Medieval Rus′

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Paper guidelines


The research project in this course has five basic stages: topic, bibliography, first version, seminar discussion, and final version. Because learning to referee papers and to revise one’s own work in response to referee reports is one of the goals of this course, all deadlines are firm. Please do not ask for extensions. The first version is not a draft; it must be a polished, finished paper, of the sort that you would submit for publication in a journal.

Topic: Due Mon, 08-31

Browse through the Zenkovsky anthology (or something equivalent) and a history of the literature of medieval Rus′ and select a topic for your research as soon as possible. You are responsible for selecting your own topic, but you must consult with the instructor about your selection, primarily to ensure that it is not too ambitious or comprehensive for a one-semester project. Your research paper topic must be different from your oral presentation topics and no two students may select the same research topic (first come, first served). Topics must be approved by Wed, 01-21 so that you will have enough time to prepare the bibliographic assignment outlined below and to order any materials you may need from interlibrary loan.

Bibliography: Due Mon, 10-05

A comprehensive bibliography on your research topic is due by the beginning of our regular class meeting on Mon, 03-02. Bibliographies should adhere to a coherent and standard system for structure and transliteration; either follow a standard style sheet (such as the MLA or Chicago guides) or imitate the style used in a responsible Slavistic journal of your choice. That is, you are not required to use MLA or any other specific system, but you are required to be sensible and consistent. Citations must include page references except where those are inappropriate (e.g., unpaginated web publication, a reference that truly points to an entire source document, and not a portion thereof). See also the general guides to research strategies and transliteration.

Bibliographies should be as comprehensive as is practical, incorporating all relevant materials in all Slavic and western European languages (including those you do not read yourself; see your instructor for advice should this situation arise). This means that you need to select a topic that can be researched adequately in one semester.

Begin by searching the Slovar′ knizhnikov i knizhnosti drevnei Rusi, serial bibliographies (such as the MLA bibliography), as well as on-line library catalogues (not just at Pitt; if you haven’t done this before, library assistants can provide technical advice). I usually rely on the Harvard collection (connect to and search Books in Hollis+) or the one at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (, but any major Slavic collection will do. Start your bibliographic work early, so that you can make interlibrary loan requests as soon as possible (ideally, no later than the end of January); like professional Slavistic scholars, you will need to use interlibrary loan to examine those major works related to your topic that are not in the Pitt collection. You do not want to discover only in the middle of March, when the first version of your paper is due, that the Pitt libraries lack a publication that is crucial to your research. Resource X was not available to me is acceptable in course papers only where it would be acceptable in professional publications, such in the case of unique archival materials. If a publication not at Pitt can be obtained by interlibrary loan, you are responsible for obtaining it.

Your richest bibliographic results will usually come from running recent bibliographies of publications that deal with your topic. This involves finding a few useful works in recent publications, adding the bibliographic citations you find in these works to your own master bibliography, and then following the trail by repeating the process. When you repeatedly come up with no new useful works, you have probably found everything there is to be found, at which point you should stop. Include only sources that seem as if they will be useful for further research; you do not need to find every work that mentions your topic in passing, but you should find every one that deals with it seriously. The most promising sources for bibliography in this area are usually recent scholarly editions of texts (although Russian publications are still notorious for neglecting non-Russian scholarship).

You must keep a bibliographic log outlining your research path (which works you consulted, how you found them, when you placed your interlibrary loan orders, etc.) and you must submit it with your bibliography. The purpose of the log is twofold: it helps you remember what you have already examined, so that you don’t repeat your steps, and it lets your instructor see where you may have gone wrong if it turns out that you missed something significant. Do not waste excessive time on formatting your log or documenting every step you take; although it is required, the log is not as much a formal part of your assignment as it is a research aid for you and a diagnostic aid for your instructor. Keep it up to date as you work; this is easier than reconstructing it later.

If you come across a source that may be useful to a fellow student in the course, please feel free to pass it along. Because one goal of this project is to gain experience in conducting primary research, please do not ask for assistance with your project from anyone other than the instructor, with whom you may consult at any time should you have any questions.

First version: Mon, 11-23

The first version of your research paper is due at the beginning of class on Mon, 04-13. You should email your paper to all member of the class; email addresses are listed on our participants page.

Your first version must be a polished, finished paper, which you would not be embarrassed to submit for professional evaluation (for a grade, for presentation at a conference, for publication, etc.). This is not a rough draft, and you should not leave holes in the paper that you intend to fill in when you write the final version. Rather, you should regard the March version as a finished product. Papers must be in English. If you do not have English-language writing proficiency roughly comparable to that of an educated native speaker of English, you must have your paper edited for language and style before you submit it. This requirement is based on the expectation of Anglophone Slavistic journals that authors will submit contributions in correct academic English, and will not expect the journal editors to be responsible for that type of correction.

Seminar discussion: Mon, 11-30 and Wed, 12-02

Read your classmates’ papers in time to discuss them on Mon,11-30 and Wed, 12-02 and prepare written comments (see below), which you should plan to distribute to all members of the seminar. We will devote the meetings of Mon, 11-30 and Wed, 12-02 to discussion of these papers.

These discussions are the focal point of the research paper. As you prepare your comments on your colleagues’ papers, you should imagine yourselves as journal referees who are responsible for advising an editor on whether a paper should be accepted as is, reconsidered after revision (revise and resubmit), or rejected as unsuitable for publication. While students are used to writing papers for teachers, and teachers are used to reading students’ papers, scholars evaluate and critique one another’s work in a very different way, and the purpose of this peer review is to give you the opportunity to participate in that type of scholarly process. As you read the papers, you should mark them up with small comments, suggestions, and corrections, although you are not responsible for copy-editing every misspelling or typographical error. You should also prepare the sort of brief written report (one page or less is usually sufficient, unless there are a lot of problems with the submission) that you would provide to a journal editor about the article under review, recommending publication, revision, or rejection, and substantiating your recommendation, whatever it may be. Comments, suggestions, and corrections that are too long or too general to fit comfortably in the margins of the paper itself should be included in the report.

Those who are unfamiliar with the conventions of journal refereeing may wish to consult authentic guidelines from the Russian review and Slavic and East European journal (SEEJ) and a sample referee report used in this course in a previous semester.

Final version: Due Sat, 12-05

Final versions of your papers, revised in response to referee reports, are due at the beginning of the last course meeting, Sat, 12-05. Papers will be evaluated according to the quality of the bibliography, first version (remember that this should be a polished paper, and not a rough draft), and final version. (Your evaluation of your classmates’ papers is a separate grade component.)