MTS 501

Introduction to Graduate Research in TSB & MTS

Northwestern University
MTS 501 Wednesday 9:00-11:50am
Frances Searle Building, 2-378
Fall, 2016

Professor Aaron Shaw
Frances Searle Building, room 2-142
M 10am-12pm, W 3:30-5:30pm or by appointment


Description & Overview
Learning Objectives
Assignments & Evaluation
Course Schedule

Description & Overview

The goal of this seminar is to introduce first-year students in the MTS and TSB Ph.D. programs to the fields they cover and how to be a productive and responsible graduate student. ( )

Learning Objectives

Throughout the quarter, participants in the seminar will achieve the following goals:

We will do this through a combination of readings, writings, activities, in-class discussions, and guest visits from MTS and TSB faculty.

Assignments & Evaluation

In addition to the reading and active participation in seminar discussions, there will be frequent written assignments for this course. Details of the assignments are provided below (or will be soon).

You should complete assigned readings before beginning any written assignments for each week. All written assignments are due 24 hours before class (a.k.a. 9am on Tuesdays each week) via Canvas. Meeting these deadlines each week is important because you will also frequently be assigned a colleague's work to comment on and assess. Submitting your own work on time ensures that you can give and receive the full benefits of peer feedback.

In general, your written assignments for this class can take a somewhat informal, but nevertheless professional tone. When submitting assignments via Canvas, I recommend either uploading files formatted as pdfs or using the WYSIWYG text editor provided in the Canvas discussion threads (I'll show you what I mean). It is your responsibility to ensure that you complete assignments fully and on time. Failure to do so reflects poorly on you and undermines the objectives of the class.

You will be evaluated on your engagement with the material and participation in our class sessions (40%); your timely and effective completion of assignments throughout the quarter, including peer assessment assignments (40%); as well as the final project (20%). ()

Final Project

Link to final project page

The final project for the course will be a ~3000 word written document consisting of two parts: (1) a strategic plan for your graduate school career and (2) a research planning document for a project you plan to conduct. I will provide additional details of the Final project requirements and expectations well before the end of the quarter. Final projects are due via Canvas at 12pm (Central time) on December 7, 2015. ()

A Note About the Course Schedule

You should expect this syllabus to be a dynamic document and you will notice that there are a few places left blank or marked "To Be Determined." Although the core expectations for this class are fixed, the details of readings and assignments will shift. As a result, there are three important things to keep in mind:

You can always give me feedback and suggestions related to what works and what doesn't about the course. I will explicitly solicit your input a few times during the quarter, but be bold and feel free to submit your feedback to me at any time in any format. In the past, I have made substantive changes to courses on-the-fly in response to student feedback. I expect to do the same here. ()

Course Schedule

September 21 — Introductions
September 28 — Build professional community & networks

In-class guest: Darren Gergle


Writings & Activities

October 5 — Get funding, fellowships, grants


Writings & Activities

October 12 — Get things done

In-class guest: Anne Marie Piper


Writings & Activities

Is it worth the time? (xkcd, by Randall Munroe)

October 19 — Craft your professional identity

In-class guest: Larissa Buchholz


Writings & Activities

October 26 — Collaborate and play well with others

In-class guest: Haoqi Zhang


Writings & Activities

November 2 — Write and publish

Writings & Activities

November 8 — Take the show on the road

In-class guest (9am!): Michelle Shumate


Writings & Activities

November 16 — Class cancelled.
November 23 — Thanksgiving holiday vacation (no class)
November 30 — Plan for the long haul

In-class guest: Dan O'Keefe


December 7 — Final Papers Due at 12pm


I will add links to useful/fun resources here as they come up in conversation or become relevant during the quarter. Please send me any suggestions! ()


In-class device usage policy

Please refrain from any uses of digitally networked devices or other distraction machines that do not directly contribute to your engagement with the course material. If you struggle to comply with this policy, I may recommend you temporarily put away your device(s) or leave the classroom. ()

Confidentiality of Peers’ Work

Throughout the course, you will be receiving, reading and commenting on classmates’ writing. These writing assignments are for class use only. You may not share them with anybody outside of class without explicit written permission from the document’s author and pertaining to the specific piece. ()

Confidentiality of In-Class Discussions

It is essential to the success of this class that all participants feel comfortable discussing questions, thoughts, ideas, fears, reservations, apprehensions and confusion about works-in-progress, writing, the research process, and scholarly experiences more generally. Therefore, you may not create any audio or video recordings during class time nor share verbatim comments with those not in class nor are you allowed to share using other methods -- e.g., social media -- any comments linked to people’s identities unless you get clear and explicit permission. If you want to share general impressions or specifics of in-class discussions with those not in class, please do so without disclosing personal identities or details. ()

Academic Integrity

You are responsible for reading and abiding by the Northwestern University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity.

Make sure to document all of your work and acknowledge the ideas and work of others. Possible sanctions, as per the university guidelines, include reduced or failing grade, a defined period of probation or suspension, exclusion from the university and notation on the official record. You must not, in any way, misrepresent your work or be party to another student’s failure to maintain academic integrity. Do not ever copy other people’s words without quotation marks (do not do this even if you are "just" taking notes) and always use proper citations. Do not ever refer to other people’s work without attribution. DO NOT cheat, plagiarize or disregard the University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity in any way, it is NOT worth it! When in doubt, err on the side of giving more credit to the original source rather than less. Feel free to ask me (the instructor) for clarification about this or related matters. ()

Deadlines, Absences, etc.

Emergencies happen. Unanticipated obstacles arise. If you cannot make a deadline, please contact me to figure out a schedule that will work. If you must miss a class, contact me. You are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc. from fellow students in case of an absence. You are also responsible for delivering any assignments in a timely way even if you are not present in class.

An additional word about extensions and incompletes: I strongly discourage them. In principle, I have no problem with extensions or incompletes. In practice, they tend to be a pain for everybody involved. If you absolutely must submit an assignment late, assume that I will require at least 1 month (4 weeks) to grade it. Please take this into account if you will need me to to submit a grade in order to receive your fellowship/diploma/visa/etc. by a particular date. ()


I am totally happy to provide accommodations as needed. Any student requesting accommodations related to a disability or other condition is required to register with AccessibleNU (847-467-5530) and provide professors with an accommodation notification from AccessibleNU, preferably within the first two weeks of class. All information will remain confidential. For more information, visit AccessibleNU. ()

Sexual Harassment

All participants in this class are bound by the Northwestern University sexual harassment policy. Please note, that the core of the policy states, "no member of the Northwestern community may sexually harass any other member of the community." I take this very seriously. Please review the policy and speak to me if you have any questions or concerns. ()

Email protocol

I receive too much email and I sometimes fail to keep up. If, for some reason, I do not respond to your message within 48 hours, please do not take it personally and feel free to re-send the message with a polite reminder. This will help me and I will not resent you for it. ()

This site licensed under a cc-by-sa 4.0 license and created using Markdown and Kevin Burke's markdown.css stylesheet. Special thanks to Eszter Hargittai whose previous MTS 501 syllabuses and generous mentoring heavily influenced this course design. ()