Ancient Near East
©Damen, 2018

A Guide to Writing in History and Classics


Class Projects and Grading

Final grades will be determined on the basis of a student's performance on any of the following papers, projects, and tests, each worth a maximum number of points as stated below. Students may do any number of the assignments described on the following pages. Final grades will depend on how many points students have achieved in the assignments they have chosen to do. Thus, students do not have to do any specific assignment, but to get credit toward their final grade they must choose to do some and, whatever they choose, must turn them in on time. Remember that full credit will not be given for any late work nor will there be make-ups of any sort (see Grades). All work must be completed within the parameters stated below. In general, no two major projects (First ABWS, Second ABWS or Individual Project) may center around the same topic.

Summary Paper (25 pts.): Due at the end of the second week of class.

This is a one-to-two-page paper summarizing the course content covered in the third class meeting. You are simply to write up what you saw as the highlights of the course that day (Introduction to the Ancient Near East: Geography and Archaeology). The purpose of the summary paper is not so much to review the material (thus, anything mentioned in lecture or the assigned readings is acceptable), but to familiarize you with the formal style of writing expected of historical researchers. What I will be looking for in reviewing these papers is not content but grammatical and stylistic features consistent with professional writing in this field as outlined in The Writing Guide (especially Sections 1-20 which we will review the second day of class). By giving you the opportunity to do this paper, I want to provide you the chance to make sure that the mechanics of your writing are up to where they should be for a class of this type. Given that, I will be looking for errors such as dangling participles, spelling mistakes, misuses of punctuation, sentence fragments and the like. If you believe your skills are sound in this respect, feel free to bypass this assignment and begin working on other projects.

Pre-Tests (405 pts.; 27 x 15 pts. each): Administered at the very beginning of every class meeting (after the first class meeting).

As a way for you to demonstrate your preparation for class, I will administer a brief Pre-Test at the very beginning of class on every day after the first class meeting. On each of these Pre-Tests there will be FIVE (5) fill-in-the-blank statements with answers drawn from the reading assignment(s) for that day. You will have two or three minutes at most to supply the correct answer and turn in the Pre-Test. Possible answers are prefixed with an asterisk in the list of "Terms, People, Places and Things to Know" which follows each Section in the Course Outline. Any asterisked term(s) or part of a term may serve as an answer. For every correct response (including the proper spelling of the term/s) you will earn 3 points toward your final grade total. I reserve the right to deduct credit for incorrect spelling (any accepted spelling is permitted). There will be no make-ups for students who are absent or late to class.

Reactions (500 pts.; 10 x 50 pts. each): Due at the beginning of the class period following the end of each Section (see Syllabus for the due-dates of individual Reactions).

A Reaction is a two-page summary and analysis of one of the articles in Canvas (look under "Files"). It must be properly formatted (see Section 18 of The Writing Guide) and follow the strictures of style explicated in Sections 1-20 of The Writing Guide. A word count must be appended to the end of the Reaction consisting of at least 500 words. At the top of each Reaction should be three single-spaced lines with the following information: on the first line, the student's name; on the second, the article being reviewed; and on the third, the Section of the class and the date on which the Reaction was turned in. The rest of the Reaction should be double-spaced and there should be no title or title page. Any Reaction which does not conform to the standards of The Writing Guide will be returned for no credit. In such an instance, students MUST meet in person with me to discuss why the Reaction received no credit before another Reaction will be accepted. Please bring the Reaction (the one with my comments) to our meeting.

A Reaction should spend at least one full page paraphrasing—not quoting! (see Section 19 of The Writing Guide)—the material and argument of the article under review and another full page analyzing and evaluating the merit of the author's argument. These sections should be clearly designated as such in the Reaction (i.e. write "Summary" at the top of the summary and "Analysis" at the top of the analysis). The Summary does not need to be comprehensive, but instead should be targeted at that portion of the piece which will be criticized later in the Reaction. The Analysis portion of the Reaction should focus on the content of the article (i.e. the author's point) over its style or how well it "teaches" the facts. In this half, the first-person forms (I, me, my, we, us, our, etc.) are permissible to some extent, inasmuch as you are express ing your opinion of the article, but as always you should avoid any sense of subjectivity which means keeping first-person forms to a minimum whenever possible. Often students have found it useful to compare the article which they're reading for the Reaction to the approach taken to the same material in our textbook (or articles reviewed for earlier Reactions) and look for contrasting opinions, thereby illuminating differences which allow them to advocate one side in an argument.

