WGS Foundations I: Assignments

Introduction to WGS:
From the Practical to the Critical to the Theoretical, with Praxis

Course: Unique # 49780 TTH 3:30-5:00. MEZ 2.102
Office Hours: Wed. 8:30-11 and by appt.

SEMESTER WARMUP ASSIGNMENT: Preparation for All Assignments

Go to the Library Online link off the UT homepage, then click on the link Orientation and Instruction, to get to the "students" link ( http://www.lib.utexas.edu/services/instruction/studentindex.html). Schedule yourself on a LIBRARY TOUR and a class that introduces the library resources to you.

Students in their first semester at UT in WGS must offer proof that you have done both; students from other programs taking this course may be able to exempt themselves by talking to the instructor.

Worth 3% of final grade.

ASSIGNMENT 1: Personal history

In the Discussion Board Forum listed for this assignment, introduce yourself: your background, your involvement / stake in WGS, your goals for the program (if in WGS), and/or for the course (if not in WGS MA program)

ASSIGNMENT 2: History of Gender in Your Field

Go to the Reader's Guide to Women's Studies (ed. Eleanor B. Amico [Chicago: Fitzroy-Dearborn, 1998).

Prepare a presentation of 3 minutes max in length (e.g. less than 500 words), and a handout (max 1 side of 1 sheet of paper) that summarizes the who, what, where and when facts of how the gender optic entered your individual field. Stress landmark texts or projects, and what forms/areas/representations WS takes in your discipline.

Be sure you focus not on women's participation in the field (i.e. the first women lawyer), but in the actual organizational configuration of the areas you're interested in. That is, you are looking for your (sub)field's identity politics, as revealed in choices like:

The professor will post a version for either German studies or Comp lit online as sample. Be prepared to present it orally in class.

PRÉCIS ASSIGNMENTS: see separate handout

ASSIGNMENT 3: Find Your People in the Academy

The goal of this assignment is for you to identify "your people" on the campus, and the disciplines they represent (as well as departments, programs, and professional organizations they belong to).

Where to start:

YOU submit to the appropriate forum on the Discussion Board: a list of people you need to meet, courses you need to take, lecture series, newsletters, list-Servs, etc., that you need to subscribe to, and yearly conferences you'd like to be included in, along with reasons why. Formal prose is not necessary; it can be a checklist sharing resources.

ASSIGNMENT 4: Situate Yourself Nationally

Starting from the national resources posted on the class website, but moving beyond them, post on the Discussion Board a set of benchmarks for yourself, including where you need to insert yourself professionally on the national level and what support you might apply for for next year, or beyond.

Include reference to things like:

Formal prose is not necessary; it can be a checklist sharing resources, but you need to include rationales. The point is to make you aware of why you need to keep your eye on the national scene for your disciplines and projects, and what those interfaces can provide.

ASSIGNMENT 5: Find Your Cause and Outreach

Starting from the representative local resources posted on the class website, identify your people off campus who may feed into your academic or other professional future, ' such as by using your skills, research, and energy.

Pick one or two and post a rationale for your choice on the class Discussion Board.

ASSIGNMENT 6: Presenting Yourself

Part 1: Produce a paper-based academic CV based on the handout downloadable from the Germanic Studies Department website, under the link entitled "professional development." THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB RESUMÉ DONE COMMERCIALLY FOR NON-ACADEMIC JOBS.

Part 2: Post on the class Discussion Board a brief statement identifying your area's style manual(s), standard software, performance and writing expectations, etc.

Part 3: due by the last day of class
Produce a website with your cv posted on-screen (and possibly also as a download). You can start with the example posted at the Germanic Studies website, under the link entitled "professional development." Note that using MS Word's internal converter or the authoring programs within a web browser will NOT suffice -- for the reason why, you may need to convert something to .htm and then look at it in WORD, in EXPLORER, in NETSCAPE, and in SAFARI. You'll be appalled. Remember to use the handouts and training opportunities presented in class. At the very least, you'll have to learn to "debug" the code that WORD produces.

ASSIGNMENT 7: Working with Archival Material

Your mission with this assignment is to simulate the kinds of research and search strategies you'll need to employ when using online (or any) archival materials that are identified, but not otherwise categorized or assembled into meaningful units for special purposes. We'll use one UT special collection to simulate this process.

