In 1912, Pablo Picasso, an avid painter of nature and still life, tore part of a makeshift tablecloth and glued it to his painting, Still Life with Chair Caning, and thus, by adding different items to aid his painting, he began the art of collage making. (Pablo Picasso – Still Life with Chair Canning). A collage is simply a group of objects arranged together to create a complete image of an idea, theme, or memory. For example, David Modler created a collage called “Big Bug” to represent the irony that is the importance of insects to our natural world in comparison to their size. The bug in the image is the smallest feature of the collage yet it is to be viewed as the most important aspect (Modler, David). All these parts of a collage collaborate together to create a unifying theme or message and can be used as a helpful tool in education.
Statement of Purpose
I propose that each student make an artistic collage to be presented to the class that will symbolize the context, audience, setting, structure or any key ideas found in one of the readings this semester. Students who make a collage will be able to drop the lowest quiz grade.
Plan of Action
The students will have one week from the announcement of the project to complete the collage and prepare a presentation for it. Each student must choose one reading that we have done so far or will read in the future, and no two students may choose the same work. Conflict with students wanting to present the same work will be resolved by a first come first serve basis. The students will be given a rubric with the exact requirements of the project and what the purpose of the project is.
I will make the rubric myself and submit it for approval, or we can use the rubric that I have attached.
Benefits of Collage Proposal
- Making a collage would allow the students to think and inspect the readings and ideas visually (Rodrigo, “Collage”), thus giving them another perspective, or possibly clearing up any misconceptions and confusions they had about a work when we were just discussing it in class verbally.
- A collage provides the opportunity for revision of a certain work and would certainly help to clear up any topics in the readings that might come up on the final exam or a future test, via a visual and more creative method.
- If a student received a bad grade on a quiz because they did not understand the reading, the collage would give the student an opportunity to go back to the reading and understand it, or to read ahead and grasp concepts that might be useful to present to the class before the class does the reading. A collage would allow the student to become familiar with the work in a visual way and give them an opportunity to understand the main themes, topics, and ideas of a work, even one we might not have read yet.
Viability of Collage Proposal
Since a collage would be like giving the student an opportunity to go back and review a subject and at the same time would resemble preparation for a presentation, the time and effort required to go back and re-read a work as well as prepare the collage creatively would be sufficient to justify replacing the lowest quiz grade.
Our course mentor said that this project would be a nice addition to the class because, just like any play is better seen than read, the collage will allow students to get the visual aspect behind a work and help them to grasp the ideas better.
Past visuals that we have used in class to describe scenes from our readings such as The Tempest and The Odyssey have greatly helped me to understand some of the ideas of the stories. For example, I always pictured the cyclops as a nasty, vile creature, but after some of the “fuzzy” drawings on the board done by some of my peers, I imagined and understood that he could in fact be a gentle creature that was just angered by Ulysses trespassing and blinding him. I could not have seen that perspective of the story had it not been for some of the more innocent visuals on the board.
Finally, I have discussed with the students in our class about the idea of a collage replacing the lowest quiz grade and the overwhelming majority approved of the idea. Since a collage will substitute for a quiz grade, the assignment will be optional. Just as a quiz is almost always optional based on class initiation of discussion, the collage will also be optional based on similar student effort parameters. The students who do not want to do a collage can choose “door number 2” and take a quiz that would be created by the teachers and/or myself. This quiz can be used to make the total number of assignments for each student in the class even, and may or may not be graded based on the professor's discretion.
The first goal of my collage proposal is to give students a chance to be creative and step outside the boundaries of classroom discussion. They can use their imaginations to find a way to creatively put together a collage that will help the class as well as themselves to better understand the course reading.
A second goal of my proposal is that the time and effort put into making the collage and presenting it in front of the class will equal the worth of dropping the lowest quiz grade. Because this collage requires the creator to examine the context, audience, setting, structure of any one of the readings, it is essentially like a quiz itself, which includes questions on similar topics.
The literary work that a student chooses to create a collage on will determine how much time is necessary to fully complete the project. One week to create a collage should give each student—no matter what reading they choose to do—ample time to create a presentable and educational collage for the class.
In terms of tangible resources, this project is not very demanding. A simple poster or a series of photographs or drawings assembled neatly together by the student will be about as resourcefully demanding as this project gets.
In addition, a few hours of class time will need to be allocated in order to present the collages. If each student takes at least five minutes to present the total time needed for the presentations will be 1 hour and 15 minutes. The presentation day(s) and time(s) can be decided by the class as a whole.
The rest of the resources needed are already available:
- The readings are all published online if a student needs to refer back to them
- Craft supplies are readily available
Skills for Successful Completion
- As a good planner and organizer I made a rubric that is specific enough to give the students a good idea of what they should be doing for the collage. The rubric can be made available upon your request.
- In addition I can also come up with a quiz if there are students who want to opt out of the collage project.
- I can talk to the class and come up with a good presentation time and date for everybody.
