Critical Memos

Critical Memos

Students will be expected to submit a critical memo of about 2-double spaced pages (~400 words) in length during ten weeks of their choosing. Taken together, these memos will account for 20% of your total grade, or 2% each. Though these critical memos should serve as a space for you to reflect upon the week’s assigned readings in relation to one another, you do not need to write about each reading at length. Critical memos must be submitted to Canvas prior to meeting for which the readings are assigned to be eligible for full credit. Critical memos will be assessed using the following scale: 2-points (excellent), 1.5 points (satisfactory), 1 point (unsatisfactory). The format of the assignments is as follows:

 

  • Summary: Write a concise summary of the readings assigned for the week (~150 words). This section should primarily be used to provide a thematic overview of the readings, explaining how the issues raised in the readings relate to one another. Though you do not need to go into detail about the individual arguments and findings presented in each reading, some level of engagement is expected. Above all, think of this portion as a “big picture” overview of the themes and ideas that tie the readings together.
  • Critical Analysis/reflection: Write about the arguments, passages, and/or readings you find particularly compelling, provocative, or interesting (250-300 words), taking time to substantiate your thoughts and statements. Maybe you learned something new or found that an argument was not particularly convincing or well laid out. Or you were able to relate a concept or theory to your own experiences or to contemporary events. Explain clearly and thoroughly why you found it noteworthy while directly referencing examples and concepts from the text. Substantive engagement with the assigned readings is required. However, direct quotations should be kept to a minimum and used only when paraphrasing would change the meaning of the author’s text. Please note that critical memos are NOT merely opinion papers. All claims, statements, and critiques should in some way engage with the assigned readings. Simply stating you “agree” or “disagree” with a theory or passage won’t cut it.
  • Discussion questions: Students should conclude each critical memo with 2-3 discussion questions concerning the week’s readings. These questions will help to facilitate your participation in classroom discussions and serve as potential inquiries for future research.

Format: You are only required to summarize, analyze, and reflect in your essays. Traditional essay formatting (with an introduction, body paragraphs that support your main claim, and a conclusion) is not required. Papers must be double-spaced with 12-point font and 1-inch page margins. Cover pages and bibliographies are not necessary. Please specify the course topic and critical memo number (out of 10) at the top of each paper.