Guidelines for creating a Reading Group Blueprint
First of all, if you’re reading this, thank you for your interest! Below are some general guidelines that we developed after the first Blueprints were released in January 2022. These guidelines are based on our own experience sourcing and formatting the Blueprints, but also on the experiences of those who kindly helped us to develop the project by actually creating the Blueprints! So if you’re interested in creating a Reading Group Blueprint, have a read and do not hesitate to contact us.
Some things to consider before you start
Timeline. We try to release several blueprints at once in ‘batches’, at times that would be most convenient for students to start a reading group (i.e. beginning of semesters or beginning of summer). So before you start your blueprint, let us know if you can make the next batch, or whether you’d rather wait.
Funding. Some of our Blueprint creators were compensated for their work. This compensation can come from some local funding that you might have to source yourself with our help (e.g. the EDI committee of your department or a local funded research project). Or it might come from a generally advertised grant. So, if you’d like to get your Blueprint funded, let us know and we can look into what kind of funding would best suit your project, and most importantly what the deadlines would be!
Co-authors. A lot of the Blueprints are co-authored. This is great as it helps to share the load, but it can also be beneficial to get someone’s expertise in another field or even in a different discipline. If you have people in mind, great! But we can also get you in touch with someone we think would fit.
How to choose a topic
What is not taught? The goal of the Blueprints is to cover topics that are not sufficiently taught in Western philosophy courses, which according to our research is anything to do with Class, Colonialism, Race and Gender (CCRG), non-Western philosophy, and the work of specific philosophers who not white or male. But there are many ways in which these topics are ignored: CCRG could be relevant to an existing and popular topic in philosophy (e.g. race in bioethics, or class in aesthetics, Early Modern female philosophers, epistemology in the Indian tradition), in which case you could look at what you’ve been taught in the past or what you currently teach, and identify an area of that topic that could be enhanced by some CCRG content. Or there could be a topic that has been largely ignored as a whole by philosophy courses and as such would deserve an entire Blueprint dedicated to it (e.g. Native North American Ethics, or African Languages).
Target audience and Difficulty. If you have any experience of what is and isn’t taught in Western philosophy courses, you’ll also have a sense of what is missing at each academic level: a topic that will benefit 1st year UGs might be boring to Masters students (e.g. an introductory overview of various topics in feminist philosophy might be great for UG who only get glimpses of such topics in their courses on ethics or epistemology, but it might not be specialised enough for more advanced students). So have a think about the target audience, the level of difficulty, and the breadth of your Blueprint: is it going to be a general introduction to a fairly niche topic, or a more demanding, deeper dive into one aspect of a familiar topic?
Your expertise. You will need to pick a topic in which you have expertise either through research or teaching. This will help you in terms of workload, as you will likely be already familiar with many of the resources you recommend. Further, it will offer you an opportunity and a push to read some things you might not have read before, thus benefiting your own research or teaching practice.
If you’ve made it this far and you’re still on board, then it’s time to actually build your Blueprint!
How to create a structure
Each Blueprint has a more or less defined structure or narrative to guide readers (just like a teaching syllabus would). To make it easier to achieve this structure, we developed a spreadsheet where you will fill in all relevant details, and our scripts will automatically format them to display on the site. You can see examples of possible structures or narratives in the different Blueprints we already published. You’ll notice that Blueprints vary in length (between 7 and 12 weeks of content is ideal), and that some Blueprints are organised in different ‘Parts’ that cover several weeks of content, while others introduce a new ‘Topic’ every week, building on past weeks. Once you decide to create a Blueprint, we will share the details with you and guide you through the process.
How to choose individual resources
The Blueprints are designed precisely to include resources that students would not normally come across in their courses. This means that you are free to
- choose various media: academic readings of course, but also videos, films, podcasts, journalism, public writing, and so on.
- draw from various disciplines: philosophy broadly construed of course, but also anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, political science, and any other academic discipline. But once again, the resource doesn’t have to be academic at all!
And a few other things to think about:
- Demographics: this is the DRL after all! So try to assign as many resources authored by members of underrepresented groups in philosophy as you can. Currently, we’re tracking Race, Gender and Disability. Ideally, at least ⅔ of your authors should belong to one or more of these groups. In fact, pay attention to the intersectionality of these groups: e.g. if you’re dealing with a topic related to Race, don’t assign only non-white men. Think about including women, but when you do, try to make sure that it’s not just white women, and so on.
- Length: you can assign several resources per week, in which case try to choose specific fragments so that altogether, the resources assigned for the week can be easily digested. Or you can also specify that individual members of the reading group should focus on individual resources, so as to share the load.
- Difficulty: depending on the target of your Blueprint and the overall difficulty, try to make sure to choose resources accordingly. But you’re also free to build on the difficulty (e.g. Week 1 being significantly easier than Week 8).
- Core resource or further material: think whether you want members of the reading group to focus on core resources and less so on further material, or whether all the resources should be paid the same degree of attention.
How to write comments
Throughout the Blueprints, you’ll notice that individual resources are accompanied by short comments regarding the import of the resource, why you chose it, how it fits, etc. These comments are very important to us: they help to contextualise the resource, but they’re also invaluable because the individual resources you provide – that fit our demographics criteria – will also be included on the List itself, as individual entries. Thus, your comment will also serve to help teachers include the resource in their syllabi. But that shouldn’t stop you from writing a comment that is specific, or refers, to your Blueprint in general.
How to write discussion questions
One of the main components of the Blueprints are the discussion questions. They will guide students in their readings and direct their attention to crucial aspects of the resources. These discussion questions are what separates a Reading Group Blueprint from a well-curated reading list. You’re free to write discussion questions for each resource, or for each weekly topic (in the case that you provide multiple resources per weekly topic). Once again, feel free to look at past Blueprints for inspiration.
We hope you’ll find these guidelines helpful. Thank you again for your interest and support, and do not hesitate to get in touch if you want to ask any questions!