RICHARD L. W. CLARKE


 

 

 

FOUN3099 CARIBBEAN STUDIES
ADVICE TO MY SUPERVISEES
 

This is your first and perhaps only taste at the undergraduate level of expanding your knowledge on your own by doing research on a topic of your choice and formulating your findings in the form of research paper.  Doing and writing up research are perhaps two of the most important skills with which you will leave university, so this is an exercise you should take seriously and work at diligently.

The Work Entailed:

Students should aim to write about 30 type-written, double-spaced pages plus a list of works consulted (bibliography) in all.  (Some students write as much as 40 pages but anything beyond this is too much.)  This usually translates in practice into approximately three chapters of around 10 pages each.  These are usually also preceded by an introduction / preface which, though, it appears first in the study is often, if not always, the last thing to be composed as it most often functions as a sort of updated / revised / expanded version of your initial proposal and a summation of what your are trying to accomplish in the study. 

You should aim to revise each draft chapter several times prior to submitting it to me.  Each time you revise it, it should improve, become clearer, more refined, etc.  Type each chapter on a computer and submit it accompanied by the list of works consulted.  Submit an expanded version of the bibliography with each subsequent chapter.  When a draft is returned, make corrections or revisions to the digital version stored on your computer.  If you follow this advice, you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary repetition as the deadline draws near.

I often advise my supervisees to devote the first chapter to laying the theoretical framework of the topic in question and each of the subsequent chapters to a close practical examination of relevant literary or other texts.  For example, in a study devoted to the treatment of Caribbean identity in the novels of George Lamming, the first chapter would conceivably examine various theories concerning the nature of identity and, more particularly, attempts in the Caribbean and by Lamming himself to intervene in this debate. There might also be room here to address related questions concerning literary theory: e.g. how exactly is identity represented in a literary text?  Chapter two might then be devoted to an in-depth exploration of Lamming's treatment of identity in In the Castle of my Skin while the third might do the same for Water with Berries.  Note well: the example above is not binding but merely offered for illustrative purposes.

Agenda:

FOUN3099 is the equivalent of a year-long course as a result of which you should not leave the bulk of /  all your research and writing up till the second semester.  Although much of the first semester may be taken up with deepening your knowledge of the subject in question by reading a wide variety of both primary sources (the particular texts, e.g. a novel by Lamming, you will be examining) and secondary sources (commentaries on those texts, surveys of the issue in question, etc.), students should ideally aim to submit to the supervisor a draft of at least one chapter by the Christmas holidays. 

Your schedule should look something like this:

  • meet with me as soon as possible after the supervisors are announced to discuss your proposal and set an agenda;
  • use the months of September, October and November to sort out your thoughts on the topic in question by reading a wide variety of primary and secondary sources;
  • write and submit a draft of the first chapter by the end of December;
  • digest my comments on chapter one and write and submit a draft of the second chapter by the end of January;
  • digest my comments on chapter two and write and submit a draft of the third chapter by the end of February;
  • digest my comments on chapter three and write and submit a draft of the introduction / preface by the end of March;
  • work on any revisions, corrections, fine tuning, etc. necessary with an eye to meeting the deadline for formal submission in mid-April.

Documentation of Sources:

All course work essays and research papers in the Faculty of Humanities and Education must follow the so-called MLA style (that is, the guidelines issued by the Modern Language Association) in documenting sources (using endnotes and footnotes, composing bibliographies, etc.).  It is your responsibility to acquaint yourself with these guidelines.  Failure to follow these guidelines may cause your Caribbean Study to be failed by your examiners.  Accordingly, please click here for advice on the MLA Guidelines and essay writing in general. 

 
Formal Presentation:

Certain rules concerning the presentation and binding of the study, etc. apply.  These may be obtained from the Faculty office.  It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with these guidelines.  Failure to follow these guidelines may cause your Caribbean Study to be failed by your examiners. 

Your Responsibility:

Remember that the onus is on the supervisee to work diligently on her research project as well as to maintain regular contact with and submit drafts in a timely way to the supervisor.  The supervisor is not responsible for chasing down students and pressing his services on them.  Alternatively, though I would not advise this, you may choose to work and, thus, to sink or swim entirely on your own.

Final Deadline:

Remember that the final deadline is set by the Faculty of Humanities and Education, not by your supervisor, and thus is cast in stone.  Extensions are very rare and given only in response to serious medical conditions (in which case a medical certificate must be provided) or similar pressing, and thus very exceptional, circumstances.  Even in such cases, I might not support an extension for students who have not worked diligently on and made good progress on their research.

 
My Deadline:

Last but not least, please note that I am prepared to offer advice and read any drafts submitted, as the Caribbean Study regulations make clear, up to one month before the deadline (which is usually around the middle of April each year).  After that, there is not much I can do for you.  It is in your interest, therefore, not to leave everything till the last moment.
 

 

 

This site was last updated: February 03, 2011

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