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 essay 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 an essay 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 an historical argument, using refutation
- Amassing support for a position
- Documenting sources
Because this may be a longer essay 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 after 1877 (Chapters 16-28) that you would truly like to explore and that you are willing to spend some time on. Your chosen topic should be focused. 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.
- 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.
- Examples of primary sources are ones that are used in our discussion forums 2 - 8.
- They are sources that are contemporary to the times under investigation.
- An example of a secondary source is our textbook, though the textbook also contains excerpts of primary sources, which you may use as a source in your essay.
- Outline the results of your research and then plan for your essay (note you are not required to submit the outline).
- Write the final draft and be sure to include a Works Cited List; be sure to use the correct MLA document.