Graduate Research and Professional Development

Instructor: Professor Tim Conley
Class times: Thurs 12:00-15:00
Office: GLN 125
Office hours: Mon 14:00-16:00
E-mail: tconley@brocku.ca
Office phone: (905) 688-5550 ext. 5196

Course overview

This course offers MA candidates information and skill-building opportunities pertaining to scholarly research and professional development. Weekly seminars aim to (a) help candidates tackle specialized and time-sensitive tasks related to graduate studies and professional life (such as research poster preparation, grant applications, and the composition of a CV); (b) strengthen their capabilities as both collaborative and independent researchers; and (c) to prepare for careers inside and outside the university. The overarching goal of the course is to identify and enhance skills and forms of understanding and expression that shall lead MA candidates to success in this degree as well as further work in related fields.


Student evaluation will be based on student performance in the following:
• academic CV (10%) due April 4
• imaginary course outline (5%) due November 8
• annotated bibliography (20%) due November 22
• CFP proposal (10%) due January 24
• revised MRP proposal draft (20%) due February 28
• revised poster draft (10%) due March 28
• reflection on colloquium (5%) due April 29
• seminar participation (20%)

Each of the assignments listed above is described more fully below.

Required Texts

Only one book, David Lodge’s novel Small World, is available for purchase at the bookstore. All other course readings will be handed out by the instructor or can be found online.


Simply: don’t even think about it. Students are referred to Brock University’s official policy on plagiarism, and they are further advised that the instructor has an especially low view of such behaviour.

Medical Emergencies

All students should familiarize themselves with Brock’s Medical Exemption policy and follow its procedures if necessary (see http://www.brocku.ca/healthservices/exemption.php).


September 6: Course Introduction
Visit from: GSA representative
Reading: Department of English MA Policies and Procedures (available on the department’s website)

September 13: Research in the Humanities

Reading: Stefan Collini, “The Character of the Humanities” (from What Are Universities For? (2012))

September 20: Grant Applications and Proposals
Visit from: Dr. Gale Coskan-Johnson, Departmental Grants Officer
Reading: David L. Clark, “Some Notes on Grantspersonship” (2013; easily found online)
Preparation: familiarize yourself with the OGS and SSHRC application webpages

September 27: Conducting Research in the Library (I)
Location: Archives & Special Collections, 10th floor of library (12:30-15:00)
Led by: David Sharron, Head of Archives & Special Collections

October 4: Conducting Research in the Library (II)
Location: Learning Commons, Classroom A (13:00-15:00)
Led by: Justine Cotton, Liaison Librarian

October 8-12: Fall break

October 18: Pedagogy in Practice (I)
Reading: undergraduate essay (you are to prepare and bring your own evaluation of the essay to class)

October 25: Pedagogy in Practice (II)
Discussion: managing seminars and the classroom environment

November 1: Pedagogy in Practice (III)
Discussion: course design

November 8 The Supervisory Relationship
Discussion: the nature of the supervisor-supervisee relationship and its potential values and pitfalls, including practical suggestions for initiating and sustaining this relationship

November 15: Building an Academic Career (I)
Visit from: Dr. Carole Stewart

November 22: Academic Publishing

November 29: Varieties of Publishing
Visit from: Dr. Adam Dickinson
Preparation: bring to class the name and details of two scholarly journals (they must be actively publishing) that interest you and to which you can at least imagine submitting your work at some point in the future

Holiday break

January 10: Academic Conferences (I)
Reading: Lodge, Small World

January 17: Academic Conferences (II)

January 24: Peer Review and the Process of Revision

January 31: Research Proposals (Workshop I)

February 7: Research Proposals (Workshop II)

February 14: Research Proposals (Workshop III)

February 18-22: Reading Week

February 28: Research Posters (Workshop I)
Location: Learning Commons, Classroom A (13:00-15:00)
Led by: Allyson Miller, Learning Services

March 7: Research Posters (Workshop II)

March 14: Research Posters (Workshop III)

March 21: Life in a Doctoral Program
Visit from: Emily Van Haren (MA 2017), doctoral student at

March 28: Building an Academic Career (II)
Visit from: Dr. Mathew Martin

April 4: Academic Skills in Non-Academic Careers
Visit from: Amanda Graveline (MA 2010)
Visit from: Kara Renaud, Career Services (14:00-15:00)

April 25: Research Colloquium
10:00-15:00 in Sankey Chambers

Seminars are designed for group discussion, offering students greater opportunity to express and exchange their own ideas than lectures allow. Students should arrive at seminars on time and having read the work assigned and prepared to talk about it: mere attendance is not synonymous with participation.

