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LibraryThing: OU History of Science Collections HSCI 3013 - section 995 - Spring 2014

Interpretation essay

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
4 Friday
11:59 p.m.
20 Interpretation Essay
Unless it explains, history is trivial.
Write a short persuasive essay agreeing or disagreeing with a common interpretation about the topic and expressing your own view
60 min.

Due: Friday, 11:59 p.m.
Points: 22
Plan: 60 mins.

Put on your thinking caps! The Interpretation essay has three parts:

  1. The Interpretation assignment begins with a video to prompt your thinking about common interpretations of what you have explored each week. Watch the Interpretation video prompt at Janux. Which issue raised there struck a chord with you? Or is there some other pressing issue or developing perspective that you have been pondering during your explorations this week? What is most significant to you about all you have explored this week? What is your interpretation, your perspective, your point of view? What do you think?
  2. Then you will follow the instructions at Desire2Learn to write a short persuasive essay expressing your own view. Unless it explains, history is trivial. Try to focus your essay, rather than responding to every issue raised in the video. Provide specific evidence and explain the reasoning for your point of view. Write in dialogue with others here or elsewhere, if you wish. Cite any sources and link to any online resources that you use. Your Interpretation essay should be at least 1200 words long, and not more than 1800 words.
  3. When you have posted your essay according to the D2L instructions, complete the assignment by making a “Gradebook declaration” in the Quizzes section of Desire2Learn. Your Gradebook Declaration is subject to the Honor Code.

Learning Objective: The weekly Interpretation assignment gives you practice in critical understanding, persuasive writing, and identifying diverse relevant points of view.

See Weekly Assignments and time management tips.

Your Interpretation essay should be at least 600 words long, and not more than 1200 words. Take this essay assignment seriously: it is one of the largest parts of your grade. It would be wise to plan to complete it at least one day before it is due; don't save it until the last possible moment!

History is not just context (background) and evidence (primary sources); it is also drama, because before specific episodes happened, people may not have known what to expect (any more than we can predict our future). History is also contingent, because things might have turned out differently than they did. Why did one thing happen rather than another? Why is it significant that it turned out the way it did?

In other words, history requires explanations, or interpretations, in order to become meaningful. Notes in the Background Readings and the Primary Source Readings will introduce you to several different points of view that offer different interpretations of what was important and different explanations for why things turned out as they did. Each week, you will choose one of these points of view and write an Interpretation essay that either defends or refutes it. That is, you will explain in your own words why the interpretation most persuasive to you makes more sense than other perspectives. This type of careful essay requires you to defend a thesis (interpretation), but the thesis you defend (or refute) is up to you. Every week you will take the "raw materials" supplied by the reading assignments, and turn them into a meaningful perspective of your own.

As you weigh evidence and consider different interpretations, you will learn to avoid the fallacy of rational reconstruction.

Tip: after completing the Starting Assumptions, but before starting the Background reading, take a quick glance at the Interpretation questions for the week, so that as you go through the Background and Primary Source readings you will be able to make a special note of points you want to make in your Interpretation essay.

Must your Interpretation be written in an analytical style? No! Feel free to write creatively; a dialogue may be more effective than dry analysis. See these Important guidelines on writing styles.

Sharing your Interpretations. You will post your Interpretation essay each week on the Confluence, where other students can read and respond to what you have written. When you post your Interpretation, just click the New Topic button in Confluence. You will also be reading and responding to the other students' Interpretations as part of the Reflection and Peer Responses assignment that is due later in the week. When you do, just hit the Add Reply button, or you can click on the Add Reply link that appears as part of their post.

The Interpretation essay is practice for your Wikipedia Editing Project. The most important purpose of this assignment is to give you a chance to explore the aspects of the history of science that are most meaningful to you, some of which you might pursue further in your Wikipedia Editing Project. On any given week, you might frame your Interpretation essay so that it is related to your Wikipedia Editing Project assignment; that is up to you. It is fine if it lays a foundation for an Episode of your Wikipedia Editing Project, so long as the Wikipedia Editing Project shows evidence of further refinement and thought in light of additional reflection and dialogue with class participants.

