HIST 300-007: Reading Responses


Sometimes you will need to turn in a short reading response for a reading assignment. The syllabus makes it very clear what you need to do and when. These encourage everyone to read carefully enough to absorb the main ideas of the readings and to stay on schedule. Especially for online courses, it’s far too easy to put off (and ultimately skip) any work that doesn’t have at least a short assignment connected to it.

In general, these are meant to be somewhat creative exercises to get you to compare and contrast different aspects of the reading and to give you a chance to riff on what you thought was most interesting about them (we all find different things interesting!). Sometimes I just ask you to restate a main point or answer a specific question or two.

Whatever the prompt, there are two motivations for these reflections: 1) encourage you to think critically about the readings 2) allow you to show me that you’re keeping up with the readings (and earn points!) 3) create your own archive of the course—something we will use at the end to reflect on the course as a whole.


  • ~250–300 words: Write more or less as you need/want to per assignment, but don’t be consistently too much above or below the target. The word count is less important than the depth of the content.
  • Original thinking based on the readings: Avoid summarizing readings except to restate a point that you want to elaborate on. Your reflections should be obviously informed by the readings. This is easy to do if you actually read them, and impossible if you don’t.
  • Specificity: General statements are good ONLY when supported by examples from the readings. Otherwise it looks like you didn’t read much and/or very carefully.
  • Polished writing: Don’t try to sound like an academic, but your post shouldn’t read like a text message, either.
  • Posted ON TIME at UNM Learn: ON TIME means by MIDNIGHT on the due date. As explained on the main syllabus page, you can on occasion turn work in up to two days late for full credit, but that’s it. After that, you will get a zero. I don’t mean to sound draconian, but too much leeway with assignments creates too much temptation to let them slide, and then they aren’t effective and serve only to create busywork.

Kind of responses

To mix things up a little, we have different kinds of reflections that we use from time to time. The kind of reflection you should post should be clearly indicated on the syllabus, or is obvious by whether there are questions to answer.

Creative Reflection

Most reflections are creative reflections in that they ask you to provide a brief description of what you found most interesting about the readings AND WHY. Think about:

  • What ideas did you find most interesting or surprising?
  • What was most unclear or confusing?
  • What questions did they bring up, especially compared to other readings?

Prompt Reflection

If I have posted some questions in the red box where the assignment is listed, you should answer them. Really! (I emphasize this because too many students just write something with the expectation of getting credit for turning something in.) The questions are meant to focus your attention on ideas or themes that I think are especially powerful and important for the course.

Scoring and how these factor in your grade

These assignments do not get scored with points as some other assignments because I don’t want the reflections to become an opaque game of you trying to writing out what you think I want to hear so that you get the most points. Most readings have way more cool stuff in them than can be absorbed in one reading so there really isn’t a “right” answer. And I don’t find it productive to spend time trying to justify why one student gets a 7 and another gets a 8.5, when they may have learned the same amount or spent the same amount genuinely working on the assignment to the best of their ability. You should be graded on work you do for this class, not how good of a thinker or writer you already are.

Instead, I look for genuine engagement with and reflection on the course material. As explained above, the reflections should make clear that you’ve done the readings and developed some thoughts about them. If it is NOT clear to me, I’ll ask you some questions that you should address if you want to move to a higher point score for that assignment.

So you can earn either 2, 4, or 6 points. You can also get up to two extra credit points if you put extra work into a post. Extra words do not automatically equate to extra points—they need to be substantive.

  • 6 points: Clearly demonstrates broad familiarity with the readings across the week, exhibits original thinking, connects current readings to past readings, and is clearly articulated.

  • 4 points: Shows familiarity with the some of the reading and offers some critical reflection on key themes, but uneven coverage of the readings and/or could use significant improvements in writing.

  • 2 points: Some effort, but doesn’t show much engagement with the readings or is difficult to understand.

  • 0 points: Nothing posted, or otherwise so unintelligible that I can’t even guess at what you were trying to do.