Educ 400: Senior Research Seminar

Syllabus for Fall 2015, NOT updated from WordPress

Syllabus for Fall 2015 Mondays, 1:15-3:55pm in McCook 309 (or see other locations below) Assoc. Prof. Jack Dougherty - contact me or book appointment Educational Studies Program at Trinity College, Hartford CT Any major changes to this online syllabus will appear in red

Jump to: CriteriaGDocs Organizer (password-protected) Jump to: SeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

Course Description: To fulfill the senior exercise requirement, students carry out an independent research project that builds upon acquired skills and evolving interests. The weekly seminar provides a thematic focus as well as a continuous forum for both support and critical feedback from peers, in preparation for a public presentation of the student’s work at the end of the semester. To enroll, students must have completed all core course requirements in the major, and submit a Junior Research Plan that has been approved by the Educational Studies faculty.

Research Project Criteria: 

In this capstone seminar, Educational Studies majors design, conduct, and present an independent research project on a topic of interest, using primary and secondary sources, with qualitative, quantitative, and/or historical methods. The criteria below represent our student learning goals and express our common vocabulary for evaluating the quality of research projects across the multiple research traditions that influence our interdisciplinary program.

1) Does the author pose a thought-provoking, researchable question (or hypothesis) and explain its significance to educational studies?

2) Does the author connect the question to the existing research literature (secondary sources) and move beyond into new territory?

3) Does the author identify and use the most appropriate primary sources and research methods for this study?

4) Does the author present a clear and insightful thesis that directly addresses the research question (or hypothesis)?

5) Is the author’s thesis persuasive, and supported with convincing evidence and analysis?

6) Is the author’s essay/presentation well-organized, and does it include sufficient background for audiences unfamiliar with the topic?

7) Does the author cite sources in an acceptable format so that future readers may easily locate them? [Relevant for the final paper, not the presentation.]

8) Does the author follow ethical guidelines for research?

How to succeed in this seminar:

  • Bookmark this online syllabus and check it often for updates (marked in red).
  • Keep a calendar—paper or digital—to manage your time and meet deadlines.
  • Attend each class on time, bring relevant readings and notes, and participate regularly in discussions. The goal is to improve education for all, not you alone. At the end of the semester, your peers will evaluate your overall contribution to learning in the seminar.
  • Take the initiative by asking questions. If you don’t understand something, other students probably are puzzled, too. Go ahead and ask.
  • In this seminar, students are welcome to bring a computer for in-class writing and online research, but use it wisely. Focus on learning and avoid distractions.
  • Talk about what you are learning outside of class, both with your peers and the professor. Email me any quick questions, or book an appointment for longer discussions.
  • Everyone—including your instructor—learns to improve our writing by sharing drafts, receiving reader feedback, and revising our prose. Make the most of peer editing opportunities and the Writing Center.
  • If you're concerned about a grade on an assignment, schedule an appointment to talk with me. Afterwards, if you wish to challenge a grade, write out a persuasive argument with supporting evidence.
  • If an illness or emergency interferes with attending class, email me immediately and make arrangements to catch up on missing work.

How your work will be evaluated, with individual scores on Moodle:

  • Exercises (Writing Assignments, Peer Reviews, Progress Memos) for 2 points each x 15 = 30
  • Proposal presentations to guest evaluator = 10
  • Full draft (evaluated by instructor) = 10
  • Final presentation: guest evaluator selected by student with instructor, and evaluation by Ed Studies faculty (10 + 10 = 20)
  • Contribution to overall learning in the seminar (evaluated by peers) = 10
  • Final draft (evaluated by instructor, based on how the author has responded to feedback received during the semester and at the presentation) = 20

Total = 100 points

In this course, unsatisfactory work (below 70%) falls in the D or F range, adequate work (70-79%) in the C range, good work (80-89%) in the B range, and outstanding work (90 to 100%) in the A range. Each range is divided into equal thirds for minus (-), regular, and plus (+) letter grades. For example, 80 to 83.33% = B-, 83.34 to 86.67 = B, and 86.68 to 89.99 = B+. Students may access their individual scores on the password-protected Moodle site.

