Incremental drafts

[The following notes are from Steven Kleiman’s 2010 Undergraduate Seminar in Computational Commutative Algebra and Algebraic Geometry at MIT.]

Another innovation, this spring of 2010, was requiring incremental drafts of the term papers.  First,  the week after spring break,  all ten students handed in a one-page outlines, showing that they done preliminary research of a topic and made a stab at organizing it.  The outlines were good, but usually overly ambitious.   The next week, the first third of the paper was due.  I read each draft, and discussed it individually with its author.  The discussions lasted about fifteen minutes and dealt mostly with mechanical issues of organization, style and formating.  The next week, the  first two-thirds was  due, and the week afterwards,  an entire first draft.  Again, I read the drafts, copy-edited them, and discussed them with the authors in conferences.  Half the class, five students, followed the schedule, and the procedure worked well for them.  However, one of the five found that she had to change topics.   A sixth student passed in only an entire first draft, a bit late, and made one revision before the end of the term.  The other four students received incompletes, two on medical grounds.  Two of the incompletes were completed during finals week.  Most of the students and I have met after the term to discuss possible further improvements, although they have not all made these improvements.  In addition, one student suggested that the papers be published at the course web site, and most students have agreed in an email to me to let their papers be published.

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