Professor John Paul Staszel
By: Joshua S. Proud
“Pick a topic that interests you and be excited about it.” – John Paul Staszel, Professor, Department of Music and Theatre
Theatre may not be the first area of study where students expect to encounter writing intensive courses. In the Cal U Department of Music and Theatre, professor Staszel requires students to learn more than the practical aspects of performance. These assignments include papers on the history of theatre and other researched-based papers.
According to Professor Staszel, picking a topic of interest can make or break the overall outcome of a successful piece of writing. When a writer is truly interested in their paper it will show. Staszel says when he hears a student say that writing their paper was easy, he gets excited for them.
“Hearing statements like that tells me that they had an experience that was positive, and they did not view the assignment as daunting” Staszel clarifies.
Staszel wants his students to learn something they didn’t know about the topics they choose. He says students will sometimes ask him what he wants them to write. He encourages his students to write about what is interesting to them. The biggest challenge he faces when assigning papers is encountering students who do not know MLA format.
“I teach 300 level writing-intensive classes. I thought students would have experience with MLA, but it’s a challenge” Staszel said. “It’s my responsibly to teach them how to write. I invest my time with students so they can produce acceptable drafts.”
Staszel includes resources for students in his syllabus like the Cal U Writing Center.
“Please learn how to use the resources the university has available to you” Staszel says. “There are some students that do not use the resources available to them. Some papers are 15 pages with no citations and no work cited page. If it as a research assignment that has no documented research, I can’t grade that.”
“I suggest not to use the library’s citation generator or at least check that it is correct with MLA. The Library’s citation generator is not completely accurate” Staszel says. “Go to a MLA textbook or the Purdue Owl website. You can find all this information online for free. Or come to my office and ask me.”
Staszel expects his students to find credible sources, and he expects a minimum of four or five academic sources for most papers. He allows his students to use websites, but not as primary sources, and he never allows Wikipedia to be used as a source.
“You can use Wikipedia as a reference, but don’t take it as truth” Staszel said.
Students taking Staszel’s research classes are also graded on bibliography annotations, so sources are fundamental to a good paper.
“I want students to locate their sources, show me they have the sources in hand with five physical copies” Staszel said. “Students will then annotate those five sources which will give them some content for their papers.”
“Following that, my students will provide a draft half the length of their final paper. Then they will do peer reviews so everyone can learn something new and provide feedback.” Staszel said.
When grading, Staszel says he’s lenient when students have been working on a paper for a long time, but if he suspects that paper was written in just a couple of hours or days he’s not as lenient. When the paper is complete, Staszel urges his students to return to the thesis and make sure it is supported by their arguments.
“Does your conclusion wrap up and support the thesis” Staszel asks. “if it doesn’t, go back and tweak your thesis to match your argument.”
Staszel stresses the importance of a thesis’ role in a respectable paper. He says that a successful paper should flow; the beginning process of locating sources, writing annotations, and drafting a thesis will prepare students to write satisfactory papers.
The Cal U Theatre Department deems it necessary that students enrolled in its program write well and respect the parallel of writing and performing on stage.