The core assignment of this course is a documented research paper (1500-2000 words in length = approx. 6-8 pages double-spaced, 12-point font).
The paper should support a thesis statement with information gained from research or investigation.
The paper will not be just a report presenting information but will be a paper that carefully examines and presents your own historical interpretation of the topic you have chosen and your interpretation of the information you have gathered.
The paper may include consideration of problems and solutions, define key terms, or refute arguments against your thesis statement.
It will be important to choose a topic of interest to you.
Approach this assignment with an open and skeptical mind, then form an opinion based on what you have discovered.
You must suspend belief while you are investigating and let the discoveries shape your opinion. (This is a thesis-finding approach.)
Once you have found your thesis, write the paper to support it.
You will use some of the following critical thinking skills in this process:
Choosing an appropriate topic, limiting the topic
Gathering information, summarizing sources
Analyzing and evaluating sources
Defining key terms
Synthesizing information, comparing and contrasting sources
Testing a thesis, making a historical argument, using refutation
Amassing support for a position
Because this may be a longer paper than you have written before and a complex process is involved, it is recommended that you complete this paper using the following steps:
Choose a topic related to U.S. History up to 1877 (Chapters 1-15) that you would truly like to explore and that you are willing to spend some time on. Your chosen topic should be focused. Don’t try to take on some huge topic. For example, “Slavery in America” or “The American Revolution” are enormous with many issues involved. Where does it stop? Instead look at a specific aspect of slavery or the Revolution, at a specific moment. Pose a question that you really want to answer. You may want to begin with more than one topic in mind.
Do some preliminary reading on the topic(s). You may begin with the textbook, then further explore the information available. Refine your topic. Summarize your topic, your interest in the topic, the questions you want to answer, and a hypothesis you want to test. This is not a summary of some issue, idea, or event. This cannot be a biography though you could select an issue, event, or idea from some historical figure.
Gather information from a variety of sources. Use a minimum of four sources for your paper, and at least one must be a primary source. You cannot use a text book, wikipedia, encyclopedia, or documentary as a source.
Examples of primary sources are ones that are used in our discussion forums 2-8. None of the sources used for this course can be used for your paper.
They are sources that are contemporary to the times under investigation.
An example of a secondary source is a monograph, that is, the book or article focuses on an issue, idea, or event. The Journal of American History is an example of an academic journal.
Outline the results of your research and the plan for your paper (you are not required to submit the outline).
Write the final draft and be sure to include a Works Cited List, and use the correct MLA documentation style.
INTRODUCTION & THESIS: Includes a clear thesis statement, an assertion or position. Topic is original and manageable in a short research paper. /15
FOCUS AND DEVELOPMENT: Body of the essay focuses on this thesis and develops it fully, recognizing the complexity of issues and refuting arguments in opposition to the thesis. /20
SUPPORT AND SYNTHESIS: Uses sufficient and relevant evidence to support the thesis (and primary points), including facts, inferences, and judgments. Quotes, summarizes, and paraphrases accurately and effectively–appropriately introducing and explaining each quote. /25
RESOURCES: Shows a clear understanding of the sources; has evaluated each source and used it appropriately. Uses a wide variety of sources reflecting significant research. /10
CONVENTIONS: Uses MLA format correctly; includes internal citations and a Works Cited list; is free of errors. /15
CORRECTNESS AND STYLE: Introduces the topic in an interesting way; shows critical thinking and depth of understanding; uses appropriate tone; shows sophistication in language usage and sentence structure. /15