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Weekly journal

Weekly journal

Default due date: weekly

Word count: 1000

Over the course of the semester, every student should keep a log of what they are thinking about the discussions in class, especially the connections between their independent reading and the class readings.

This is not a graded assignment. You will get credit for making a good-faith effort every week to write something about what you are thinking. It does not have to take the form of polished prose, but writing in complete sentences and connected paragraphs, even if in brief, is a good habit and a good way to push yourself to making a effort on a regular basis. Students should aim to write at least 100 words every week.

Make this part of a weekly routine of activities for this class. It could even be a daily routine! Set aside one or more times during the week to reflect on what you have discovered and what you want to discuss in class. This journal can also be a space in which you think about the connections between our class topics, your independent reading, and your other classes.

What to write

The purpose of weekly writing is the same as warming up before exercise. Your writing is helping you prepare to make contributions to our collective reading and collective understanding of big ideas and open questions. So there are no right or wrong answers. This is also not an exercise in summarizing the week’s reading before class. It is OK to be unsure of what you think about the current topic and its place in the class.1) So it is good to write about the questions you have and the ideas that you want to clarify.

Another purpose of this writing over the whole semester is to keep a record of how your thinking is changing. For that reason, don’t limit yourself to reflection on what we read or what we discuss. Think about the whole experience of learning. What is your process for preparing? What was it like to encounter the next week’s topic or participate in the last week’s discussion? It is good to react honestly to what you are reading. If you think it sucks, say it sucks and say why you think it sucks. If you love it and think what we are reading is profound, say that and say why.

How to write

A useful way to approach this assignment is to think about each entry as a link in a chain. Divide each entry into thirds, or three sections.

  • In the first part, write a bulleted list on what has changed since last week, what progress you have made, and what you are currently thinking.
  • In the second part, write a bulleted list of items you want to do in the next week for our class.
  • Finally, write a bit more on what you are currently thinking now, especially about the class readings.

When you write the next entry, you can report on your progress on the to-do items from the previous entry, and reflect generally on how your thinking has changed. Here is an essay by two professors who used a similar assignment in their classes (Nowak and Knappe 2019).

Feedback on your journal over the semester

I will look at everyone’s entries every week but I will not comment on them every week. When I comment on your entries, I will try to offer constructive feedback. I recognize that everything you’ll be writing in these entries is—by definition—a work in progress so I will stay away from correcting or evaluating the entry (but of course sometimes I can’t help it). I will aim to give everyone feedback at several points in the semester. If you would like more feedback, just send me an email or visit me in office hours.

Considering the two main purposes of this assignment, the best kind of feedback you can get on your work is your own. Read your writing again a few days after. How has your thinking changed? What would you say if you had to revise and rewrite your past writings? Was writing on a specific topic hard or easy? What was hard or easy about it?

You can also give yourself feedback on the process. Over the semester, notice what it is like to write the week’s entry. How do you feel doing it? Do you spend a solid hour on it, or 5 minutes? When do you do it? Where? How does last week compare to the process of writing for other weeks (like, say, writing for Week 3 compared to writing for Week 9)? What kind of a reader are you? What kind of a writer are you? If you wrote 900 words in three paragraphs for Week 2, but two sentences for Week 5, why is that? Could you write 1500 words for next week?

Final notes

  • Please remember this is a seminar journal and it’s not private! I will be reading it regularly. I will however treat it as confidential.
  • ChatGPT and other generative AI tools are bad—I think. I don’t know! You tell me! I will simply note that this assignment is its own reward. Writing your own reflection in a journal will equip you to better tackle the longer essays for class. If you use a tool, use it to do more, go farther, go deeper, rather than substitute for your own effort.
    • As with the other writing in this class, if you use generative AI tools, you are required to document your prompts, the text that was generated, and a description of how you have incorporated this into your final draft, and to attach all of this documentation as an appendix to your journal entry.
  • Plagiarism is, however, bad… bad bad. You should always, always, always write observations, thoughts, ideas, and questions in your own words. If you quote a source, use quotation marks and cite the source with the full reference.
    • Writing your thoughts about someone else’s ideas in your own words can be difficult. This journal is a space where you can practice it. You don’t have to sound a certain way or have exactly the right words.
    • And, self-plagiarism is sometimes OK. But, self-plagiarism is a one-way street. You can plagiarize your writing from your journal in other writing for class. (It will probably show up on Turnitin, but it will also be clear why it is showing up, so it is not problematic.) You can’t plagiarize other writing of yours for this journal. (Instead, quote yourself and cite the source!)


Nowak, Zachary, and Reed Knappe. 2019. “How to Teach More Effectively Through Course Journals (Opinion).” Inside Higher Ed, June 25, 2019. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/06/25/how-teach-more-effectively-through-course-journals-opinion.

In fact, being uncertain and being confused is a good thing. It means you are learning.
3621/2024/weekly_journal.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/15 23:42 by Ryan Schram (admin)