The Book Project Assignment: How-To Step-by-Step

On this page I am going to explain the Why, the What, and the How of this assignment. Why you are doing this assignment (besides the grade). What you need to create to get a useful, successful product. How to do this, step-by-step.

Why this Assignment

Before I get into the details about how to do this assignment, let me explain why I’ve made the assignment. I hope if you understand the why of this assignment, you’ll be in a better position to make sure it’s meaningful to you and creates the most benefit for you. I’m trying to do two things with this assignment  – one intellectual and one practical for you.

Intellectually, my major goal throughout this course is to help you make connections between the past and today. I want you to understand how the roots of today’s economic successes, challenges, and issues lie in the our history. It doesn’t mean past determines the future, but it clearly shapes things. So far in this course, we’ve been reading 3 survey book together.  Being able to see three different perspectives together on the same period of time helps us achieve new insights and make new connections.  As you’ve evidenced in your postings on the EconHist-Commons, you are making those connections.

What I want you to do in this assignment is to leave the broad-brush strokes of a survey book to go deeper into a particular industry, person, event, place, or issue. But I still want you to explicitly make some connection to the present.  So as you’ll see below, the essence of this assignment is to select a book (or similar work) about a particular issue, event, place, industry, etc,, read it, find an article on the Web that involves some kind of current events or news, and then create a webpage to explain the connection between then (the book) and now (the article).

Practically, I’m also hoping to give you some practical experience in what is increasingly the way ideas are communicated in the 21st century: web pages on the Web.  I don’t want you to write a traditional academic research paper. I’m not interested in that kind of traditional “disposable” assignment that’s intended only for printing or a  computer file. You are going to create a web page on the EconHist-Commons site using the most widely used web hosting software around: WordPress.  So far you’ve been creating posts to a news stream on the Commons (which is powered by WordPress).  These posts are simple blocks of text.  For this assignment, you’ll create a web page.  Your web page will be capable (if you want) to have graphics, pictures, hyperlinks, even an embedded YouTube. Don’t be concerned if you’ve never created web pages before.  I’ve got detailed instructions and other students just like you have done well in other courses with a similar assignment.

Here’s a final twist to this assignment. I don’t intend for this to be a “disposable” assignment -something only the professor reads once, grades, and then everybody forgets it happened. I want it to be meaningful to you, which is why you have so much lattitude in choice of topic. But I also intend for what you create to be a permanent addition to this course for other students. You’re reading your book so the others don’t have to and vice-versa. This page will be public. You’ll be contributing to the World Wide Web. I intend to keep these pages up as resources for future students.  And that’s who you should write for: your fellow students in this class and future students, not me the professor.

What To Say: The Result of Your Assignment

You are going to create a web page (not post) on the EconHist-Commons site. I want you write as if your fellow students, including students who will take this class in the future, are your readers. You are going to both try to summarize the book you read (at least some key points), review it, and connect the ideas in the book to current news article/story/essay/blog post you’ve found on the Web.

On your web page you’ll need to answer the following

  1. The Bibliographic Basics of the Book – What’s the book? Who’s the author? Who’s the publisher? What’s the ISBN? Is there a publisher’s or author’s website where we can get more info? Be sure you  include basic bibliographic information about the book, too, such as who the author is, the copyright, and publisher.
  2. What is the book about?  – A simple descriptive summary of the structure and main topics of the book is sufficient. I would suggest perhaps using a sentence to describe the main topic or point of each chapter.
  3. What are main points or arguments the author is trying make? If we were to ask the author to name only two or three main points or ideas that he/she wanted readers to remember after reading the book, what would the author answer? We want you to tell us those main points in your own words. Of course, an author might have more than two or three main points or arguments, but you decide the most important.
  4. What facts or insights did you learn?  Find significant facts or phenomena that you weren’t aware of before reading this book. Try to find facts that might be surprising to most of the other students in class. Remember the other students in this class will be reading your summary, but they will not have read the books themselves. Help them learn from your reading of the book. Be sure to fully describe the facts and other relevant information. For example, it is useful to know why these facts were included in the book.
  5. Describe/summarize a current news article/essay/story/blog post you’ve found on the Web. Be sure to insert a link to the article so your readers can click and read the article for themselves.
  6. What’s the connection between the what you read in your book and what the current article/story/essay says?  What insights or deeper understanding does this connection bring to our thinking about the issue in the current article/story/essay? How has reading this book and this article/story/essay changed your thinking (if it has)? It’s not necessary to agree with an author’s argument for a book to have an impact on your thinking. What is the one main insight, idea, or argument from the book that has changed or expanded your thinking. It maybe something that wasn’t even clearly stated by either author you read but that you thought of. What is the one main idea or opinion you want to pass on to other students from your reading of the book?
  7. Try to make it interesting. Don’t write this as an academic research paper, add some creativity.  You have to do footnotes or MLA/APA style.  It is important to write the way material appears on the Web. Use links to supporting material. Add images if you wish. If you want, you can even embed YouTube videos and certain other kinds of embeddable content.  Of course, you must respect all copyrights.  It’s good to try to use Creative Commons licensed material.
  8. Write and submit a Multiple Choice Question based upon the material in your web page.  This MC question will likely end up appearing on the Unit 8 quiz, so it needs to be a question that essentially tests whether a reader of your page understood some key point.

