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Course Documents

Paper 5: Things Americans Do

due: W-Th Apr. 24-25 (last day of class)

length: 1000-1200 words. (If you want to write a longer paper than this, let me know. You can write longer if I grant you permission.)

title: Make the title of your paper be the topic you are researching—i.e. the behavior you’re interested in, expressed as a verb phrase ( _____ing _____)

This paper is essentially the mirror image of the chapter you wrote for My Country and My People, 2019 Edition. For that paper, you chose an activity or behavior—something Chinese people do—and “demystified” it for a non-Chinese reader. For this paper, you will choose an activity or behavior depicted in the movie Boyhood and “decode” it for yourself, or for another non-American reader.

The Task

Choose “something Americans do”—a cultural practice—depicted in the movie Boyhood. Identify a question, or several related questions, related to that practice. Do research in which you explore that question to the best of your abilities. (Your research must include at least one interview.) Write a paper in which you explain what you learned.

Types of questions you might attempt to answer

These are the types of questions I found worked most successfully in your MCMP papers.

Making sense of a paradox:

  • It’s often said that           (common stereotype or generalization)          .  If that’s true, then why                      (thing you observed people doing in the movie)            ?

Demystifying something:

  • In the movie Boyhood, we see characters doing      (mysterious, inexplicable thing that is hard for a non-American to understand or relate to)   . Why is that?  What’s going on here? What are the “unwritten rules” that govern this behavior?

Creating a taxonomy:

  • What are the different types of      (behavior that is complex)       ?


·       What is a         (thing that is hard to define)  ___? (What makes a            a         ?)

The “moves”

Your paper is going to have to do these things, most likely in this order.

Description: Describe the behavior you’re focusing on. (Paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.)

  • In the movie Boyhood one often notices _______

  • In the movie Boyhood one striking detail is that ______

  • In the movie Boyhood one striking scene is when __________

Inference: Explain what you infer about this behavior.

  • Seeing this [detail or behavior], one might conclude that ________, because ________.

Raising questions: Articulate the question or questions you’re interested in, and explain why you’re interested.

  • This raises an interesting question: __________? This is interesting because __________.

Analysis: Attempt to answer the question(s). (This is the body of the paper.)

A successful paper will…

  • Communicate to me clearly and vividly what you observed in the movie. (If you’ve observed this behavior elsewhere, you can describe that too. But I’m hoping to read detailed observations of at least one instance of this behavior happening in the movie.)

  • Raise at least one interesting question about this behavior, and communicate clearly why you find it interesting.

  • Attempt to answer that question using, as evidence, observations from the movie, quotes and/or details from your interview, and any other observations or evidence you wish (from life at DKU, exposure to American culture in other forms, other articles, films, or media you encounter in your research, etc).

  • Draw logical inferences from your observations. (An example of an illogical inference is: “We see Mason doing X in Boyhood, therefore all Americans must do X.”) I should be able to follow your reasoning, and it should make sense.

  • “Go somewhere.” Take the reader on a journey of intellectual exploration. (In this case, you are the the explorer. Recreate your journey of discovery for me, the reader.)

  • Flow. Make the connections between your ideas explicit. Your sentences should connect to each other, and your paragraphs should connect to each other. I should be able to follow your train of thought easily.

  • Be written in English accurate enough that problems with the language do not distract from your ideas.

  • Not be plagiarized.

  • Follow my Rules of Thumb.

  • Follow my formatting guidelines (as usual).

  • Cite any sources you use in addition to Boyhood and your personal interview(s). Include a reference list. Use any citation style you wish, as long as it’s consistent.