Making course prep work for you and your research

I took on a new course this semester, thanks to a generous course development grant from UT’s Department of Asian Studies: War and Peace in East Asia. While I’m blogging about the lectures as they happen, I also wanted to take some time to talk about what preparing for the course over the second half of the summer has done for me in terms of my research—and why new preps, if you’ve got to take them on, can work to your advantage as a researcher.

The key, for me, was to choose my background readings carefully. While this is certainly a new prep, requiring case examples and empirical work devoted to a particular region (as opposed to the globe, which my causes of war class focuses on), I did my dead-level best to make sure that the readings I focused on paid dividends on at least one of my research agendas. In fact, that one little strategem is precisely why this course, before I gave a single lecture, has enriched my research.

My first big post-dissertation project has been on international military coalitions (see here and here for articles that will be incorporated into the book manuscript), and as a result of focusing my class cases on multilateral crises and wars, I’ve come across tons of great material for it, from negotiations between the United States and the Soviets over the latter’s entry into the war against Japan in 1945 to the terms of American cooperation with South Korea once North Korea stormed across the DMZ.

As a result, I managed to tell myself that I’m multitasking when I’m prepping for an upcoming course—and actually believe it. For me, that’s no small thing.

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