Laptops and Other Devices:
The use of laptops in seminar, if necessary, should be discreet and respectful of others. Cell phones, blackberries, and other social media should be shut off during seminar: use of such media in this setting is both disrespectful and demonstrative of poor attention to the course, and may be penalized in participation grades.

Assignments and due dates:
Unless noted otherwise, all assignments are due in hard copy on the due date. Late work is not acceptable in this course, and no re-writes or make-up assignments are permitted for missed or poor work. (Students who require extensions should ask for them from the instructor in person prior to the due date.) All assignments must be formatted according to the guidelines detailed in most recent version of The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

Annotated bibliography:
This is to be an organized and focused bibliography of scholarly works (such as monographs, essays in collections, or journal articles) relevant to your particular field of research and that you expect will provide crucial support to your MRP. The bibliography is to be in MLA format and should demonstrate a clear familiarity with the works it lists. The few (3-5) sentences that follow each item should offer a coherent, critical description of the work. Address a non-specialist academic reader (that is, a literary scholar who works outside your immediate field). Due: November 22.

Imaginary course outline:
Following class discussions about course planning, design an outline of a second- or third-year-level, single-term university course in English. The focus of the course is up to you, but it should fit within the general rubric of an “English” course (talk to the instructor if there are any doubts). The outline should include the following: course code and title; instructor contact information; information on required course texts; a breakdown of the constituent forms of evaluation and assignments (of which there must be at least three different kinds; e.g., essays, quizzes, seminar presentations, exams, and so on); due dates for any assignments; any rules concerning late penalties, extensions on assignments, attendance, etc.; a plan for ten lectures and ten seminars, plus a “course introduction” lecture. Due: November 8.

CFP proposal:
Locate an appropriate CFP (which you must append) and craft a persuasive proposal in response. Be sure to meet all the requirements laid out in the CFP. Below the proposal add a paragraph or two briefly explaining your interest in this particular CFP and offering a persuasive rationale for some of the particular choices or rhetorical moves you make in the proposal. Due: January 24.

Revised MRP proposal draft:
Three classes in the winter term are set aside for workshops on MRP proposals. Students will share an electronic copy of their proposal draft with the class the week before the date assigned for their workshop presentation. A revised draft resulting from those workshop sessions is due to the instructor on February 26.

Revised poster draft:
Research posters are required for the end-of-term colloquium (see below). Just as we will review and discuss drafts of MRP proposals in class workshops, so will we together work on poster drafts. Students will share a PDF of the poster draft with the class the week before the date assigned for their workshop presentation. A revised poster draft resulting from those workshop sessions is due to the instructor (emailed as a PDF) on March 26.

Academic CV:
In light of various class discussions on this subject, students are expected to prepare a CV (curriculum vitae) that is primarily academic in focus and style. Due: April 4.

Research Colloquium:
Held at the end of the winter term, this event allows students to showcase their planned MRPs to faculty and others with an interest (e.g. fourth-year Honours students, prospective MA candidates, the Dean and Associate Dean of Humanities, members of the HRI board, the VP of Graduate Studies, the VP of Research, guest speakers in this course). The organization of this event is the responsibility of the students: it is up to you to publicize the event, to send out invitations to particular people, and to order refreshments. Students should practice presenting their work, publicly and persuasively, and addressing constructive feedback to it. Participation at the colloquium will be assessed as for any meeting of 5F01; contributions to planning the event in the months prior are also assessed. On the day of the colloquium, students will mount and maintain posters that offer compelling overviews of your MRP topics, research plans, and findings to date. Be prepared to solicit, respond to, and offer questions from attendees and to participate collegially in informal discussion of your research.

Reflection on colloquium:
In approximately 750 words of polished and thoughtful prose, reflect on the experience of planning, preparing for, and participating in the colloquium in the months leading up to the event. Speak specifically to how you in particular contributed to the event, and how your particular project and/or research process have/has been served by this aspect of the graduate program. Your reflection should make clear what efforts you made to make the most of and benefit from this aspect of the program. As part of your reflection, identify the tasks you undertook to help stage the event. The reflection will assist the instructor in assessing each student’s role in the colloquium, as well as the quality of thought and effort invested in it and derived from it. Due: April 29.

Supplementary Reading:
Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (2016)
Leonard Cassuto, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (2015)
Stefan Collini, What Are Universities For? (2012)
Stefan Collini, Speaking of Universities (2017)
Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality (2016)
Umberto Eco, How to Write a Thesis (2015)
Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (2013)
Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010)
Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual (1996)