It has been a very productive semester in my Research Seminar in Urban Studies course. Teaching this course is always a nail-biter, for one never knows if the students will be able to get where they wish to be (and I need them to be) by the end of the semester. In a perfect world, we would have a two semester research seminar sequence, but given the scheduling limitations and a heavy set of general education and major requirements, a two semester sequence would probably prove too onerous to schedule. How do you teach research in your urban studies or urban history courses?
I start with several assignments in research techniques. We cover field research, oral history, and the use of quantitative and qualitative primary sources. We go over how to write a bibliography in the Chicago or Turabian style. We go over proper use of citations. (I cover all of this in other courses, but it is never imprinted in the students’ minds the way it is in the research seminar, where real research is unfolding.) We write book reviews. We have paper writing workshops in which the entire class critiques everyone else’s first draft. We have one-on-one discussions on the topic and look at the rough draft together in a private meeting.
I am so pleased with this year’s topics. They include: urban transportation, after-school programs, Chinese restaurants, women owned restaurants, memorial squares, urban universities and crime, inner-city schools, Filene’s Basement, co-housing, communes, urban media and women’s self-image.