Task Force Handbook
The handbook outlines everything that Task Force students need to know, from what Task Force even is, to specific deadlines and details about the report and presentation. Always look in the report when you have a question; the answer is in there!
Why Task Force Matters To You - And To Us!
The International Studies Program at the Jackson School introduces students to international issues through rigorous coursework in a wide variety of disciplinary and cross-disciplinary settings. The Program seeks to equip its students with the conceptual and analytical tools and knowledge needed to help make sense of complex global issues and processes. We recognize that many of our graduates will want to help shape the world that they have studied – and, for this, they will need to be effective advisers, researchers, or managers in the arenas of policy and advocacy. This recognition is the inspiration for our capstone projects.
Task Force has been part of the International Studies major since 1983. The original format was modeled on the Presidential Commissions common in policymaking in the United States. In these, U.S. Presidents appoint groups of experts to provide them with substantive policy recommendations based on rigorous research and evaluation. In recent years Task Forces have investigated a wide range of topics and provided recommendations to various branches and offices of the U.S. government, as well as to international, multilateral, and non-governmental organizations. Task Forces consist of small groups of students, numbering between 10 and 15, who investigate a real-world policy issue and produce a final report and practical policy recommendations. These recommendations are then evaluated by a outside expert – typically a serving or retired high-ranking U.S. diplomat, policymaker, NGO leader, or prominent think tank member. Task Force students prepare and present a 2-hour oral briefing for their expert evaluator. The evaluator attends the briefing having read the final report. After the briefing the evaluator engages students in discussion and debate and provides feedback on the content and presentation.
Past generations of International Studies majors have greatly valued the opportunities and the challenges of working together in small groups with clear goals and tight deadlines – an environment intended to mimic the real-world activities and workplace experiences that our students will encounter upon graduation. Task Force quarter has been a unique, memorable and valuable experience for our majors for more than thirty years – and we hope that your own Task Force will provide the same for you!
Why Task Force is Different from Any Other Class
A. You Have to Hit the Ground Running!
Your JSIS 495 Task Force is unlike any other class in the International Studies major. In a typical class the quarter will start off quite slowly with a gradual build-up towards midterms and finals, be they in-class exams or research papers. In other words, regular classes are typically back-loaded in terms of the distribution of effort and work (and stress!) during the quarter. The Task Force class, on the other hand, is heavily front-loaded: your work on organization, management, research and writing has to start immediately and intensively right at the beginning of the quarter. In fact, instructors will typically assign readings over the break and ask students to come to the first class meeting prepared to help work out the content and structure of their Task Forces. It is important that you keep this in mind as you plan your quarter. It is not uncommon for students to experience a lot of stress as they try to balance the demands of Task Force with the demand of other classes -especially during the month of February when everyone is trying to finalize their own contributions to the final report while peer-editing the writings of others and carrying out extra tasks such as editing, and project management, or creating PowerPoint slides for the Task Force’s final presentation to the evaluator on Task Force Evaluation Day.
B. You Have To Complete Your Report By the Deadline!
Yes, seven weeks – between the second week of the quarter and the end of the eighth week of the quarter. That’s all the time a Task Force has to do the required research, to create multiple drafts of all the writing, to provide each other with feedback and comments – and to produce a final, neat and copy-edited version of the report with that can be sent and presented to a busy professional expert who is visiting Seattle and UW for the sole purpose of hearing your presentations. So, seven weeks is not the time you have to write your own contribution to the final report – it is the time you have to write your own contribution AND to help put all the contributions together AND to create a presentable final report for your Task Force as a whole. This means all The to-do’s and deadlines for all Task Forces and are mandatory and immovable for everyone, including instructors and program staff.
C. Others Depend on You – and You Depend on Them!
Task Force is a group effort and a group project. You are not able to choose any of the other members of your Task Force – but you do have to work with them over the course of a very intense quarter in which all of you have other classes and other commitments. Task Forces are managed and coordinated largely by you and your fellow students, with guidance, advice and input from faculty instructors. This means that everybody has to work together and support each other in often stressful conditions as the final (and immovable) deadline for the final report rapidly approaches. Free riders and shirkers are a serious threat to any Task Force, as are any students who are unwilling or unable to create time in their schedules for the many different jobs and assignments required to make Task Force work. Everybody’s experience suffers if anyone refuses to pull their weight.
