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HUMAN 1QU3 Ins & Inq: Quest to Chng World (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Alpha Abebe



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: By Appointment

Course Objectives:

In a world of smartphones and Google, it seems we can find answers in an instant. However, the greatest challenge is to ask the right questions, recognizing that how we ask a question determines the nature of the answers available to us. Effective leaders are constantly formulating creative questions, about themselves and about the world around them. Working in the technology-enriched environment of an active learning classroom, students will focus on how to ask good questions about specific issues, how to collect and analyse information, and how to apply these insights in different ways.

Students will be introduced to an insight and inquiry process that challenges them to think critically and methodically in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The skills students acquire in this course will apply to other university courses and the world beyond, including industry, government and community.

As a result of taking this course…

  1. You will be able to define Humanities and articulate how different Humanities disciplines can speak to real world issues. You will appreciate how the study of Humanities provides a solid foundation for the development of leadership skills.
  2. You will recognize the importance and value of asking questions in all aspects of life, school, and work. You will be able to assess the quality of questions and identify how framing questions in different ways leads to different types of answers.
  3. You will be challenged to think critically about your position and identities in society, and how this impacts the way you see and examine the world.
  4. You will learn the value of empathy and humility, and ways to practice this when encountering and exploring perspectives and experiences that are different from your own.
  5. You will have a broad understanding of the research cycle and will be able to identify a topic, define a question, and articulate a problem for any given research project.
  6. You will become familiar with a variety of information sources and be able to both find them and evaluate their quality and utility. You will have been exposed to techniques for organizing and keeping track of your sources.
  7. You will be provided with a variety of tips and strategies for succeeding in your university and professional careers.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

  1. Avenue to Learn (A2L) registration for course readings, quizzes and announcements:
  2. An HDMI connection or adaptor for your laptop to use in the active learning classrooms. It is advised that you bring a laptop and adapter to each tutorial to maximize participation. Please speak with an Instructor if this will be a challenge or barrier for you.
  3. You should purchase the following book:
    • Booth, Colomb, Williams, Bizup, & Fitzgerald (2016). The Craft of Research – 4th Ed. University of Chicago Press.
  4. Electronic copies of the following course readings will be posted on A2L:
    • Madsbjerg, Christian. (2017). Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm. Hachette Books. (Chapters 1 & 5)
    • How to Engage Constructively in Courses that Take a Critical Social Justice Approach. (2017). In O. Sensoy, & R DiAngelo, An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education (pp. 27-45). Teachers College Press.
    • Weiler, H. N. (2009). Whose knowledge matters? Development and the politics of knowledge. In Entwicklung als Beruf (pp. 485-496). Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG.
    • How to Choose Your Research Methods. (2009). In. Dawson, C. Introduction to research methods: A practical guide for anyone undertaking a research project (pp. 14-26). Hachette UK.
    • Remington-Doucette, S. (2013). Wicked Problems and their Resolution. In Sustainable World: Approaches to Analyzing & Resolving Wicked Problems (pp. 43-80). Kendall Hunt Publishing.

Method of Assessment:

1. Perspective Journaling (10% of your grade)

In this assignment, you will be tasked with writing 2 journal entries that narrate the perspectives of different people relating to the same historical event. Your tutorial instructor will provide a list of historical events to choose from (if you want to choose a different event it must be approved by your Instructor). You will need to become familiar enough with this historical period and social/political event to understand how different groups of people were affected by it.

You must create two different ‘characters’ based in that time period and write a journal entry in their voice and from the perspective you imagine they might have on the events happening around them given their social location, demographic characteristics, and lived experience. Ensure that these two characters are distinct enough from each other that you are able to explore and empathize with contrasting perspectives of the same event. Each journal entry should be 400-500 words (800-1000 words combined).

Finally, you must include a 300-400 word entry in your own voice, where you provide background information about the characters you chose and how this background explains their perspectives in the journal entries. You should demonstrate through this entry that you have done sufficient background research to inform your journal entries.

2. Group project (30% total = 10% annotated bibliography, 10% class presentation, 10% peer evaluation)

You will be working with a group of other students for this assignment (groups will be assigned by your tutorial Instructor). Each group will be assigned a newspaper article covering a contemporary event or issue(s). You will work together to critically analyse and deconstruct this article and use it as a tool to identify areas of research that can be explored in more depth (which you will do in your individually submitted research papers described below). Your tutorial Instructors will provide you with a set of guiding questions to help you analyze and unpack the article, and you will use these questions to complete the following:

A. A team contract/manifesto that you develop as a group to guide how you will work together and your shared expectations and responsibilities. (Ungraded but 5% docked from project grade if incomplete).