- I would volunteer myself to hold an early presentation session a few days before the due date so the others can get an idea of what their collage could look like and why they can benefit from the project.
- I will make myself available to the class if they have any questions about the proposed project.
A collage will allow students to understand visually a reading or topic in a reading that they may have been confused about. The project is a fun and creative way to get students to think about a reading more in depth as well as review for future exams. As a result of the effort and time put into the collages, the students should be allowed to drop their lowest quiz grade in the semester.
Modler, David. Big Bug. Photograph.Kronos Art Gallery. Web. 12 Oct. 2011
"Pablo Picasso - Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)." Lenin Imports. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.
Rodrigo. "Collages." Web 2.0 Toolkit. 11 Mar. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
How to Write a Paper Topic Proposal & Thesis Statement
• PART 1 OF THE ASSIGNMENT: PAPER TOPIC PROPOSAL
The formal research paper or honors thesis will provide you with an opportunity to more fully develop the background and implications of one of the topics presented during the semester or explore a related topic not covered. Your paper topic proposal requires research in order to make your proposal as close to your paper topic as possible. I strongly suggest you come to office hours to discuss your topic proposal with me, because I will review all proposals for viability and reject any inappropriate or undoable topics.
The written proposal must include the following 2 things:
1. Your proposed paper topic: This part of the proposal is one sentence. Keep your paper topic narrow (but not so narrow that there are no scholarly sources available on the topic).
2. Why the topic is interesting and important: Address how you will focus the topic. If you choose a topic that is not of interest to you, it will show in your paper. This topic must remain of interest to you for two semesters, so give it some serious consideration. As we cover topics in class, undoubtedly something will come up that you want to learn more about. This would be an ideal paper topic. This part of the assignment requires that you include two to three paragraphs about why this topic is interesting and important. Why should the reader care about Roger Williams’s relationship with the Narragansett Indians? If you simply retell the story of his exile from Massachusetts and what he thought of the Narragansett religious beliefs and practices, that’s a book report, not an honors level research paper. However, if you explore the significance Narragansett religion had on Williams, his writings, and his life, you have the makings of an interesting and important research paper. It would require research pertaining to the role of missionaries in the American colonies, research of the Puritan philosophy and why Williams was banned from Massachusetts Bay Colony, and research of Narragansett beliefs and religious views and how they were impacted by the English and Dutch.
What should your paper topic be? Select a course-related topic. I suggest you write about an area that most interests you and in which you might already have some background knowledge. What do you want to learn more about? What are you interested in? Avoid choosing a topic that bores you. Sustained interest in your topic is important, as a topic that bores you makes for a boring paper. It is unlikely you will be able to fool the reader into believing you liked a topic that you didn’t actually like.
Now, narrow down your topic: Once you’ve chosen a topic, ask yourself if it’s narrow enough for you to tackle in the paper or honors thesis you will be writing. Narrow topics generally result in the best papers. One important consideration is the availability of material. Therefore, before making a final decision on your topic, do some initial research to find out the type, quality, and quantity of information available. Finally, how much time do you have to write your paper? The earlier you begin your paper, the more thorough the treatment your topic will receive. If you can’t begin your paper early in the semester, consider limiting your topic so you can deal with it adequately.
• PART 2 OF THE ASSIGNMENT: THESIS STATEMENT
What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement is “a proposition stated as a conclusion which you will then demonstrate or ‘prove’ in your paper.” It is the focal point around which your research will revolve. It is usually stated in the form of an assertion or statement you resolve through your research. It’s not a question; it’s an answer, such as:
“Key decisions in large U.S. cities are made by a handful of individuals, drawn largely from business, industrial, and municipal circles, who occupy the top of the power hierarchy.”
“Cigarette smoking harms the body by constricting the blood vessels, accelerating the heartbeat, paralyzing the cilia in the bronchial tubes, and activating excessive gastric secretions in the stomach.”
A thesis takes a position on an issue. Because you must take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement in your research paper. It is different from a topic sentence in that a thesis statement is not neutral. It announces, in addition to the topic, the argument you want to make or the point you want to prove. This is your own opinion that you intend to back up. This is your reason and motivation for writing. A thesis statement:
i) tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
ii) is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
iii) directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
iv) makes a claim that others might dispute.
v) is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation. After you have done some preliminary research and reading on your narrowed-down topic, you should formulate a single-sentence thesis statement.
Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion – convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.
What is the purpose of the thesis statement? The thesis statement guides you, enabling you to focus your research paper and outline what you will write. It allows you to clarify your thinking and determine what is relevant and irrelevant as you do your research. Your research paper must be thesis-driven. A high school level “report” will not receive a passing grade. The thesis must pull together the analysis that follows. Your thesis statement must be specific – it should cover only what you will discuss in your research paper and must be supported with specific evidence. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper. Early in your paper I should be able to locate the thesis statement. If I ask you “Where is the thesis statement?” you should be able to point to it immediately.