  1. Through the PCL Library Online link page to "Databases and Indexes to Articles," access the Gerritson Collection online.
  2. Assume that you have to do an article on the materials, and that you have not decided on a specific topic, just that you wanted to do something with this set of primary sources on women's history. Look through the catalogue to find a primary source document that interests you. Write down the identifiers and bibliographic entry for that article/source, using correct Chicago Style.
  3. Now search the archive again for a source that "matches" it, but which is approximately 100 years older. Again, make an entry for that source, as above.
  4. Step back and turn the documents into a research strategy. Develop a set of key terms that reflect the contents of the sources and why they seem to belong together in your head, as a possible core of an article. These key terms may be vocabulary items from the documents, names, dates, or places, themes that specifics in the text trigger in your head. Note down the keywords, and why they seem significant to you as a key to arguments that might be made about the texts. Note particularly period usages that don't stay the same between the documents, or between the documents and today's usages.
  5. Taking these terms, and translate them into today's research frameworks. That is, decide what areas of online database (s) will help you find secondary literature on these topics. Do you need to check literature, or medicine, or history, or art? Which databases seem to be the most significant in these areas? Work around in the library online Databases to identify these, and write them down, including reasons for their choice.
  6. Now enter at least two of those databases, and run a search or searches using the key words in a search and refine the key words. What problems do you have with finding information? Note these down.
  7. Write 50-100 words on what kind of article might come out of the two documents you chose, based on the kinds of information you located in your secondary literature search.

ASSIGNMENT 8: Evaluating Web Sources

  1. Run a search on GOOGLE for "women and art."
  2. Run the same search on another popular web search engine (Yahoo, Dogpile, Alta Vista, etc.). It might be best to do so by opening a second window in your browser, so that the two searches can be displayed side by side.
  3. Compare the results: what do you notice?
  4. Remember you might evaluate the source on the basis of:
    • probable status as authoritative (note dates, etc.)
    • reliability of author
    • reliability and/or status of sponsoring organization
    • claims to representing the state of the art and professionals would see it
    • probable audience
    • probable purpose and point of view of the site

Two sources explaining what it means to evaluate sources (web and otherwise):

Written assignment handed out as part of class documents.

ASSIGNMENT 9: My Site of "Primary Sources" and My Research Issues

Post on the class discussion board a statement summarizing:

This will need to be coherent prose. Any sources cited will be expected to be in proper bibliographic format (note that you CAN italizice on BlackBoard if you use .html).

ASSIGNMENT 10 = Abstract

Presentation of Self and an Abstract for a project you're working on this semester as a sample of your interests.

You will generate a 5-minute powerpoint presentation that introduces yourself and your plans/projects/wishes for your time at UT. This will be posted on an online gallery for the WGS program!! The format is open, but consider it like a project presentation.


  1. Locate a recent academic book on some aspect of GLBT, Gender, or Women's studies that you would like to read and assess in the form of a book review.
    HOW DO I DO THIS? The most straightforward way is to check out a professional journal that HAS book reviews, such as SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the NWSA Journal, The New York Review of Books, or see tips below. Or cruise the shelves in BookWoman (a lovely place to visit, if you haven't been there yet).
  2. Read the book critically. For descriptions of how to write a book reviews, see, for example:
  3. Do a literature search to help assess the author's position within the field, adequacy of research/reference, theoretical and practical biases and the like. Think of issues like: Who is cited in the book, and what "company" do they conventionally keep? Is recent material from credible sources accounted for?
  4. Write the book review, setting the book into relation to its audience, and within its theoretical and historical contexts, incorporating some of the material you found on your literature search. The book review is 1000 words, max, and should include a header and other necessary references in the style prescribed by the Chicago Manual of Style.
  5. After you complete the review, specify three to five journals which might want a book review of the type you're writing (e.g. UT's own E3W Journal). This speaks to the audience to whom you're speaking/writing, and provides a criterion to assess the adequacy of your review.



(from UT Net Cat, a link to full text online, arranged chronologically)

Lambda Book Report (from UT Net Cat, a link to full text online, arranged chronologically)

Booklist (usually very short reviews for library selectors, rather than scholarly reviews)

Lots more here at "Finding Book Reviews": http://www.lib.utexas.edu/subject/english/bookreviews.html

Also, some sources for understanding the process of book review and literature review writing are:

Finally, for the part where you identify journals where their reviews could be published, you should use Ulrich's Periodical Database and theMLA Directory of Periodicals, both available online from the Databases pages. MLA actually has a search limiter for "publishes book reviews," while Ulrich's allows the search to be limited to peer reviewed journals.