B. An annotated bibliography with at least 10 academic sources related to sub-topics connected to the media article (10% - graded as a group).

C. A 10-minute class presentation where you will provide a critical analysis of the article and present your responses to the guiding questions (10% - graded as a group).

D. Peer feedback survey where team members anonymously evaluate you based on your share of the workload and the quality of your contributions (10% - graded individually).

3. Research Paper (35%)

In this assignment you will be tasked with writing an academic research paper. You will select a topic and research question based on the work done in your group project (however you are to write this paper alone). Your research paper will be 2000-2500 words in length and must be based on academic sources. Further direction for this assignment will be provided by your tutorial Instructors.

4. Cumulative reflection paper (15%)

In this assignment, you are to submit a paper reflecting on the entirety of the course. You are encouraged to practice reflexive writing, and talk about how your thoughts and perspectives were challenged, reinforced, or otherwise impacted by the class material, reading, lectures, discussions, assignments, etc. You are expected to refer to some assigned readings from the class in your paper, however this is not an academic research paper. The paper should be 700-1000 words in length. Further direction on this assignment may be provided closer to the end of the course.

5. Class participation (10%)

Regular attendance and participation in lectures and tutorials will ensure that you gain the most out of this learning experience and be in the best position to succeed in the course. In addition, 10% of your grade in the course will comprise a combination of your attendance in tutorials (which will be recorded at the beginning of each tutorial session), as well as the tutorial Instructor’s evaluation of your participation and engagement in the course, including tutorial discussions and activities.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Unless otherwise stated, all written assignments are due on A2L by 11:59pm on the due date indicated on the course outline. Late assignments will be subject to a 5% per day late penalty (includes weekends and holidays) for up to seven (7) days. After this date, no assignments will be accepted and a grade of zero (0) will be applied. Extensions for course work that will not incur a late penalty must be approved by the instructor before the due date. Extensions are generally only granted for illness, emergencies, and extenuating circumstances. Note that this is distinct from the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) submission process.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

NOTES: You should come to lecture and tutorials having reviewed the material listed in the ‘details’ section of that week. The following are topics that will be covered in each lecture. Please note that your additional topics may be discussed in your weekly tutorials. Guest lecturers and speakers may be invited to some of the lectures or tutorials. Schedule is subject to change, in which case you will be notified on A2L.




(Readings & Deadlines)

January 11th

Introduction to the course content and structure.

Review of syllabus and class expectations.


January 18th

What are the humanities and why are they valuable in academia and society?


READING: ‘Sensemaking’ by Christian Madsbjerg: Forward, Introduction, and Chapter 1

January 25th

What is reflexivity and why is it important?

How are you positioned in society and how does this shape your worldview?

READING: ‘How to Engage Constructively in Courses that Take a Critical Social Justice Approach’ by Sensoy & Diangelo

February 1

What are the elements, types, and uses of research?

READING: The Craft of Research pp. 1-26

February 8

What is knowledge and how is it constructed in society?

How is power and inequity reflected in the knowledge production process?

READING: Whose knowledge matters?’ by Hans N. Weiler

DUE: Perspective Journaling assignment due February 9th.

February 15

How do you move from a topic of interest to a research question?

READING: The Craft of Research pp. 27-47

Midterm Recess – February 18 - 24

March 1

What are different sources of information and how should we evaluate, use, and engage with them?

READING: The Craft of Research pp. 65-104

March 8

How can you use research to tackle ‘wicked problems’ in society?

READING: /Wicked Problems and their Resolution’ by Sonya Remington-Doucette

DUE: Group Annotated Bibliographies due March 9th.

March 15


How are quantitative research methods used to tackle big questions? How do quantitative and qualitative methods differ and/or complement each other?

READINGS: How to Choose Your Research Methods’ by Catherine Dawson


The Craft of Research pp. 214-227

March 22

What are theories and frameworks, and how are they used to make sense of data?

READING: Sensemaking’ by Christian Madsbjerg: Chapter 5

DUE: Research Papers due March 23rd.

March 29

How can you craft an argument and tell a story effectively?

READING: The Craft of Research pp. 105-137

April 5

Reviewing and reflecting on the course.

DUE: Cumulative Reflection Papers due April 9th.

Other Course Information:

Course materials, instructions, announcements, answers to most questions, contact information, etc. will be posted on A2L. If it is posted on A2L, you are responsible for knowing it. You should probably aim to log on to A2L and check announcements once a day and are encouraged to subscribe to their email notifications.