PUBPOL 496S: Public Policy Honors Seminar

Readers needed:  Professionals in a variety of public policy fields, to be paired with specific student projects.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Christina Gibson-Davis and Prof. Ken Rogerson

Honors students working on their honors thesis. In the spring (495S), students formulate their research question, conduct a literature review, write a research proposal, identify data and information sources, and learn the relevant research techniques. In the fall (496S), they complete the process of writing their thesis.

Student Writing Assignment

What are students writing? They are writing honors thesis: project papers about 12,000-20,000 words.
For whom? For themselves, their advisor and instructor, in the first instance, but also for whoever else might be interested in the topic. However, the thesis is not distributed, but it is stored permanently in the Duke library as a source that anyone can access.
Where would such writing typically be found? The writing is akin to academic journal writing.
Why would someone usually read it? Because they are interested in the topic.

Examples of Readers


Student – Reader Interactions

Interaction #1

  • Oct. 21: Everything written to date sent to Reader as well as workshop group
  • “Meet” to discuss feedback (preferably by Skype if not in person)

Interaction #2

  • Around November 9th: Full draft sent to Reader as well as instructor and advisor
  • “Meet” to discuss feedback

Send Final to Reader as well as Instructor and Advisor

  • Dec. 7th (estimate)

Link to Syllabus:

Syllabus PubPol Honors Seminar, Fall 2014 (updated syllabus coming soon)

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More

Instructor’s response questions

  • Does the student do a good job framing and presenting the research question? What parts of the introduction are especially helpful in understanding the student’s research problem and its importance?
  • Is it clear how this research fits in with prior research (shows a gap)?
  • In the results and discussion parts: which passages do you find particularly compelling? Where are you skeptical? Which parts are presented logically? Which parts are confusing?
  • Does the results address the hypotheses or what is missing (e.g., is the student answering what they think they have asked)?

Reader feedback example

PubPol 496 Thesis feedback example