The point of this exercise is for students to practice and exhibit critical thinking. Thus, Reactions will be assessed on the basis of whether there is evidence of incisive analysis which uncovers logical iunconsistences in the article or book chapter under review. Those shortcomings may consist of misconstructions of fact, fallacious argumentation or a failure to carry the theme into obvious areas where it applies. The pieces to be reviewed have been chosen for that very purpose. While they are often well-written and -argued, they also contain leaps or lapses of logic which open them to criticism. Thus, they are also frequently not the latest word or the most widely cited or respected scholarship on a particular issue, since the primary goal here is to provide a platform for students to exercise and demonstrate the kind of thinking fundamental to all sound historical research. Credit on Reactions may be reduced for errors of style or misapprehension/misstatement of fact, as well as an unconvincing expression of opinion or failure to criticize the substance of the argument at hand. Students may do only one Reaction per Section of the class.

First Essay (50 pts.): Due in the fifth week of class.

Like the Summary Paper, the First Essay is another "trial" attempt at writing in a manner suitable for historical researchers. The purpose of this exercise is to familiarize you with the type of composition generally employed in the field. And as with the Summary Paper, your grade will rest largely on your turning in the essay by the deadline in an adequate fashion, not on its content per se. However, as opposed to the Summary Paper, the focus of my assessment of your work on this essay will rest largely on how you express the argument you're making, both in terms of organizing content and deploying professional style. In other words, I will read your essay for its logical coherence, namely, the quality and force with which you express the theme of your essay. For further clarification about what constitutes excellence in historical argumentation, see Section 2 ("Content") in The Writing Guide. The second mandatory recitation, which will be held two weeks or so before this essay is due, should also be of some use to you in writing this essay.

The First Essay should be 750+ words—include a word count at the end of the essay—with sentences numbered according to the scheme outlined in class (click here to see an example of an essay properly enumerated and written in the style recommended in The Writing Guide). It must address directly the thesis topic below.

Thesis Topic for the First Essay (argue in support of this statement!): Argue that our sources for the history of the ancient world do, in fact, give us a fuller and more rounded view of life in the day than it might seem at first glance. Demonstrate that, though we would always like to know more, clues in the existing data show us much about aspects of ancient life that appear to be omitted from the sources (e.g., the lives of commoners, women, foreigners, children, immigrants, etc.). That is, show that we can deduce far more about life in the ancient world than it might seem from the miserable scraps and shards left to us.

First Annotated Bibliography/WebSearch (ABWS 1) (150 pts.): Due in the ninth week of class.

A review of modern scholarship (found in libraries and on the web) relating to a particular topic concerning the Ancient Near East (Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Israel). You may search through all available databases and investigate a topic of interest to you that is suitable for this class (e.g., palace architecture, women's roles, Akhenaten's reforms, prehistoric chronologies, Sea-Peoples, etc.). Topics must be approved by me in advance. Bibliographies and websearches based on unsuitable topics will receive no credit. A student may do only one First ABWS.

You will then obtain the scholarly works (books, articles, site reports, web sites and so on) you have found in your search, then read and summarize the authors' arguments. This may not include primary sources, e.g. the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of the Dead, etc. Instead, all works should be by modern authors (after 1900 CE) analyzing documents or artifacts from the historical period we are studying. Any articles or textbooks found among the materials of this class (our textbook, assigned readings, articles on reserve, etc.) may not be used on this annotated bibliography or any research work for this course. Please be aware that finding secondary scholarship acceptable for research assignments may entail visiting other libraries (UofU, BYU) or ordering works through InterLibrary Loan or JSTOR, which may involve time. I advise you then to begin as soon as possible the process of determining a topic and searching for related scholarship and a feasible theme to argue. All bibliographical citations must be full and in a standard format (e.g., MLA). For websearches, include the address of the website and, if available, its author, the institution with which it is associated and the latest date at which it was updated. Include in the ABWS only pertinent materials which have advanced in some way your understanding of the chosen topic.

ABWS topics may not overlap with other research done in the class (e.g. Individual Projects), but may lead to a Research Paper or tie into Capstone Papers. An ABWS must strike a balance between printed and web-based materials, containing at least thirty percent of sources drawn from each category.