D. The Final Report is One Big Collaborative Project – and You Have to Help!
Your Task Force team works together to create one comprehensive final report. The final report contains research and recommendations from all the students in the group. The page limit of the report is set between 100 – 135 pages long with 1.5 or 2.0 sentence spacing. The report page limit does not include the executive summary or the appendices. The suggested fonts and font sizes to use in the report are Arial (11 font size), Open Sans (11 font size), OpenDyslexic or Tiresias. It is up to your team to decide how best to format the report.
A final Task Force report consists of the chapters produced by individual students, plus the executive summary, an introduction and a conclusion, and a comprehensive bibliography. Students do all the writing, and editing, and reviewing, and proof-reading, and then turn it into a professional-looking report that is submitted to an external evaluator with deep experience of the topic. Unlike in most other classes your own contribution does not stand alone, it has to fit into the overall report which you have to help create.
The Organization of Your Task Force – and Your Role In It
Different people have different roles in your Task Force. And that includes you! You are not just a student dropped into a class: you are an active participant in creating the organizational structure of your Task Force – and making it work!
Below you will find a list and descriptions of the different positions and jobs and groups that make up a Task Force. For students these roles are not all mutually exclusive – actual arrangements and assignments will depend on decisions made by your particular Task Force team and your instructor. But, apart from the instructor’s role, all of these jobs will have to get done – by you and your fellow Task Force members!
A. The Instructor
Your Task Force instructor is a member of the UW faculty – he or she might be a full-time faculty member or an affiliate professor appointed to lead a Task Force. Your instructor created the topic of your Task Force based on their own interests, background and expertise. He or she will provide you and the other Task Force students with substantive guidance on the Task Force topic, research sources and resources, and the policy context. Your instructor will assign readings and tasks to you which you will complete over break. As well, your instructor might spend a class or two at the beginning of the quarter providing you with essential background knowledge and will otherwise be available during and outside class meetings to give advice and feedback on the research you are doing for your contribution to the final report. Your instructor will also help you create the structure of the final report, provide guidance on its content, connect you with experts, and help get the group ready for its final presentation to the outside evaluator (who was identified by your instructor.)
B. The Project Manager and the Editor
Task Forces appoint a small team of 2-3 students to carry out the jobs of project managing and editing. We recommend no more than one project manager and two editors per each Task Force group. The team can share both tasks, or divide them up – and this choice is left to individual Task Forces to decide. Read this section carefully to see if you are interested in one of these positions – they will need to be filled very quickly, in the first week of quarter. These positions are absolutely essential to the smooth and effective running of the Task Force. They are not vanity positions! If you enjoy, and are good at, managing a project or editing the writings of others then you may be a good fit for one of these positions. Both require an even temper and a lot of dedication and good will! Your instructor will determine the process by which the editor/project manager team is appointed.
Being an editor or project manager does not mean that you will not have independent writing responsibilities of your own to do. In most Task Forces the editor/project manager team is also responsible for the final report’s executive summary, introduction, and conclusion – all of which are typically written right before the final report goes to print. Important: be wary of having too many editors/project managers. Students from previous Task Forces found that having more than two editors and one project manager causes more miscommunication than necessary within the group.
The project manager oversees the overall workflow of the Task Force and is essential in enforcing deadlines and tracking individual contributions and overall progress. The project manager typically creates a calendar of tasks based on the common to-do’s and deadlines outlined in the Task Force Calendar, manages and enforces internal deadlines for drafts, peer-editing (students reading and editing each other’s work), and any meetings outside of class time. The project manager is also a liaison between the students and the instructor and between the Task Force and International Studies program staff. In this capacity the project manager collects and passes on any required information about the external deadlines, i.e., submission dates for he personal release form, group photo, report title, poster and the final report.
The editor is essential in ensuring that the final Task Force report is of high and even quality. This involves providing continuous feedback to individual students on their contributions, enforcing a uniform citation system and style, managing the peer-editing process, and integrating all the individual contributions in the final report. In doing all of this, editors will have access to the advice and guidance of professionals at the UW Libraries and the Odegaard Writing Center. A special drop-in session for editors and project manager will be provided by UW librarians.
