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Course Information

Instructor Info:Kimberly Chang
Office Extension x5668
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Wednesday
02:30 PM - 05:20 PM Cole Science Center 101

This course is for Division III students who are in their final semester and whose projects are based on ethnography, interviewing, oral history, community-engaged research, and other participatory methodologies. The course will be organized around students' Division III projects and will focus on writing as a critical juncture in the research process when questions of interpretation and representation loom large. We will begin by considering some interpretive strategies and writing choices that may help students find the forms needed to write within and across the communities that comprise their research. Students will be responsible for presenting their Division III work-in-progress several times during the semester and for providing written and verbal feedback on one another's work.

Course Objectives:

This weekly seminar is designed to provide a supportive and stimulating intellectual community during the last stage of the Division III process.  We will spend the first three weeks experimenting with several different interpretive methods for working with field notes, interview transcripts, and other qualitative documentation.  Over the semester, we will use in-class exercises and prompts to help you generate short pieces of writing that you may develop into larger sections or even chapters of your Division III.  These exercises are also designed to help reinforce the building blocks—descriptive, reflexive, and analytical—of strong qualitative writing. 

Students are expected to spend roughly 8-10 hours a week of preparation and work outside of class time.  Weekly attendance, preparation, and participation in discussions is expected at all classes except in case of serious illness or family emergency.  If you are unable to attend class due to illness or emergency, please let me know in advance via e-mail.

Beginning Feb. 12, we will workshop pieces of writing from four students each week (roughly 30 minutes each).  One week prior to workshopping your draft, you should post it to the Moodle course website.  Go to and log in using your e-mail username and password:

1.     Scroll down to the date of your workshop and click on the workshop icon.

2.     Select “Add a new discussion topic.”

3.     Fill in the required fields for “Subject” and “Message” (here is where you can post any questions, concerns, or specific issues you would like the class to focus on in reading your piece).  Then drag and drop your document into the “Attachment” box.  (Note: If you are using Safari as your internet browser, you cannot drag and drop, and will have to upload your document instead).

4.     Choose whether you want to receive email copies of posts to this forum.

5.     Select “Post to forum.”

On the day of your workshop, be prepared to briefly introduce your piece and situate it in the context of your larger project and goals.

Evaluation Criteria:


1.     work interpretively with the “raw materials” of your research (e.g., fieldnotes, transcripts, memos) in order to develop, write, and revise sections or chapters of your Division III

2.     workshop these pieces of writing in class three times over the course of the semester

3.     read and provide both written and oral feedback on each other’s writing on a weekly basis

Additional Info:

Required Readings

Narayan, Kirin. (2012). Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. University of Chicago Press.

While the primary readings for this course will be draft chapters or sections from your Division III, we will also read chapters from Narayan’s book on ethnographic and creative non-fiction writing (chapters posted on Moodle).  In addition, as questions evolve over the semester, I will post to the course website select articles on interpretive methods, writing strategies, and examples of strong qualitative writing (including some Hampshire Div IIIs!).  You are also encouraged to share readings that you find helpful and which may be useful to your peers.  All readings will be posted on the Moodle course web site.  Be sure to check the web site weekly for class announcements or any changes to the syllabus.  Important: Please come to class with the readings in hand to discuss, either hard copy or you may use your computer to view them.


Reading Each Other’s Writing

Together we will generate a list of shared criteria that we will use as a class to guide our reading and feedback.  In general, when reading and commenting on each other’s work, be generous, thoughtful, and constructively critical with your feedback.  Even though you may know little about the subject matter, try to provide feedback that you yourself would find useful with regard to clarity, organization, and development of ideas, use of examples to illustrate and support interpretations, and the integration of primary and secondary sources. 

Since this seminar focuses on participatory forms of research, we will also help each other grapple with questions of interpretation and representation of the people and places that constitute our respective projects:

·      How do we stay close to the grounds of lived experience while drawing out larger analytic questions and themes to frame our writing?

·      How do we find and articulate our questions and themes?

·      How do we represent multiple and even conflicting voices and perspectives—including our own—on the page? 

·      How can we make use of other writers and secondary sources in ways that deepen and complicate our analysis without forcing an interpretation?

·      How do we show how we came to know what we know?

We will explore these and other questions about interpretation, writing, and representation as they arise in relation to individual projects over the course of semester.