When you have finished your research, organize your ABWS in the following way:

1. Synopsis. An overview of your work. Summarize (a) your initial purpose in doing this exercise (e.g., an interest in women in ancient Mesopotamia) and the reason you chose to explore that particular area, and (b) the result of your efforts, i.e. how the topic changed as you investigated the field and what topic you ended up investigating (if different from your first intention) and the theme you have chosen to argue in favor of. HINT: Write the synopsis last, when you are certain where you are going!

2. Body. The books, articles or sites listed individually with two paragraphs of commentary on each. Review (a) the basic nature of the source (its general content), (b) the author's stated purpose, intended audience and approach to the material, (c) the author's conclusions or basic thrust and (d) the impact the source had on you (i.e. what you learned from it). Finally, explain how the source advanced your understanding of the topic at hand and how you would use it in a research paper, in particular, how it makes your theme more cogent. You should have at least SEVEN sources.

3. Conclusion. An assessment of your efforts. You should conclude the ABWS by summarizing your view on the state of scholarship concerning your chosen topic and laying out how you would now write a research paper on this subject. You MUST include the argument you would make in the research paper, i.e. what side of what issue you would argue in favor of. To report just the facts is to write a "book report," and I am asking more of you than that in this exercise. Please note that all arguments must build from issues discussed in sources you have found and must have historical validity, that is, argue in favor of something "reasonable" where there is a valid counter-argument. For example, it is not "reasonable" to argue that Hatshepsut was really a man since there is definitive evidence she was a woman. Nor is it "reasonable" to argue that she was a woman, since the counter-argument that she was a man has no credible merit. A valid historical argument focuses on a narrow theme based on well-documented data and circulates around a debatable topic arising from the evidence, e.g. that depictions of Hatshepsut show a subtle use of attributes associated with each gender in a clear effort to take full advantage of the roles that both men and women could assume in seizing and holding power during the New Kingdom. The conclusion is the most important part of this exercise. Put some time and effort into it!

Evaluation of ABWS's will be based on thoroughness and originality of research, incisiveness of analysis, proper presentation and fullness of conclusion. Depending on the quality of execution, the Synopsis is worth 30 pts., each source entry in the Body of the ABWS 10 pts. and the Conclusion 50 pts. (up to a maximum of 150 pts.). For those of you who are interested in composing an ABWS, I have in my office copies of some that were well executed, along with some that weren't so well executed, so you can see what I don't like, too. You may come by and look at them as examples of what you should be aiming at.

Formatting an ABWS. In the top right-hand corner of the first page of the ABWS must be (1) the title of the subject under review, (2) your name and (3) the date on which you turned in the ABWS. These three items of information should be on separate lines single-spaced. The synopsis which begins the ABWS should be double-spaced, as should the conclusion which ends it. In between these, the articles, web sites and books under review should be single-spaced beginning with the citation of author, title and source. They should be numbered 1-7 (or more). There should be an empty line separating the author/title/source from the two paragraphs following which assess the piece. The first paragraph should review the content of the piece (see above, 2.a), the author's approach (2.b) and conclusions (2.c); the second should articulate its impact on your thinking (2.d) and, finally, how the piece will be applied to the theme you propose to argue in your paper. These single-spaced paragraphs should not be separated from each other by an empty line. After them, there should be two empty lines before the title of the next work or, in the case of the last bibliographical item, the conclusion.

Midterm Essay (100 pts.):
Due in the tenth week of class.

In this full-credit essay, grades will be based on the excellence of writing and argumentation in the context of historical studies, as articulated in The Writing Guide (Sections 1-30). Midterm Essays must address directly and without obfuscation one (and only one!) of the three theses (themes) below. The data cited in support of these theses should be drawn from as wide a swathe of course material as possible, inasmuch as one of the points of this exercise is to review and consolidate the information presented in the class to date, so you need not seek outside sources (library or web-based materials). Another goal of this exercise is, of course, to work on refining formal argumentation. Thus, as with all written work in this class, the essay should be handed in as hard copy and must be neatly typed and look professional. It should be three or more pages in length (750+ words; please include a word count at the end of the essay) and utilize the system for titling sentences outlined in class for persuasive writing.

Theses for the Midterm Essay (choose ONE):

1. Argue that internal elements (e.g., socio-political evolution, changes of kingship, natural resources, etc.) rather than external forces (i.e., invaders, immigrants, climate, etc.) exerted more influence on the long-term development of the societies we have studied in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia. That is, defend the idea that ancient societies for the most part directed their own destinies and were not swept along in the greater course of events in the wider world. [NOTE: You may reverse the thesis and argue that external forces predominated and ancient societies did not for the most part direct their own destinies but were swept along in the greater course of events outside their world.]