C. Sub-Groups within Your Task Force
At the beginning of the quarter most Task Forces create sub-groups of students working on similar or related areas within the Task Force’s overall topic. For example, there might be three sub-groups looking at the impact of an issue on three different regions or countries, or separate groups exploring different aspects of the same problem. These small sub-groups can more easily peer-edit each other’s work, under the guidance of the Task Force’s overall editor. Creating sub-groups can help make Task Forces more manageable, and allow students to cooperate more closely based on their interests and backgrounds.
D. Individual Task Force Members
If you are not an editor or a project manager then you will be contributing your own authored chapter or section to the final Task Force report – typically as part of a sub-group of three or four students. Chapters and sections (and therefore groups) are usually defined and assigned at the beginning of the quarter based on the interests and backgrounds of individual students and on the overall vision and goals of the report as developed between the instructor and the students. Task Forces have some latitude in determining their division of labor and the length and nature of individual contributions – but, typically, you will be responsible for a written section of about 10-12 pages in length. You will carry out the research for your chapter, locating and managing your sources and references in a neat bibliography compiled according to your Task Force’s chosen citation style (for example MLA or Chicago.) It is recommended that you all use the same compilation program to keep citations together from the very first week you start research. The UW Library website offers a variety of different programs students can access to organize their citations so that no one is left scrambling to try and create a bibliography for the large document at the end of the Task Force timeline.
You will write and rewrite and edit as you receive feedback from the instructor, the editor, or other students in your group. You will make sure that your contribution meshes and fits well with all the others as the final report is compiled, making adjustments and changes as needed and as advised. You will have to keep an eye on deadlines and make sure you do not jeopardize your group’s collective efforts to produce a presentable report free of plagiarism, typos, and errors. You will keep in mind that you are writing not for your instructor but for an evaluator with considerable professional experience who will judge your group’s report on its academic and professional merits.
In addition you will be asked to create content for your Task Force’s final briefing – which is typically a PowerPoint presentation. You will have to create a slide (or slides) with your own key findings and recommendations.
Getting Ready for Task Force: Autumn Quarter and Winter and Spring Break
Keep in mind Task Force DEADLINES. In other classes instructors might give you extensions or cut you some slack. In Task Force there is no slack to cut. The clock starts ticking at the beginning of the second week of the quarter – on– since the first week of the quarter is dedicated to determining the direction and structure of the final report. Also to consider is that that your evaluator has only one week, or less to read the report. So it is important that all the Task Forces (and you!) hit the ground running on the first meeting of your Task Force so that research and writing can start as quickly as possible. All Task Forces adhere to the same submission deadlines for deliverables such as the personal release form, group photo, report title, poster project, and final Task Force report. Each group will set their own internal deadlines for drafts, peer-editing (students reading and editing each other’s work), and any meetings outside of class time.
B. Registering for your Task Force
Around the beginning of Fall quarter, pay attention to email announcements from the Jackson School’s Office of Academic Services (OAS). OAS will send an email announcement with the list of Task Force topics (with short descriptions) offered in the upcoming winter and spring quarters along with the deadline to submit your graduation application so that you can register for Task Force in Priority Registration Period I. Task Force students will receive a Task Force survey to rank their preferences. Based on your survey results, OAS will work to place you in your top two Task Forces selected and will send an add code for regsitration to your UW email account before the start of Priority Registration Period I (date included in the Task Force survey) – so make sure to complete a graduation application with a JSIS adviser before the deadline!
C. Policy Memo
Your own contribution to your Task Force’s final report will combine academic research and writing with policy writing. Policy writing means writing for an audience of decision-makers: you are providing background for a set of recommendations that will help others make a decision. In the “real world” this often means producing a very short policy briefing in the style of a memorandum (or “memo”) – which might not be longer than one page. Developing this skill is important for professional work in a wide variety of settings – in policymaking, consultancy, or in the corporate and the non-profit worlds. After graduation most of you will not be spending much time writing 25-page research papers but almost all of you will be asked to provide very clear and concisely written input that synthesizes a large amount of literature or data or research for someone else’s practical use in guiding an important decision or choice (and one day YOU may be that ‘someone else’!). In your Task Force you will typically be asked to preface your chapter with a very brief summary which condenses and digests your chapter’s main points and findings. The final report must be prefaced by an overall Executive Summary which you may be asked to write (if you are an editor) or to help write or edit. This requires the ability to write in a style that is concentrated, clear, crisp and concise.
D. Readings and Assignments During Break
Most students are unfamiliar with the topics they will be researching and reporting about in their Task Forces. To make sure everybody starts from a similar baseline your instructor will assign readings for you to complete by the first day of classes (typically over break). Your instructor may also ask you to prepare a preliminary written work based on the readings. Your instructor will be in touch with you before the end of Fall quarter with details. Some instructors may want to meet with their Task Forces before the end of Fall quarter. In any case, be ready and make time to do some preparatory work for your Task Force before the quarter begins.
It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with your task force topic and relevant policy issues before Task Force begins. The librarians prepare a study guide for each Task Force course and will be inlcuded in the instructors course Canvas and ready prior to the start of a Task Force quarter. We recommend that you research WRITING a policy memo and you need to also be familiar with READING them. This will give you an idea of how to structure your document as you go, as well as what articles and sources you should be reading. Most importantly, reading policy reports will help you understand what your evaluators will be critiquing. Many students receive feedback that their policy memos are not grounded in reality or have been tried unsuccessfully in the past. Use your time wisely to acquaint yourself with this before the writing aspect of Task Force picks up – and you will avoid trouble with your policy recommendations down the road.
Managing Your Task Force Quarter: To-Do’s, Deadlines, and Deliverables
A. The First Meetings of Your Task Force
Your Task Force quarter has finally arrived and you have the first official meeting with your instructor and the other members of your Task Force in the first week of the quarter: Do not arrive on campus late for when you take Task Force! Work on Task Force begins right away and you are part of a team. You have to come to the first class meeting prepared and ready to sign up for tasks and jobs!
The first few meetings of your Task Force should be dedicated to:
- Defining and delineating the scope of the final report, keeping in mind for whom the report is being written
- Defining the building blocks of the final report, including the scope and content of individual chapters and report sections (groupings of individual chapters)
- Selecting and appointing the editor and project manager from among the students
- Creating a project timeline, and understanding and reinforcing important deadlines
- Creating tools and procedures to manage the Task Force and the communication between members. We recommend that your team adopt a project management tool, which could be something as simple as Google Drive and a shared Google Calendar or more complicated and sophisticated, like BaseCamp. There are also some good books on project management, e.g. HBR Guide to Project Management
- Your team should pick a citation software management tool. This could be Zotero, EndNote, Refworks, Mendeley. Links to these can be found on the UW library page:
- Reading example policy recommendations so you know what works well and what does not when creating recommendations for your final document.
- Consider developing a collaborative peer review and editing process and structuring ways for multiple eyes to view documents. At the same time, acknowledge and agree that the editor’s job is to integrate all written work and make the report sound like one voice.
- Consider building interviews with real stakeholders into your research agenda. This makes the project far more relevant and exciting.
Doing all this work effectively in the first week of the quarter means that research and writing can begin in the second week of the quarter: that’s when the clock for the seven-week research/writing/editing phase of the Task Force starts to tick.
B. The Subject Librarian Assigned to Your Task Force
Every year we work with the staff at the UW Libraries who work with your instructor on a series of research tools to help students get started on the research they will need to do for their reports. The subject librarians will be added to the your instructors Canvas before the quater starts up and will be formally introduced to Task Forces by the second week of the quarter, or sooner. Getting to know your subject librarian is essential: they are a great resource when you need to do a lot of research under time pressure. UW has one of the best library systems in the country – make the most of its people and resources!
C. Doing Your Own Research and Writing
Task Force is a collective effort. This means that your own topic and your own research and writing have to fit into the overall structure of your Task Force’s final report. The editor and project manager are tasked with managing the process and helping you ensure that all the pieces fit together. But it is your responsibility to carry out your own research and writing diligently, carefully and thoroughly so that the final report is of a high and consistent quality. To be effective you will start by carrying out a survey of the relevant sources and information for your topic – a literature review. You cannot write a policy-relevant paper without showing that you know what you are writing about. For your chapter to inspire confidence you will have to demonstrate to your audience (your evaluator) that your information is relevant, authoritative, and up-to-date. Otherwise your policy recommendations and advice cannot be taken seriously.
Here are a few essential tips:
Look at past Task Force Reports which are available online via the International Studies Task Forces page on the JSIS website and on the Odegaard Library Research Works Archive:
- Use the links and databases available to you from your Task Force’s resource page (created for your Task Force by a UW Librarian) to get started
- Talk to your instructor about the scope of your chapter and about essential sources
- Talk to your subject librarian for additional guidance on sources
- Coordinate and work with other members of your group (especially those working on related sub-topics) to share important sources and information
- Maintain a clean and neat bibliography of the sources you consult, and maintain it in the citation format your Task Force has chosen so that it can easily be incorporated into the final report’s overall bibliography – and used by others if necessary
- Maintain good and clear research notes…so you don’t have to go back and re-take any notes or re-check any bibliographic information
- Maintain good and clear research notes…so you don’t inadvertently commit plagiarism by failing to distinguish between other authors’ quotes and your own writing. Be wary of cutting and pasting!
- Look for good and helpful and up-to-date visual information, such as graphs, charts and maps, which will help bring your chapter to life and can save you a lot of descriptive writing
- Keep track of where you found your information – you will need to sign a copyright form to ensure that you are using this information ethically
- Think about ways of creating your own visual information (tables, charts etc.) – it can be a very effective and efficient way of summarizing and presenting information. If you are good at this offer your help to others; otherwise find out who in your Task Force has some experience with this or skill in this area.
D. Writing, Editing… and Re-Writing… and Editing Again…
Your chapter (and with it the final report) will evolve and develop over the course of the ‘Seven Weeks’ as you write and re-write a number of drafts. You will typically produce three or four drafts before the final version of your contribution goes into the final report. Since everybody is doing this there is a lot of editing to do in a short time. Editors cannot do all this work by themselves – so they will ask small groups of students to peer-edit and review each other’s drafts. Instructors will also help. The editor and the project manager will create and maintain a timeline and schedule for producing and submitting drafts so that the process is synchronized – and a platform (such as Microsoft Teams or Google Shared Docs) for doing this so that drafts can be submitted and picked up online and everyone can work on the report from different locations and at different times.
Be aware that there will be many bursts of intense writing, reading and editing. You will meet with others outside of your regular Task Force class times to review and discuss progress. It can be stressful at times because the deadline is drawing near and there are other things you have to do in your life. But you will need to prioritize Task Force because it is a team effort. You will need to get along with others or the whole project is in jeopardy.
E. Creating Your Own Policy Recommendations
When everyone has completed their final drafts your Task Force will have to produce its overall set of policy recommendations. They are typically part of a concluding section which the editor will oversee and write. This section is of course key to your report and your evaluator may well read that part first!
The policy recommendations should be few, clear, concise, and evidence-based – and they should give direction on actual steps that might be taken. Recommendations have to be backed up by the material that you presented and discussed in the individual chapters and sections. All Task Force members have to agree to these policy recommendations; achieving this consensus will typically involve some discussion and debate during a class meeting. Your policy recommendations should be clearly prioritized and sequenced and reflect your awareness of constraints. Decision-makers have scarce resources and may need to do just a few things – simply producing a long ‘laundry list’ of recommendations undermines the usefulness of your report.
Remember that your evaluator is a policy professional with considerable experience in the “real world.” Don’t just give them a list of nice-sounding platitudes of the ‘motherhood and apple pie’ variety (“Persuade warring factions that peace is in their best interest”) or completely unrealistic ‘pie-in-the-sky’ recommendations (“Immediately lower international carbon emissions by 50% to prevent sea level rise”).
F. Creating the Final Report
Eventually the editor and project manager will ask for your final-final draft in a standardized format (fonts for main text, headings and sub-headings, font size, citation style, margins) which will then be merged with all the other contributions and the surrounding sections (introduction, conclusion/policy recommendations, and the executive summer). Pagination will have to be checked, spelling and grammar will have to be checked, visual information will have to be put in the right places and properly referenced, the bibliographies will have to be checked (and in many cases merged to create a single section of references.) The final report will then have to be emailed to the Task Force evaluator the day its due. The editor and project manager will need help with all this. Be ready to step in and take responsibility during this crucial phase when the submission deadline is just a few days away!
Often the weekend preceding the submission is stressful and filled with last-minute edits. Don’t let your editors and the project manager shoulder this alone – otherwise you risk turning in a sub-par report. ALL Task Force members should be on hand during this crucial time period to make small edits and help the core team finalize the end product. Follow their lead, pitch in where they ask you to, and make yourselves available to help with the final-final draft. You don’t want to be part of the notorious group that submits 5 minutes before the deadline because someone didn’t turn in a section in time, or the editors wasted an entire day re-doing the bibliography because the sources were all formatted differently.
How Your Task Force is Evaluated
Your completed Task Force report is expedited to your evaluator about one week before Evaluation Day. This gives your external evaluator time to read and digest the report and its findings – and to formulate questions and comments to put to you during the formal oral evaluation. This section will tell you more about the evaluation process and about the things that happen on Evaluation Day.
A. Evaluation Day
You must make sure you are available on Evaluation Day! Your Task Force will be given a two-hour time slot during which you will present to your evaluator. Evaluations start as early as 9:00 a.m. and end as late as 4.30 p.m., depending on your groups schedule. Task Force evaluations will take place in-person. Your instructor will confirm whether or not the evaluator for your Task Force will attend the evaluation in person, or if they will be Zoomed in. Your instructor and group will determine the date that works best for the evaluator and group.
B. Who Is Your Evaluator?
Your evaluator is an experienced professional who works in the field or in the region defined by your Task Force’s topic and ‘brief’. Many past evaluators have been retired diplomats or senior government officials (who may have some experience of universities and academic research), or senior members of NGOs and advocacy organizations. Your instructor will identify the appropriate evaluator. You will know early in the quarter who your evaluator is. This will help you focus your research and writing. It is recommended that someone in your group do a bit of research on your evaluator. Getting to know their background, areas of interest and specialties, and their particular connection to your topic will ensure that the policy recommendations you ultimately help to create are tailor-made to fit both your audience and your subject matter.
C. Your Task Force Report is Written for Your Evaluator
In most of your classes you produce written reports or papers for your instructor, or for your TA (who reads and grades on your instructor’s behalf.) In your Task Force you are writing for your external evaluator. Task Force research and Task Force final reports are directed at a notional or actual client who will use the report for practical purposes. There are two possible formats for this, and your Task Force will use one of them:
- The final report can be written for a branch or organization in the U.S. government (e.g. the White House, or the EPA, or the DoD) to inform and influence the U.S. policymaking process. In this case your evaluator will have some experience of that organization or be familiar with its workings as a policy or think-tank professional for example as a senior diplomat, a member of Congress, or a government official (who might be retired.)
- The report can be written for an organization that is not part of the U.S. government, such as a multilateral institution, a corporation, an NGO or international NGO, or a foreign government. For this type of Task Force the client organization is involved during the preparation and execution of the Task Force, and your evaluator will be a senior representative of that client organization. Examples of this in recent years include a Task Force reporting to the International Budget Project (on accountable and transparent budgeting in poor countries) and a Task Force reporting to the advocacy group FairVote (on electoral reform in Washington state); in both cases senior members of those organizations evaluated the Task Force reports and the format of the report was tailored to the practical needs of those organizations.
The report should be between 1
D. Preparing for Your Evaluation
Between the completion of your final report and Evaluation Day your will be involved in preparing for your evaluation. Under the guidance of the instructor and your editor/project manager team, you will create slides for a professional-looking PowerPoint presentation. You will also rehearse (typically twice) the entire presentation so you can be confident that it is effective and flows smoothly on the day. Every student should have a very short script ready, and preferably memorized, for their part of the presentation. Most Task Forces decide to give every student a speaking slot during the evaluation – so you will have to create one very clear and concise PowerPoint slide for your own contribution and make sure the format and length are comparable to those prepared by other students.
E. The Two-Hour Final Evaluation
There are multiple goals for students during the evaluation. However, a primary goal is for each student to offer a brief oral argument to the evaluator – this could be during the formal presentation or during the Q&A session. Please be sure to organize your presentations and the Q&A in such a way that will make sure that all TF students make an oral presentation of some form. Remember, because each of you has become an expert on some aspect of the Task Force Report, each of you can offer an oral presentation formally or during the Q&A.
Making a very brief presentation is a challenge, and rehearsals will help you get it right. Most Task Forces make a presentation of (at most) one hour’s length to the evaluator and leave one hour for questions, comments and feedback. Hearing from your evaluator is the key part of the evaluation: your evaluator may direct questions at individual students, ask for clarification, and provide constructive criticism of any part of your report – especially the recommendations.
The atmosphere is professional but courteous; it is neither confrontational nor hostile! Your evaluator has read your report and will listen to your presentation as they would in their professional lives, and treat you as they would treat another professional. They have not met you before and do not know you except through your contribution to the report and the evaluation.
The quality of the content and the presentation are therefore essential, and preparing it thoroughly is well worth the effort. You should see the final evaluation as an opportunity to develop and sharpen the kinds of skills you will need in your own professional life: speaking clearly and confidently, taking responsibility for your work, building your professional relationships, and being willing to learn from others who have more experience than you do.
F. Your Final Grade
Final grades are awarded by the instructor, as in any other course. Your instructor will let you know about the specific criteria they will use to grade you and the other students in your Task Force. In general, though, your overall course grade in JSIS 495 will reflect your participation in the Task Force process as well as your contribution to the final report and the final evaluation. Instructors will use the evaluators’ feedback and comments in creating the students’ grades, taking into account any special efforts or contributions that individual students have made over the course of the quarter. Doing well in Task Force means more than just producing good research and writing: your Task Force is effective and works well only if everyone is also a ‘good citizen’, contributing more than just their own chapter. Instructors know this and use the grading scheme to reinforce it and provide incentives not just for rigorous and conscientious work, but for good citizenship.
Five Tips on How to Make the Most of Task Force
- As soon as the quarter starts, budget and manage your time in a smart way. Task Force has to take priority over other classes and commitments since it is a team effort and other people depend on you (even more so if you decide to become a project manager or an editor in your group).
- Important: Don’t just do the minimum. Be a good citizen in your group and stand ready to help out with any jobs that have to be done – especially during ‘crunch time’ when the final report is being assembled from all the individual contributions; a lot of this work will have to be done during week eight of the quarter.
- Accept and enjoy the challenge of working on a topic that is outside your comfort zone. Not everybody is assigned to their top-ranked Task Force – and even if you are you may be asked to work on a topic that is new or unfamiliar to you, or that you did not think you were that interested in. That’s life! You will often face challenges like that in your professional career, so try to roll with it. Many Task Force students have found that doing good research and writing in a dedicated group of peers is its own reward – and many issues become interesting and important once you start working on them.
- Take pride in producing a good report. Task Force reports are published electronically by the UW Libraries, so future students will consult them before they take their own Task Forces. Your evaluator will give your report the scrutiny they would apply to any professional report. These are two good reasons for trying your best to create a professional product of high quality and lasting value.
- Create strong academic and professional connections. Task Force is a great opportunity to make a strong and lasting impression on your instructor and on your evaluator. During Task Force instructors get to know their students’ abilities and potential very well indeed –something that can result in a strong, personal and convincing letter of recommendation in the future. Many students have been able to strike up helpful and useful relationships with their evaluators through the final presentations and conversations on Evaluation Day. There are many opportunities for networking in Task Force, more than in most of your other classes.
Writing and Research Resources
The POL S/JSIS/LSJ/GWSS Writing Center offers peer to peer writing services to assist students at all points in the writing process. This is a resource we highly recommend using. To schedule an in-person or virtual appointment click HERE
Each Task Force is paired with a UW Research Librarian familiar with the topic your group is working on. They have a long standing relationship working with students in Task Force and are available to respond to research queries throughout the quarter.
Library resource guides can be found HERE:
Lauren Dobrovolny, Task Force Administrator
Thomson Hall 111
Kian Flynn, Global Studies Librarian
Odegaard Undergraduate Library