This complete assignment is worth up to 80 points.  Each of the above criteria will be worth 0-10 points, using the following scale:  10 pts-outstanding, exemplar job; 9 pts – meets all aspects of the criterion; 8 pts – pretty much meets the criterion but is lacking some polish or attention to detail; 7 pts or less – deficient;

How to Do It: Step-by-Step

To complete this assignment, follow these steps:

  1. It’s a Good Idea to re-read and review the What To Say portion of this page.  That’s effectively the rubric you will be graded on and it describes your desired output.
  2. Review the “Book List”, Select a Book, and Read.  The list provides at least 27 suggested titles to read. You can pick one or just use this list as a starter to help find something you’re more interested in. You are free to suggest other books for this assignment, but you need to get approval first. Feel free to browse the list.  The books on the book list page are actually links to’s website.  Clicking on the links will allow you to go to the Amazon site and get a better description of what the book is about.

    Disclaimer: You may get your book from any supplier, bookstore, or library – in fact I encourage checking a book out from the Library since it’s free.  If you do click-through on the book list links to Amazon, a small commission (no increase in price) will be paid. All commissions received are donated to Malartu Inc, a non-profit organization that supports productivity improvement in higher education faculty.

    • Post your selection & get approval. If you’re doing a book that’s not on the list, it’s a good idea to clear it with me first. You can do that either by posting to the Commons or by email.
    • Acquire your books. Of course, once you select your book, you need to get a copy to read. You may purchase the book either new or online from Amazon or a similar online bookseller, buy them at a local book store, or get a copy from a library — whatever works for you.
    • Read the book. These books are generally what are called “trade books”: books written for popular audiences. They are not intended as heavily foot noted, pure academic treatises (although the Sen book can be a bit stiff). Nonetheless they are definitely college-level material. They were written to be very readable. Most of them contain lots of stories and personal anecdotes.
    • Make some posts to the Commons as you read. Let us know what you’re discovering. Or, you can use the Commons to float the beginning of your idea/connection past the rest of us.
  3. Formulate/Refine your topic by finding a current article/essay/story/blog post on the Web.  Be sure to save the link to the page, you’ll need it.  Think about the relationship between what you read in the book and what’s discussed in the article you found. By “current” I mean relevant to us in recent years.  It doesn’t have to be dated 2015, but it should be something that’s contemporary and important to us now.
  4. Familiarize yourself how to create a new page and edit it in WordPress. To do that, go to How to Create Your Book Project Page In WordPress. (part of Unit 7 assignments).   It’s actually easier than creating a document in Word. If you have questions, need help, or wondering how to do something, email me or post on the Commons.
  5. Do some additional research about the book, the topic, or the aricle. Go on the Web and do some searching using the book title, the author, or some key ideas from the book. In particular, look for what others are saying about the book and the ideas in the book. What do critics say? Who else agrees with the author? What is controversial about what the author said in the book?
  6. Think about your review first – do a draft first. Then edit your draft. I When you first create your page (review) you should “Save Draft”.  That means it won’t be public yet and you can come back later and edit. If you email me, I will review your draft and give you some feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  7. “Publish” the site. When you are ready, go into the edit page and click “publish”.
     Due dates for Publishing your Book Project at the end of Unit 7.  See the course schedule for the exact date.
  8. Write and Submit a Multiple Choice Question:  You need to write an original multiple choice question that could be easily answered if someone had read your book review.  You need to submit it using the Book Project Multiple Choice Question Form. There’s a very good chance that your question will end up as part of the quiz for Unit 8, so write it accordingly.  Try to strike a balance between not being trivial and not being obscure. The idea is to make sure someone read and absorbed the key ideas you were trying to communicate.
  9. Read your fellow students’ reviews. In Unit 8, you will take a quiz where the questions are based on these student book reviews.