2. Defend the non-literary arts (e.g. painting, architecture, ceramics, statuary, stonework, etc.) as a historical medium which can indicate political and social changes in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia, even where historical and literary texts for such change are lacking. That is, demonstrate that we can make reliable deductions from the graphic and plastic arts about facets of ancient life not directly connected to artwork. To put it another way, show that art history can be as much history as art.

3. Attack the conventional periodization of ancient history. In other words, challenge the notion that ages such as the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom of Egypt or ED II and ED IIIA of Mesopotamia are truly discrete periods. Suggest a better way to organize ancient history. [NOTE: Conversely, you may argue in behalf of our continued employment of the conventional periods, and explain why we should maintain them both in scholarship and pedagogy.]

Project Prospectus: Due in the eleventh week of class.

See below, Individual Project/s.

First Draft of Research Paper (50 pts.): Due in the thirteenth week of class.

YOU MAY NOT TURN IN BOTH A RESEARCH PAPER AND A SECOND ABWS FOR CREDIT. A draft of a standard paper employing historical research to argue for a particular view of ancient history. It must follow from a First Annotated Bibliography/WebSearch on the same subject, and the copy of that ABWS which was returned to you in class with my comments attached must be turned in along with the draft. It should be formal in style (like essays) and at least seven full pages long utilizing no fewer than ten sources. The draft cannot fall short of these standards in any way, or there is no point in my reviewing it for areas which need improvement. Among such changes, students are encouraged to review the sources they had cited in the First ABWS and remove those which were noted as unsuitable, replacing them with more and better sources. Items found among the resources provided in class, for example, the bibliography on reserve—but NOT our textbook!—may now be used as part of your research, if one of these works is crucial to the topic you have chosen. Of course, too heavy a reliance on sources which I have provided for you will warrant a reduction in credit.

As with all work done for this class, a Research Paper must concern the area and time period covered in the class, i.e. prehistory to 500 BCE in some part of the Ancient Near East or its environs, but within these geographical and chronological constraints you may delve into any aspect of life in the Ancient Near East. No Research Paper will be accepted if I have not seen a draft of it by the beginning of the thirteenth week! You may, of course, turn the draft in before that time. Credit up to 50 points will be awarded based on improvements made in the Final Draft from the suggestions I have appended to the First Draft. As such, First Drafts must be turned back in with the Final Draft. Points will be deducted for failure in the Final Draft (see below) to correct mistakes noted or address issues raised in my commentary appended to the First Draft.

Individual Project/s (up to 250 pts.): Prospectus due in the eleventh week; Project due on the last day of class.

A project of your own inspiration designed in collaboration with me. Because of your interest in a particular field (e.g., Art, Costume History, Architecture, Linguistics, Political Science, Social History, Secondary Education, etc.), you may see a type of project which is applicable to this class but is not the usual sort of work done in history classes. Students in past classes have constructed scale-models of buildings or equipment, assembled archaeological site-reports, written detailed analyses of particular artifacts, and prepared materials for teaching in secondary school. It will earn you more points if your Individual Project, as with most of the other assignments in the class (e.g., ABWS, Midterm Essay), "argues" for something, that is, demonstrates the validity of one perspective on Ancient Near Eastern studies which has been articulated in scholarly discussion about this historical period.

I invite you to come and see me at my office hours and consult with me about any such venture. You will find me open to all sorts of historical investigation and any viable project, with one important exception: the topic of your Individual Project may not overlap significantly with the topic of any other work you've done or plan to do in the class (e.g., an ABWS, a Research Paper, another Project, etc.). When you meet with me, we will discuss the nature of your proposed Individual Project and establish the maximum number of points it will be worth (up to 250 points). You will then write up a Prospectus (a one-page overview of what the project entails) and turn it in to me as a record of our agreement. The Prospectus is due at the beginning of the eleventh week of class. No Project may be done without having an Prospectus approved first.

At the time the Project is due, you must also turn in a written summary of your work, outlining the reasoning behind it, what it "proves," how it unfolded, what the end product represents, how it meets the criteria established in the Prospectus and a bibliography of all the sources you consulted in the process of its creation. The copy of the Prospectus which I returned and approved to the student must be included with the Final Project. The evaluation of an Individual Project will be based on its inherent difficulty, the thoroughness of the research underlying it, the quality of the final product, the cogency of any argument inherent in its design, and the amount of work that was necessary to complete it.

