Lab Reports


Due date: No more than one week after the pertinent lab

The central features of this course will be our hands-on work: our textual technology labs and archival visits. The point of these activities isn’t simple tourism. While I certainly hope you find the labs and archive visits interesting and—dare I write—even fun, I include so many activities because I believe real understanding of book history (writ large) requires direct, hands-on engagement with media, both historical and contemporary. It is one thing to discuss how letterpress reshaped communication; it is another thing altogether to compose a line of type or pull a press. You should approach our labs analytically, asking how these activities illuminate or complicate our readings, and how doing or seeing helps you think in new ways about our course topics and readings.

To encourage this kind of analysis, Mr. Smith or I will post to the class blog (using the tag “Assignments”) a specific question, critical activity, or writing prompt for each lab. You post your response as a new post on the class blog (also using the tag “Assignments”).

The Nitty-Gritty Details

  1. You are responsible for completing at least 10 lab reports through the semester. You may complete more if you wish, and we will record only your 10 highest grades; in other words, completing more will give you a better shot at a high grade on this assignment. Note: that you have decided not to complete the lab report for a given lab or archive visit does not excuse you from attending and participating. In those cases, we will expect you to be present and enthusiastically engaged—our regular attendance policies apply—but you will have no obligation following that class period.
  2. Your report for a given lab is due no more than one week following the lab activity. I will not accept late reports, period.
  3. I cannot emphasis more strongly that you should not wait to start writing reports. Let me repeat that: do not wait until lab 5 to begin writing reports. I assign only 10 reports to give you some flexibility during the semester; it is up to you to make that flexibility a boon rather than a bane.
  4. You can earn up to 10 points for each well-developed report; you will receive 0 points for a given lab if no report is submitted. At the end of the semester we will tally points for your 10 highest-graded lab reports for your overall grade in this category. We will discuss what “well developed” means in class, but in brief: a serviceable report will earn 8 points while 9 and 10 will be reserved for especially thorough and thoughtful work. If at the end of the semester you have 100 points, you will receive full credit for your lab reports assignment. Reports that demonstrate exceptional thought or insight may garner up to 1 point extra credit. I cannot comment on every posted report, though Mr. Smith, our practicum students, or I will occasionally interject on the blog when something in a post catches our attention. You should interpret such a comment as engagement, not (necessarily) sanction; conversely, you should not interpret lack of comment as criticism.

On Blogging

We engage with the ideas of the course through public writing on a course blog for a number of reasons:

  • All writing—even academic writing—is being reshaped by online modes of publication. Many academics maintain personal research blogs in which they try out their ideas and get feedback before developing articles or even books. Outside of academia, public, online writing plays an increasing and essential role in many fields. I believe its essential for modern college students to develop skill crafting an online writing persona and I want to foster that development.
  • In a related point, blogs give you the opportunity to experiment with your writing, composing arguments that integrate links, quotations, images, video, and other online media as evidence.
  • Blogging allows for a broader spectrum of participation in the class. Even shy students can contribute to a course blog.
  • Blog posts give you the chance to learn from each other. You’ll read your colleague’s writing and, hopefully, learn from it or be challenged by it.
  • Public blogging allows us to connect to larger communities outside of our classroom. Who knows? Perhaps the author of an article you blog about will respond directly…

You should not treat your reports like a secondary or casual assignment simply because we are using the blog medium. Instead, think of your reports as a kind of evolving research paper. They have the same importance and weight and seriousness, and I expect that some of the ideas you explore in them will contribute to your larger unessay assignments.

How to write for the blog

Our course website is based on WordPress. One of the class graduate students will create an account for you. You will receive an email with your login information. If you’ve never posted in WordPress before, visit the WordPress Codex for instructions. You can also find useful articles here about incorporating other media into your reports.