As an alternative to the traditional research paper, CWE MFA candidate, Tara Labovich, teaches their students how to create zines. Zines are self-published, original works that include text and images. While zines have served many purposes over the decades, including identity development, storytelling or the sharing of art, the common thread among them is opposition to commercialism or profit-seeking, and a disregard for traditional design and publishing conventions. Popular among art and social justice movements, zines provide an important outlet for many cultures and communities.
The bulk of the month-long module is devoted to the development of research skills like searching for credible sources, notetaking, choosing and integrating quotes, time management and interviewing/data collection, but Tara’s students also learn how to creatively translate that research information into different forms of visual information.
To introduce the module and get students’ creative juices flowing, Tara shows several examples and asks their students to create a 15-minute in-class mini-zine based on an existing freewrite, using whatever tools they have with them, with the only requirement that it embodies what they have written about in their freewrite.
For the final project, Tara allows students to choose whether to create a digital or handmade zine, individually or in groups. The requirements for an individual are eight pages of content (not including the title page, works cited or editor’s note) with four sources; the requirements for groups are twelve pages and eight sources. The editor’s note introduces the topic and includes a written thesis statement. Students must also make their zines visually stimulating by using at least three different graphic design elements on each page and drafting a text-based conclusion summarizing their findings.
“I think it allows students to practice many of the skills we are learning in ISUCOMM, and it pushes students to consider the different ways information can be presented. It’s not only an awesome creative expression, it’s also more applicable to their degrees and future professions than the traditional research paper.”
Feedback on the zines has been overwhelmingly positive, Tara says, “Overall, students have loved the assignment; they are excited to share the work that they’ve done and the topics that they’re interested in.”