Students may do more than one Individual Project, but if so, the Projects must center around different topics and have no overlapping subject material or bibliography.

Second Annotated Bibliography/Websearch (ABWS 2) (200 pts.): Due on the last day of class.

A second Annotated Bibliography/Websearch. You may do this ONLY IF YOU HAVE DONE A FIRST ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY/WEBSEARCH AND YOU MAY NOT TURN IN BOTH A SECOND ABWS AND A RESEARCH PAPER. It should follow the same guidelines as the First Annotated Bibliography/Websearch but should be longer (at least fifteen sources balanced between printed and web-based materials in the same proportion as with the First ABWS) and better managed, showing that you learned something meaningful from your previous attempt at this type of research. The Second ABWS may not cover the same topic as the First ABWS; thus, no source included on the First ABWS may be re-used on the Second ABWS. A student may do only one Second ABWS. The copy of the First ABWS to which my comments were attached must be turned in with the Second ABWS.

Final Draft of Research Paper (150 pts.): Due on the last day of class.

YOU MAY NOT TURN IN BOTH A RESEARCH PAPER AND A SECOND ABWS FOR CREDIT. A final, revised form of the Research Paper incorporating both my corrections and comments returned with the First Draft of the paper and any new information garnered since the draft was turned in. Grades will be based on thoroughness of research and excellence of argumentation. No Research Papers that have not been reviewed in draft form will be accepted! All Final Drafts of Research Papers must be accompanied by the copy of the First Draft which was returned with my comments and corrections attached.

Final Exam (300 pts.):
To be administered at the time scheduled for the Final Exam (see Syllabus).

This is a fact-based test. It will be comprehensive, including material from the entire class. The test will be constructed around lectures, artwork and terms cited in course materials, readings and other assignments. Click here for directions and an outline of the exam. No Finals will be given before or after the scheduled time.

Capstone Paper (250 pts.): Due at the time of the Final Exam (see Syllabus).

A paper on a specific topic of general application to the entire class. Topics are at the student's discretion, but if you have any reservations about your choice of topics you should check it out with me. Those which reflect an unscholarly and unprofessional approach to course material will be deemed unworthy of evaluation and no credit will be given. All in all, the focus of this paper should be your own view of the material in the class and the way in which you make it cohere for yourself, that is, what overarching trend you see in the evolution of ancient Near-Eastern civilization. Or, the paper may address a topic of particular interest to you as long as it is suitable for a class of this sort and spans the various periods of ancient history we have covered in the course.

Because it needs to be comprehensive, I ask that you note in parentheses the Section of the course to which the data you cite belong. That is, if you discuss the Pyramids, please append a notation of this sort (E2), which signifies that this piece of information comes from Section 2, Egypt (the Old Kingdom). Please use this system of notation: E=Egypt, M=Mesopotamia, I=Israel, and the Section numbers as listed in the Course Outline. Click here for a full list of abbreviations and the Sections to which they pertain. Do not combine notations (e.g. E2/3); instead, reference facts which are specific to a certain Section. The comprehensiveness of a Capstone (i.e. how many times it references each Section specifically) will be one important criterion in its ultimate evaluation.

The express purpose of a Capstone Paper is for you to "package" the course material for your own future study (i.e., what you have found most significant and are likely to remember from what was covered in this class) and to find a means by which you can assimilate the disparate and sometimes confusing array of data that comprise an understanding of this field. As such, Capstones do not absolutely require citation of outside bibliography, but since they may be done in conjunction with an ABWS on the same general subject, they are certainly not restricted from including bibliography and outside scholarly sources. But please note that, while personal, these papers should not be "diaries," that is, unscholarly or informal in any fashion. What beliefs you hold beyond the scope of historical inquiry and that lack adequate basis in fact have no part here. A Capstone should reflect your work in this course—a history class!—and be substantive and critical in its approach to course material. It should be about ten pages long, constituting 25 points per well-written page.

In addition to comprehensiveness, the evaluation of Capstones will rest on the criteria used in all writing projects done for this class: sound reasoning, reliable use of data and clarity of expression and argumentation. One exception: you may write in the first person sometimes, inasmuch as this is a personal reflection of a scholarly viewpoint. Remember, however, that the balancing of your own and general scholarly concerns is critical to your success in this project. So, do not overuse the first person and, as always, avoid the second person. In general, never go where no sensible historian would follow.



A Guide to Writing in History and Classics