When a deadline says “Sept 21st” it means due before our seminar begins, unless stated otherwise. Exercises (worth 2 points) will be granted 1 point if poor quality or late (but submitted the same day), and 0 points if not submitted that day. Overdue major assignments will be penalized 10% for every 12-hour period beyond the deadline, with exceptions granted only for documented medical or family emergencies. A Google Doc that is not properly shared (so that anyone with the link may comment) will be considered late. Notify your instructor during add/drop week if you require any special accommodations (for religious observances, learning disabilities, etc.).

Schedule for Fall 2015:

Sept 14
  • Introduction to seminar and our schedule to help you succeed
  • Research project criteria
  • Share your Updated Research Plan with seminar only in our GDocs Organizer
  • What kind of research question are you asking?  Process -- Causal -- Other?
  • What primary sources and methods will you use to answer that question? Qualitative (observation, interview, etc.) -- Quantitative (statistical or spatial patterns in numerical) -- Historical (archival sources, etc.) -- Hybrid?
  • Assign: Identify a relevant research project by a prior Educ student in the Trinity Digital Repository (see pages 1 and 2 at and write an evaluation based on the criteria, as a GDoc due by Sept 28th seminar.
  • Read about Trinity IRB process at
    • Assign: CITI research ethics training, email proof of completion by Sept 21
    • Assign: If you are conducting research involving human subjects, upload IRB application (usually Form B, as a Microsoft Word doc, uploaded but NOT converted to GDoc format) and any interview questions, consent forms, etc. (as Google Docs) by Sept 21
    • Assign: If you are not conducting research involving human subjects, write a memo justifying why IRB approval is not necessary as GDoc by Sept 21st
  • Assign Progress Memo in our GDoc organizer due by Sept 21st - What is your current research question? - What steps (big or small) did you take toward answering this question last week? - What obstacles, if any, stand in your way? - What are the most important items on your to-do list for next week?

Sept 21

Sept 28

  • Preparing research proposals and 3-5 minute presentations for guest evaluator, Mira Debs, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, Yale University
  • Organizing your research proposals:
    • Do not confuse the evaluation criteria with the section headings you choose to organize your writing. Instead, ask: What section headings make sense for your readers?
    • How much methodological detail should you include? Let's discuss examples
    • Our guest will have commenting access on your Google Doc, so plan to show your writing during your brief presentation, not slides.
  • Progress memo updates (stand and deliver!) with constructive feedback from seminar
  • Present your evaluations of prior student research projects
  • Assign peer reviewers to research proposals

Thur Oct 1

  • TestedFilmJoin me at Tested (2015 film) at 6:30pm and Q&A with director, Curtis Chin, at 7:45pm, Washington Room, Mather Hall. This documentary follows students who prepare for a high-stakes test to gain entrance to one of New York City's prestigious public high schools, and explores topics such as equal access, affirmative action, and the model minority myth. Watch the trailer at
Oct 5
  • Research Proposals (due Oct 4th at 12 noon in GDoc Organizer)
  • Peer reviews of Research Proposals due before seminar
  • Be prepared to present your proposal to our guest evaluator
  • Progress memos

Oct 12 - Trinity Days (no scheduled classes)

  • Progress memos (online only)

Kohja-Moolji-Shenila-2015-lectureJoin me at this Common Hour lecture: The Neoliberalization of Girls’ Education and Possible Alternatives, by Shenila Kohja-Moolji, Thurs Oct 15th, 12:15-1:15pm in Mather Terrace ABC

Oct 19

  • Moving from Data Collection to Data Analysis
  • Example: FYSM Color & Money 2013 interview study of sophomores
    • IRB proposal (with research question and interview guide)
    • Master list of interview recruits and participants (masked)
    • Digital recordings and transcribing of interviews (screenshot)
    • Interview transcripts (restricted to our seminar, on Moodle)
    • Thematic analysis of interviews (initial start on spreadsheet)
    • Sample student essays (by Elise and Daniella and )
  • Assign Thesis and Evidence essays and peer reviewers, see dates below
  • Progress memos
  • Senior Advising: set meeting with me (or for double-majors, another official advisor) to review all of your graduation requirements and sign your degree application, due to the Registrar by Nov 6th

ELAMS orientation with teachers Kate McEachern Bermingham '07 and Jesse Wanzer '08 Special event: Join us at the Careers in Urban Education panel, with recent Trinity alumni. Thurs Oct 22nd 6:30pm in Grand Room, Hallden Hall North. Sign up in advance for light dinner.