How do you come up with a thesis statement? A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process and careful deliberation after preliminary research. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading a writing assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis,” a basic main idea, an argument that you think you can support with evidence but that may need adjustment along the way. Your topic may change somewhat as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Thesis Statement Samples:
1) The non-thesis thesis: You must take a stand or you’ll end up with a “non-thesis thesis.”
a) Bad Thesis 1: In his article, Stanley Fish shows that we don’t really have the right to free speech.
b) Bad Thesis 2: This paper will consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain restrictions on free speech.
c) Better Thesis 1: Stanley Fish’s argument that free speech exists more as a political prize than as a legal reality ignores the fact that even as a political prize it still serves the social end of creating a general cultural atmosphere of tolerance that may ultimately promote free speech in our nation just as effectively as any binding law.
d) Better Thesis 2: Even though there may be considerable advantages to restricting hate speech, the possibility of chilling open dialogue on crucial racial issues is too great and too high a price to pay.
2) The overly broad thesis: A thesis should be as specific as possible, and it should be tailored to reflect the scope of the paper. It is not possible, for instance, to write about the history of English literature in a five-page paper. In addition to choosing simply a smaller topic, strategies to narrow a thesis include specifying a method or perspective or delineating certain limits.
a) Bad Thesis 1: There should be no restrictions on the First Amendment.
b) Bad Thesis 2: The government has the right to limit free speech.
c) Better Thesis 1: There should be no restrictions on the First Amendment if those restrictions are intended merely to protect individuals from unspecified or otherwise unquantifiable or unverifiable “emotional distress.”
d) Better Thesis 2: The government has the right to limit free speech in cases of overtly racist or sexist language because our failure to address such abuses would effectively suggest that our society condones such ignorant and hateful views.
3) The incontestable thesis: A thesis must be arguable. And in order for it to be arguable, it must present a view that someone might reasonably contest. Sometimes a thesis ultimately says, “people should be good,” or “bad things are bad.” Such thesis statements are redundant or so universally accepted that there is no need to prove the point.
a) Bad Thesis 1: Although we have the right to say what we want, we should avoid hurting other people’s feelings.
b) Bad Thesis 2: There are always alternatives to using racist speech.
c) Better Thesis 1: If we can accept that emotional injuries can be just as painful as physical ones we should limit speech that may hurt people’s feelings in ways similar to the way we limit speech that may lead directly to bodily harm.
d) Better Thesis 2: The “fighting words” exception to free speech is not legitimate because it wrongly considers speech as an action.
4) The “list essay” thesis: A good argumentative thesis provides not only a position on an issue but also suggests the structure of the paper. The thesis should allow the reader to imagine and anticipate the flow of the paper, in which a sequence of points logically proves the essay’s main assertion. A list essay provides no such structure, so that different points and paragraphs appear arbitrary with no logical connection to one another.
a) Bad Thesis 1: There are many reasons we need to limit hate speech.
b) Bad Thesis 2: Some of the arguments in favor of regulating pornography are persuasive.
c) Better Thesis 1: Among the many reasons we need to limit hate speech the most compelling ones all refer to our history of discrimination and prejudice, and it is, ultimately, for the purpose of trying to repair our troubled racial society that we need hate speech legislation.
d) Better Thesis 2: Some of the arguments in favor of regulating pornography are persuasive because they ask pornography proponents to ask themselves whether such a profession would be on a list of professions they would desire for their daughters or mothers.
5) The research paper thesis: In another course this would be acceptable, and, in fact, possibly even desirable. But in this kind of course, a thesis statement that makes a factual claim that can be verified only with scientific, sociological, psychological, or other kind of experimental evidence is not appropriate. You need to construct a thesis that you are prepared to prove using the tools you have available, without having to consult the world’s leading expert on the issue to provide you with a definitive judgment.
a) Bad Thesis 1: Americans today are not prepared to give up on the concept of free speech.
b) Bad Thesis 2: Hate speech can cause emotional pain and suffering in victims just as intense as physical battery.
c) Better Thesis 1: Whether or not the cultural concept of free speech bears any relation to the reality of 1st amendment legislation and jurisprudence, its continuing social function as a promoter of tolerance and intellectual exchange trumps the call for politicization (according to Fish’s agenda) of the term.
d) Better Thesis 2: The various arguments against the regulation of hate speech depend on the unspoken and unexamined assumption that emotional pain is trivial.
How do I know if my thesis is strong? If there’s time, run it by a professor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback (http://www.umass.edu/writingcenter/index.html). Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft of your working thesis, ask yourself the following:
1) Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question.
2) Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
3) Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
4) Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
5) Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
6) Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
Jane M. Smith
[Date] Paper Topic Proposal and Thesis Statement
Proposed paper topic: [One sentence.] Why the topic is interesting and important: [Two to three paragraphs.] See details above on what is required of this section.
Thesis statement: [One sentence.]