Presentations and Papers
SCHOPPA PLIR 4720
Japan in World Affairs
Oral Presentation Instructions
As part of the oral presentation assignment, I require all students to visit with me in my office twice. First, once you have signed up for a particular topic and read the material assigned for your presentation week, you and your presentation partner should come by and visit with me during my office hours to talk about additional sources and ideas about how to organize your presentation. You should plan on making this first visit by the end of September but, to avoid the rush you are encouraged to come by as soon as possible once the semester gets started. Then, later in the semester as your oral presentation date approaches, you and your partner should come by for a second meeting to talk about your final plans. Typically, you should plan on making this visit about a week before your presentation.
The requirement that you
lead an oral presentation as well as write a paper for this class requires that
you get started on your library research early in the semester. The
total presentation should last no more than 30 minutes--which means each of
your will be held to a strict time limit of 15 minutes each. To
make the most of this time, you should plan your presentations ahead of time to
avoid duplication and coordinate your comments. Please do not try to
summarize all of the readings or all of the history related to your topic.
Your fellow students will be expected to have read the week's readings and be
familiar with basic information on your topic. Therefore you should
concentrate on laying out the most important issues related to your topic,
providing an interesting focus for our class discussion, pointing out
controversies, etc. Your presentation grade will be based on the degree
to which your talk is informative, organized, and interesting.
Tips on Writing Your Term Paper
Your final paper should
be related to the topic covered in your oral presentation but does not need to
cover the full topic or the structure used for your oral presentation. In
fact, you will probably find that narrowing the topic or choosing a particular
perspective on the topic will help you write a better paper. In choosing
how to structure the paper, consider the need to find an organizing
theme. Purely descriptive or chronological histories are generally not as
interesting as papers that have central analytical themes supported by a
well-organized presentation of the empirical material. You are welcome to
come by and talk with me about organizing ideas. If you do, it would be
helpful if you brought a rough outline of your own.
I am consistently amazed by the number of papers I receive that lack an introduction. You must have a solid and interesting introduction. A good introduction will start with an illustration, story, quote, or statement of shocking facts which will get the reader interested in the topic of the paper. The introduction also must contain a clear statement of the paper's argument. If you have chosen a good analytical approach to your topic, you should have no problem summarizing your argument.
The failure of Japan and the Soviets to resolve their Northern Territories dispute can be attributed to both international system and domestic political factors. During the Cold War, it was the international system that was primarily to blame for the lack of a settlement--leading initiatives to fail repeatedly. In the past several years, however, domestic politics has impeded progress toward a settlement even as the international environment has become more conducive of an agreement.
Finally, an introduction should contain
a brief outline of the rest of the paper. The paper on the Northern Territories
dispute, for example, might include a few sentences describing how the paper
would examine first the role of the Cold War in limiting initiatives in the
early postwar period and then focus on more recent developments.
A common problem with papers is a lack
of a clear and coherent organization. Sometimes, this problem results because
the author has failed even to think about how to organize the paper. You should
definitely outline your paper before you begin. The outline should have some
logical flow to it and ideally will be clearly related to the main argument
expressed in your introduction. Sometimes, however, even a well-outlined paper
can fail to have a clear and coherent organization. This results when the
author fails to put good transition sentences at the ends and beginnings of
each major section of the paper. Don't just assume that I can read your mind about
how you see your next point to be related to your main argument or the previous
paragraph. Add a sentence or two at the beginning of each new section telling
me how your next major point is related to your overall argument and/or your
Another common problem, particularly with undergraduate papers, is over-quoting. Sometimes I get papers where 25% of the text is quoted. If these quotes are footnoted, the paper does not count as plagiarism. In many cases, however, over-quoting of this type is a sign of a rush-job or laziness. It looks like you didn't have time to put the ideas of others into your own words, or better yet, draw on the ideas of several sources and add some of your own analysis.
