Written Assignments Final Research Paper

Where do historians get the information they use when writing about events from the past? There are two types of sources: primary and secondary. Primary sources, such as official records, letters (official and personal), diaries, newspaper articles, photos, posters, and cartoons are created at the time the events took place by people involved in them. Historians also get information from secondary sources—books, articles, and websites about topics in history.

One of the major assignments in this course is to write a research paper that uses both primary and secondary sources. The paper will be on a Cornell Annotated Bibliography topic of your choice from the materials we cover in class, but must be pre-approved by me.

In unvarnished terms, this is a research paper on the topic of your choice that will take the place of a final examination.  The topic MUST fall within the time period we are studying and MUST be approved by me beforehand.  It is to be 8-10 double spaced pages in length, font size 12, not counting title page, bibliography, end notes, etc.  It is preferred that you use Word and Times New Roman font.

This assignment is designed to allow students to demonstrate their mastery of both recent American history and the historical research and writing process.

The end of the paper should indicate what conclusion you have come to after having researched and written about the subject. It should also demonstrate how or why you have arrived at a particular conclusion.

The final paper for this course is designed to address the following subset of course objectives:

Critically read and research using traditional sources and information technology

identify, evaluate, and present, through effective writing, evidence found in primary and secondary sources

Begin this process by referring to the documents in Course Content titled “History Program Requirements” and “Writing Resources”. The latter will advise you as to the various forms of assistance provided by your research and writing activity. In addition to this information, the Effective Writing Center (EWC) offers free writing assistance for all students, faculty, and staff. The staff will review your essay and offer suggestions for improvement. You’ll need to provide a copy of your paper and the instructions for this exercise so the staff knows what you are expected to do. There is a link provided under Course Content, in the Webliography, and also on the library homepage —and here: http://www.umuc.edu/prog/ugp/ewp_writingcenter/wc_home.html

This final research paper project is divided into four stages, each of which is graded separately.

I. Working Analytical Thesis Statement

With the approval of their instructor, students will select a topic relevant to the course title and material.  Then the student will perform preliminary research and create a working thesis, with the understanding that it may be modified later in the research process.  The thesis statement should be a minimum of 200 words.  Here is a web site that will be of help to you.

Selecting a topic. Visit this Website, http://polaris.umuc.edu/ewc/ChooseTopic/ChooseTopic.html, for guidance on how to select a research topic.

Developing a thesis statement. This is the main idea or central theme that you are developing, and the body of the paper should be designed to support your thesis. Therefore, the thesis should be stated at the outset of the paper, in your introduction. For example, “Should Abraham Lincoln be regarded as ‘the Great Emancipator’?” Here you provide evidence in support of this idea, as well as information to the contrary. Then you would weigh the merits of one versus the other and draw a conclusion. In the conclusion, you could take sides or decline to do so by indicating that both viewpoints have merit and why you believe that to be the case.

II. Annotated Bibliography

Historians base their writing of history on a variety of sources, many of which fall under the label of documents. Primary documents include official records, letters, diaries, newspaper articles, photos, posters, cartoons, music, and visual art. Historians also utilize materials to write history from secondary sources, such as books, articles, and Web sites about historical topics.

Identifying primary and secondary sources. Primary sources would be the words and deeds of Lincoln himself, and those of his contemporaries—like Frederick Douglass—while secondary sources would be what have been written about Lincoln based upon primary sources. The foundation of the paper must be primary sources, with secondary sources being used to present and/or support the thesis based on the work of other scholars.

Students will write a multi-page annotated bibliography.  This assignment will list and describe a minimum of 12 primary and secondary sources, with specific requirements detailed below, that the student may use in his or her finished paper.  You may NOT use encyclopedias or the text books as sources.  AT LEAST HALF OF YOUR SOURCES SHOULD BE USED IN YOUR PAPER!  THIS IS MANDATORY TO GET A PASSING GRADE!

The annotated bibliography should involve a variety of primary and secondary sources, including two full-length books from reputable academic presses, two primary sources, and articles from at least two scholarly, academic journals; it should not include encyclopedias, dictionaries, or non-professional websites.  Each annotation should include a full, properly-formatted Chicago citation and one to two complete paragraphs explaining the basic argument the work makes and the type of evidence used to prove the thesis.  If it is not acceptable, you will be allowed to rewrite it.  Here are 3 web sites that will be of help to you.




III. Abstract

Students will compose an abstract of 2 full pages that sums up the main ideas and arguments he or she will be making in the final paper.  The abstract must be concise and well-structured, with sufficient detail to demonstrate that the thesis and arguments will be valid.  There should be listed sources and footnotes.

IV. Final Paper

The final paper should be 8-10 double-spaced pages in length, exclusive of title page and any end note and bibliography pages. It should be composed in Microsoft Word with one-inch margins on all sides, 10 or 12 pitch, Times New Roman font. Check the Course Schedule for the due date.

The finished paper will use both primary and secondary sources to demonstrate the plausibility of a clearly-stated, analytical thesis.  It will be carefully structured, composed, and proofread, with all required components included in the correct order.  Please use footnotes and not end notes in your citations.

Thesis Statement. Your paper will start with the thesis statement and introduction which should be a well-developed paragraph.

Body of the Paper. The finished paper will use both primary and secondary sources to increase the plausibility of the clearly stated, analytical thesis. It will be carefully structured, composed, and proofread, with all required components included in the correct order.   You need a minimum of 7 sources to be eligible for a grade of C; 10 sources to be eligible for an A.  Note the specific requirements for primary and secondary sources.

Conclusion. The end of the paper should indicate what conclusion you have come to after having researched and written about the subject. It should also demonstrate how or why you have arrived at a particular conclusion.

Bibliography. The works—both primary and secondary—that are used in your paper should all be listed in your bibliography.


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