging. While this is vital in historiography, in the second semester greater emphasis shall be placed on analysis / judgment.

(V)     The Freshmen Class of 2008

I have enjoyed teaching the freshmen of 2008 as I found the students focussed on the subject, eager to learn even if 31 students squeezed into a classroom designed for 16, some of them sitting on the floor. I found them equally eager to learn how to write quality papers; many students wrote two or even three term papers, in some cases just for the heck of it as they got an excellent score the first time around.
By comparison to earlier classes I taught, this class is the best so far - in terms of motivation, in terms of skills, as reflected by the many papers which qualified for posting. I am looking forward to teaching them in the coming semester, and to coach those who choose to write history research papers with the latter.

         Dec. 28th 2007          Alexander Ganse

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