In general, you should quote only when: 1) the author is particularly famous or important to the point you are trying to make; 2) the phrasing of the quote is unique, interesting, and vitally important to the point you are making. If at all possible, you should paraphrase. If the material is basically a statement of facts, there is usually no reason to quote.
Some people over-quote because they are afraid of being caught plagiarizing. True, you should not plagiarize. But you protect yourself just as well by paraphrasing and footnoting material.
When you do quote, you should generally introduce your quotes. Don't just throw a quote into the middle of a paragraph with no explanation. Add a sentence such as: "As Miller argues in her authoritative account of the Northern Territories dispute..." or "This perspective can be seen in the remarks of Dietman Sato Hironobu, who writes: ...."
A special note here on plagiarism. This university treats it as an offense warranting expulsion through the honor system. Plaigiarism refers to acts involving the theft of someone else's intellectual property. If you learned a particular fact from a particular source, you should footnote that source. If you want to borrow a few sentences where an author phrased an idea particularly well, put it in quotes and footnote the source.
Any time you take more than a few words in a row from a specific source and fail to quote and footnote that source, you have committed an act of plaigarism. If you take a table full of data and present it without footnoting, that too will count as plaigarism. Again, the way to deal with your need to avoid plaigarism is not to quote everything or footnote everything. Paraphrase instead of quoting whenever possible. You do not need to footnote facts like the date for the start of the Korean War that are common knowledge (a good rule of thumb for "common knowledge" is a fact you could find in at least three different published sources). You must footnote all quotes and all statistics.
I hope these guidelines
help you navigate between the problem of over-quoting on the one side and plaigarism on the other.
You need both. I don't particularly
care which style of notes you choose. Endnotes are fine. The style of notes
where you place the author, date, and page number in parentheses (Smith 1980,
p. 90) is okay as well. Many students waste time and space listing full
citations even when they have already cited a source. Use abbreviated citations
after the first reference. Whichever style of footnoting and bibliography you
choose, the key is to be consistent and accurate.
You have no excuse for making mistakes of this type. Most of you know how to spell and write standard English. Your errors are thus most often a sign of sloppiness and carelessness. You should use spellcheck on your computer to catch typos and most misspelled words. Then you should proofread the paper yourself and, if possible, have a friend proofread it as well. Spellcheck does not catch words which are left out of the text, words which are misspelled but wrong ("there" when you should have used "their"), and it does not catch grammatical errors. When proof-reading, you should read your paper slowly and carefully to find all misspelled words and all incorrect punctuation.
If you have any doubts
about your skills (organizational as well as grammatical), you should think
seriously about visiting the Writing Center. I understand that the center is
often fully booked by the middle of the semester, so you should make your
initial inquiries as early in the semester as possible.
Some styles of writing which might be
acceptable in other contexts are not acceptable in formal college papers. You
should not use colloquial terms (e.g. "pointy-headed bureaucrats").
You should not use contractions (e.g. "don't"; "wouldn't").
You should also work hard to use active verbs rather than dull "be"
verbs: avoid sentences that start "it is clear that"; "there are
many examples of"; "this is an example of." Many of these kinds
of sentences can be rewritten with solid nouns and active verbs. I have a
particular problem with papers that overuse "this" as a noun. Often,
it is unclear to what "this" refers. As a general rule, you should
use "this" only as an adjective in formal papers.
You must have one. I can't tell you how many papers I've received which simply end with a thud after the last fact has been conveyed. Often, students fail to add a conclusion because they are pushing the page limit or running out of time before the paper is due. No excuse! If it's too long, cut out some of the body of the paper. If you're running out of time, stay up later and do it right (or better yet, start earlier and avoid the problem). Your conclusion should return to the basic analytical question raised in the introduction and restate (in a new and interesting way) your answers to the question. If you were looking at the question of why efforts to resolve the Northern Territories dispute have failed, spell out all of the reasons and comment on which you felt were the most important ones.
page is maintained by Leonard Schoppa. It was last updated on May 24, 2012.