Student-to-Student Interaction: Write your Interpretation essays for each other, not for the instructor. The Interpretation essay provides a setting for interesting interaction with your fellow students about the material you are learning each week. I strongly believe that interaction with other students in a way that is not mediated by the instructor is one of the chief advantages of an online course. When you read others' Interpretations, pause and do your best to understand where they are coming from. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know them; you will be "seeing" a lot of them online through the course of the semester. Many students find this student-to-student interaction to be one of their favorite aspects of the course!

Note: To preserve the environment for student-to-student interaction, I rarely post comments to the Interpretation essays. So you are writing for each other, not for me. On any given week, I will read at least one third of them to get a sense of the ongoing conversations that have started. Send me an email if you want me to be sure to read your Interpretation on any given week! By the way, I always read each and every Reflection.

I also spot check them for any problems or difficulties that may arise, including Honor Code violations. If you see any violations of proper discussion board ettiquette, please notify me immediately.

Here are the instructions you will see each week for the Interpretation Assignment:

Instructions for Interpretation assignments:

  1. Go to Janux and watch the Interpretations video prompt.
  2. Comment on your initial reaction to the video prompt in the discussion stream at Janux.
  3. Take one of the questions or points of view listed here and consider how it relates to the assigned readings for this week. Consider both Context and Evidence assignments, whenever applicable.
  4. Write a short essay defending your thesis and/or refuting competing interpretations. An Interpretation essay must express a point of view, supporting that argument with specific evidence gathered from the assigned readings.
  5. Your Interpretation essay should be at least 1200 words long, and not more than 1800 words (you can do a word count at Motionnet.com). This word count does NOT include the original question you are responding to, any quotations from assigned readings, or the two notes at the end of the essay.
  6. Spellcheck, word count, and proofread your essay. Since this is a longer writing assignment, you will probably want to use the spellcheck and word-count features in your word processor.
  7. In a one or two sentence note at the end of your essay (not part of the word-count), indicate why you chose to respond to that issue and how you came up with the interpretation.
  8. In a one-sentence note after your essay (not part of the word-count), identify which style or genre you selected (analytical, narrative, dialogue, etc.) and explain why you thought that would be the most effective way to convey your interpretation.
  9. Include reference citations or links to any textbook, website, course page, or Exhibits Online that are closely related to your Interpretation (e.g., "For Redondi's view, go here: insert link"). Additional reading beyond course assignments is not required, but you must include at least two citations or links to assigned readings that provide evidence and relevant historical context. These two sources must be either primary sources that pertain to the topic and come from the period being discussed or secondary sources (e.g., one of our textbooks or assigned web pages) written with demonstrable knowledge of the relevant primary sources (for example, in addition to the assigned background readings, professional historians of science may be assumed to be familiar with the sources they write about; see guidelines for evaluating sources). An argument that is not supported with documented evidence does not meet the minimum requirements for an Interpretation essay. For citations and links, use the forms described in the bibliographical guidelines. (For example, a citation to our text could be "Lindberg, Beginnings, p. #." )
  10. Cut-and-paste your completed essay, with notes and links, and post it in the Interpretation forum for this week at the Confluence discussion board.
  11. After you have posted your Interpretation, complete the Gradebook Declaration in Desire2Learn. (Your Gradebook Declaration is subject to the Honor Code.)

Here is the text of the Desire2Learn Gradebook Declaration:

(7 points) I have posted my Interpretation at Confluence. My Interpretation shows that I have thought about BOTH Context and Evidence assignments for this week. I have done a word count, and my Interpretation is at least 600 words min. My word count does NOT include the original question I am responding to, any quotations from assigned readings, or the two notes at the end of the essay.

(7 points) I have posted an Interpretation at Confluence that is at least 1200 words min. and no more than 1800 words max.

(1 point) My Interpretation contains an explanation of how I came up with my point of view (not part of the word count)..

(1 point) My Interpretation contains a sentence explaining the genre or style of writing I adopted (not part of the word count).

(2 points) My Interpretation contains a citation or link to at least one relevant source (such as the assigned readings) including either a primary source or a secondary source written by an author with demonstrable knowledge of the primary sources.

(2 points) My Interpretation contains a citation or link to at least two relevant sources (such as the assigned readings) including either a primary source or a secondary source written by an author with demonstrable knowledge of the primary sources.



"Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of the car is separate from the way the car is driven." -Edward De Bono, consultant, writer, and speaker (1933-)

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux