The Integrated Essay is one of the candidacy projects that students must complete before moving ahead in the program. The Integrated Essay demonstrates independent thinking, the ability to synthesize a crucial question of interdisciplinary learning, and mastery of content in your area of inquiry. The Essay reveals the student’s ability to identify interesting and important questions in his or her area of inquiry. It is a document exploring a salient question or theme that emerges from the confluence of the various areas of the student’s expertise and academic or professional interests. It is a forum for the student to show his or her ability to reiterate and synthesize seminal material, the student’s sense of the related methodologies and what they reveal, the use of the literature, and how the student participates in this scholarly discussion. A good essay demonstrates clarity of purpose in regard to the question or theme, and the ability to suggest further questions or relationships that stretch the question or theme further. Finally, the essay demonstrates good writing.
The Integrated Essay serves four primary educational functions.
- It solidifies the student’s scholarly voice, identifying and reflecting on the key dimensions of the Learning Domain, finding a place and context in the emerging literature of an interdisciplinary orientation.
- It presents the challenge of reasoning out complex argumentation that integrates approaches, theories, and concepts in creative and meaningful ways.
- It provides an opportunity to develop the skills of interpretation and critique of scholarly material.
- It prepares the student for the doctoral dissertation, formulating the theoretical foundation, suggesting the outlines of further research, and/or organizing the parameters and details of the literature search.
The Integrated Essay may take two principal approaches. It may represent an interpretive synthesis, a way of formulating, describing, and connecting several theoretical strands, demonstrating how they may be conceptualized as an integrated whole, an emergent property of the student’s Learning Domain. This approach involves concentrating on delineating the scholarship and placing it in a unique framework, demonstrating how and why the elements fit together, considering the implications for research, and for environmental studies generally.
The Integrated Essay may also take the form of a specific inquiry which emerges out of the Learning Domain. This involves exploring a salient theoretical point or question, or addressing a case study or controversial environmental issue.
Here are some examples of recent Integrated Essays:
- Conservation and Development in a New England Town: The Evolution of Ecological Concern and Economic Desire
- Science, Environmental Decision Making, and Conservation Biology
- The Collision of Totemic Lifeworlds: Between Sacred and Sacrificed
- From Agawam to Merrimac: Lessons to be Learned from the Landscape
- Reflective Practice in the Development of the Non-formal Environmental Educator
- The Effects of Canopy Herbivory on Soil Micro Anthropods in the Tropical Rainforest
- Community-Based Environmental Education in Developing Countries: A Tool to Connect
Protected Areas and People
- Exploring the Concept of Learning-Based Coastal Management