PDF version of this assignment.

Due Date

  • 24 hours before class on the day the reading you are writing about is due


As Natalie Houston observes, various stages of the research process in literary studies — including selecting or collecting texts, looking for patterns, discovering relationships, interpreting the significance of these relationships, and developing arguments — are rarely thought about as separate steps. Instead, they are often conflated together and simply called “reading.” The goal of the methodological analyses is to pull these steps apart a little bit (however artificially), helping you to think more deliberately about how we produce knowledge in literary studies, and about what counts as knowledge and why.

The methodological analyses ask you to explicitly consider how scholars make their arguments. You will consider not only what digital tools or methods scholars use, but also how they use evidence, what specifically counts as evidence for their arguments, how they connect this evidence to their larger conclusions, how they organize and structure their arguments, etc.

Some readings throughout the semester are marked with “Methodological Analysis” on our course calendar. Everyone in the class must complete the first methodological analysis of Julie Orlemanski’s article “Scales of Reading” (reading due Monday, January 25; methodological analysis due Sunday, January 24). After that, you will choose 3 more readings marked with “Methodological Analysis” to write about throughout the semester. This means you will write a grand total of 4 methodological analyses, including the first one.

I have marked those texts that I think are the best candidates for this kind of writing. However, if you want to write a methodological analysis about a text I haven’t marked as such, I’m open to this. Just email me before to let me know.

So What Should You Write About?

What you write about will change depending on the article you are writing about. But in general, you should consider the following questions when writing your methodological analyses:

  • What is this author’s argument?
  • What method(s) do they employ in making this argument?
  • What kind(s) of evidence do they use to make this argument?
  • How do they use this evidence to prove their argument?
  • How do they structure their argument?
  • Is this methodology effective for the kind of knowledge claim the author is making? Why or why not?

You do not have to answer all of these questions in each methodological analysis. For some methodological analyses, you might find it more productive or feasible to only discuss one portion of an author’s argument; for other methodological analyses, you may want to discuss the article as a whole. What you write about and how you structure your methodological analysis will be up to you. However, your methodological analysis should be just that: an analysis of the methodology the author employs in their article. As with any analysis, I expect that your writing will be specific, meaning I expect you will hone in on specific aspects of each author’s argument.

Thinking explicitly about methodology is not something we are generally trained to do in English departments. Like the lab reports, the methodological analyses might also take you out of your comfort zone. That’s ok; in fact, that’s a main feature of this course. As with all of your assignments in this class, I place a premium on willing experimentation, flexibility, and persistence.

Details & Requirements

  • You must complete 4 methodological analyses throughout the semester, including the first one (due Sunday, January 24), which everyone is required to do.
  • Methodological analyses are due 24 hours before class on the day the reading you are writing about is due. This gives me enough time to read your methodological analyses before our class meets. I will not accept late methodological analyses, and you cannot make up missed methodological analyses.
  • Shoot for about 750 to 1000 words, although to be honest I won’t be counting. Each methodological analysis should be just long enough to display and extend your thinking about the methodologies employed in the article you are writing about, and no more. Consider your genre and medium, and avoid writing full essays.
  • You will post methodological analyses to our course site. Please categorize your posts according to the methodological analysis you are completing (so “Methodological Analysis 1” for the first methodological analysis, and so on).
  • The lab reports and methodological analyses are together worth 20% of your course grade, and they are graded on completion. Each methodological analysis is worth 10% of your total blogging grade.

I will read every methodological analysis before class, and my hope is that we will discuss them in class. I will also occasionally comment on them via our course site when I feel I have something substantive to contribute. You should not interpret a comment from me on a methodological analysis as either validation or condemnation of a post; nor should you interpret a lack of commenting from me as validation or condemnation. I am very happy to give you more specific feedback on your methodological analyses in office hours.

See “How to Post” for more information about how to post to the site.