Oct 26

  • Meet in LITC 113
  • For this week's progress memo, add your Secondary Source Search Strategy and Results:
    • Which bibliographic databases have you searched?
    • Which keywords and/or strategies have you used?
    • Have you consulted with a librarian? If yes, who? If no, make an appointment to see a librarian
    • So far, what are your five most promising search results?
  • New: Off-campus access to Trinity Library resources
  • Resource: Citing sources and How to capture & cite with Zotero
  • Resource: Avoiding plagiarism
  • Resource: They Say / I Say sentence templates
  • Resource: Writing Center appointments and online resources
  • In seminar: Writing about research literature
  • Evaluate literature reviews in prior senior research projects (GDoc)
  • Assign: Literature review essay (as a Google Doc) and deliver a two-minute presentation (as Google Slides) that addresses criteria #2: Does the author connect the research question to the existing research literature (secondary sources) and move beyond into new territory?
  • Assign: Thesis and evidence essay (as a Google Doc), which you will walk us through in seminar. Paste your RQ at the top, write a 1+ paragraph thesis statement, and a few paragraphs of supporting primary source evidence. The long-term goal is to addresses these criteria (in order of priority):
  • 4) Does the author present a clear and insightful WORKING thesis (meaning a temporary argument is acceptable) that directly addresses the research question (or hypothesis)?
  • 5) Is the author's thesis persuasive, and supported with SOME REAL EXAMPLES of convincing evidence and analysis?
  • 1) Does the author pose a thought-provoking, researchable question (or hypothesis) and explain its significance to educational studies?
  • 3) Does the author identify and use the most appropriate primary sources and research methods for this study?
Nov 2
  • Meet in LITC 113
  • Literature review essay and presentation (by G and Z)
  • Thesis and evidence essay (by Em and El)
  • Oral respondents (by C and V)

Nov 9

  • Meet in LITC 113
  • Literature review essay and presentation (by Em and El)
  • Thesis and evidence essay (by C and V)
  • Oral respondents (by G and Z)

Nov 16

  • Meet in LITC 113
  • Literature review essay and presentation (by C and V)
  • Thesis and evidence essay (by G and Z)
  • Oral respondents (by Em and El)
  • Assign full draft (due Sunday Nov 29th at 12 noon, day before seminar) and peer reviewers

Nov 23

  • Individual meetings with instructor to review progress and invite guest evaluator. (You may schedule this meeting prior to or during our normal seminar time.) If the student has missed deadlines or not produced satisfactory work at this point, the instructor reserves the right to cancel the student's public presentation, and the senior research requirements must be met in a future semester.

Nov 30

  • Meet in LITC 113
  • Full draft of research essay (due Sun Nov 29th at 12 noon, day before seminar, on GDocs Organizer)
  • Assigned peer reviews due in seminar (see instructions at top of drafts): reviewers will lead discussion of each draft and offer feedback and advice to authors
  • Tentative presentation schedule and project titles (a public Google Doc)
  • Assign videos of past student presentations (password-protected)
  • Evaluate presentation using this template, and post on our GDoc Organizer before Dec 7th seminar
Dec 7
  • Meet in McCook 309
  • Discuss evaluations of past student presentation videos
  • Upload draft presentation slides to presentation schedule, for comments by seminar (ungraded). Recommended: Google Slides, or Dropbox link to another slide format that will run on the McCook 309 computer
  • Optional: Decide if you would like your presentation to be video recorded, and if so, made password-protected or public on Vimeo service
  • Peer evaluation: Overall contribution to learning, template emailed directly to students, to be returned by Tues Dec 8th by 9pm
  • Review end-of-semester procedure

Dec 14

Thur Dec 17th at 9pm

  • Final drafts due via email to instructor
  • All students are encouraged to upload their final draft and presentation slides (as PDFs) to the Trinity Digital Repository. This is a requirement for students pursuing Honors.