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Questions and Answers


Is attendance taken in this course?

We do not take attendance for the whole class activities. Tutorials are optional, but tutors do keep track of attendance according to university policy for smaller learning environments.

Is it a problem if I have a conflict with the Tuesday or Thursday evening sessions?

With a class of this size, there will always be students who have to miss a whole class meeting. We will do everything we can to make it possible to catch up on presentations and discussions from these sessions, typically with recordings you can access afterward. We do still hope you will participate if you are able, as more students means more perspectives and ideas can enter into discussion!


Do I actually determine my own mark?

Yes! Of course, your mark must be justified by the learning you describe in your self-evaluation and demonstrate in your portfolio. But recognizing and evaluating what you have learned is a core part of the learning process for the course. That means you have to think about the learning outcomes and standards for the course and match what you have accomplished to these. The more time you leave for this process, the more opportunity you have to share your thinking and get feedback from your course tutor and to modify your approach to get the learning outcomes and marks you seek.

Can I include multiple kinds of portfolio components?

Yes, definitely! Depending on your learning goals and approach, you will probably submit a combination of different kinds of short responses and potentially other kinds of components for your portfolio. As long as your total submission is between 2500 and 3500 words (depending on your goals; not including the words in your bibliography of sources cited) and demonstrates your understanding of a good breadth of course units, you can show your learning through whatever combination of elements you find valuable and enjoyable to prepare.

How many components should my portfolio contain?

That depends on your goal and approach for the course. If you are aiming for a “pass” and are not writing an essay, a combination of 7-10 short responses and reading journal excerpts totalling around 2000-2500 words is probably a good target, for example. If you are signed up for a numerical mark and aiming for a “distinction” you will submit work with a somewhat larger total wordcount (closer to 3500) because you are demonstrating more thorough engagement with course materials. If you are submitting a longer essay, it will most likely take the place of 4-5 shorter components.

Do my portfolio submissions need to cover every unit? Can I include multiple responses addressing the same unit or prompt?

An important aspect of the learning outcomes for the course is showing your engagement with a breadth of topics and ideas from the history of science. This will mean different things depending on your personal goals and the mark you are seeking. Depending on the component, a response may be focused on a single course unit or may combine materials and ideas from multiple units. All together, including responses that speak to all (or almost all) of the weekly units is the best way to demonstrate your breadth of learning. If you are aiming for a “pass” mark, a smaller number of units should be fine. It will benefit your learning if you attempt a variety of activities, but some topics can be fruitfully approached from multiple angles and it is up to you to find a balance of breadth vs depth that meets your learning goals. If there are particular short response topics that you want to explore at greater length with more sources, consider talking with your course tutor about potentially expanding your response into a short essay as one of your components. You will not be penalised for not writing about units from strike weeks. The most important thing, whatever you do, is to explain your approach and how it shows a breadth of engagement in your self evaluation.

What is the most important feature of my portfolio submission?

The citations in your submission are how you demonstrate your learning. Refer to the “How to Use a Paragraph” exercise for discussion and illustrations of the kinds of citations we expect to see (mainly paraphrases and summaries). If you are aiming for a “pass” mark, your citations will probably be concentrated around a smaller number of sources and may especially feature one of the course textbooks. For “distinction” marks, the main way you will show the breadth, depth, and mastery of your engagement in the course is through the greater number and precision of your citations. It is absolutely necessary to include accurate citations to course materials in your submission in order to demonstrate sufficient learning to pass.

Should I cite lectures?

Lectures are meant to be an entry-point into other course materials, so citing these is a lower priority than citing items from the resource list. However, especially if you are aiming for a “pass” mark, you may want to have a citation for ideas that you have not had a chance to follow up in the readings. To cite a lecture by Dr Barany, refer to the slide number from the collected slide pdf for that unit, e.g. “(Unit 6, s. 12)”. To cite a guest lecture, give the lecturer's name and the slide number from that lecturer's pdf of slides, e.g. “(Engelmann guest lecture, s. 15)” or a timepoint from the video if a slide number is not available e.g. “(Engelmann guest lecture, 12:31)”. In your bibliography, you may create a sub-section called Lectures Cited and list the units and guest speakers for lectures you have cited.

May I include images or figures?

Yes, but be careful! Like direct quotations, images and figures do not in themselves show us very much about what you have understood as a student. They may be necessary for your analysis, but always remember that images and figures (like direct quotations) are there to support your analysis, not to substitute for it. If you include an image or figure, be sure to give it enough attention in your own writing (often this means writing more about an image rather than less). Also as with direct quotations, make sure every image has a proper attribution in the text and a full source citation in your bibliography. Do not include images merely for illustration or to substitute for your own analytic description of your source material, as these uses do not show your understanding.

How should I structure my bibliography and citations?

Please use parenthetical citations in your portfolio components, with the author(s), year, and (wherever applicable) page numbers. At the end of your submission, include a combined bibliography with the full citations for all the sources you have cited. This bibliography is not included in your word count of 2500-3500 words. We suggest that you organise your bibliography by course unit, following the structure of the resource list.

What is included in the word count of 2500-3500 words?


  • ✔ the full text of portfolio components, whether they are short responses, essays, or otherwise.
  • ✔ titles you give to your portfolio components (you can be creative with titles but you can also just give it a descriptive title to identify the component).
  • ✔ in-text citations, e.g. (Daston and Park 1998, p. 14).

Not included:

  • ✖ cover-sheet (we will post this with submission instructions in April).
  • ✖ self-evaluation.
  • ✖ bibliography with full citations of items cited in your portfolio.
How strict is the maximum of 3500 words?

While individual portfolio components can vary in length around the guidelines given in the assessment details, the overall limit of 3500 words is a strict limit. We think it should be possible to demonstrate your learning for whatever mark you have in view in 2000-3500 words. The School of Social and Political Science has a rather rigid rule for penalizing coursework above the stated limit, so do take care that your total wordcount for the portfolio components falls under 3500 words. See the previous question and the guidance in the submission template for what is included in this total.

Is it realistic to plan to finish the assessment by the end of week 11?

Yes, the assessment is designed to be completed during the pre-exams part of the semester, i.e. end of week 11. It is due a little later to allow for flexibility and contingencies, and to avoid students needing to request extensions.

intro/questions_and_answers.txt · Last modified: 2023/01/19 19:57 by mjb