Assignment: Your task is to write an essay on a topic in American history. You paper must be an original piece on a topic of your choosing related to the conversations we have in class.
Each student will have to explore different resources and will need to develop an individual approach to the subject. The goal is a brief but detailed exploration of some narrowly defined aspect of American history.
The end product should not be a comprehensive study of a topic but rather a focused examination of a specific theme (a microhistory) that you choose based on your reading of the documents that your research uncovers, and the history written about the subject by historians in books and journal articles.
Length: Your paper must be approximately 5-7 typed, double-spaced pages (double-spaced lines; one inch margins; 12 point font). It must also have a title page, end-notes, and a bibliography. You may also include an Appendix of photos, genealogical charts, maps, census records, wills, deeds, or letters, etc. Appendices usually help a paper but you are not required to include one.
Purpose: The purposes of this project include: developing critical reading and writing skills, enhancing historical research methods, and developing interpretive skills through the use of primary and secondary sources.
Steps: Select your topic and have it approved by your instructor. Start by thinking about broad topics you are interested in (economics, war, politics, women, nationalism, empire, etc.) then refine the topic down to a specific aspect of the larger subject. You may select a topic on your own, but you must obtain prior approval from your professor before researching.
Do some background work to find your sources. The paper must draw upon both primary source materials, including declassified documents, newspapers, interviews, and memoirs, as well as secondary sources, including but not limited to your textbook, monographs, articles, historical journals, and government documents.
Identify your thesis: You should organize your paper around a thesis, developed from your materials and displaying the significance of your subject. You need to support the thesis with concrete evidence. A thesis is an answer to an open question. A good way to find a thesis is to ask a question: why something happened or why it is interesting.
Do your research and the write your paper and turn it in.
Citations: In using sources, be sure to cite them appropriately in your paper, take caution, however, as it would be tempting to take someone else’s words to describe your own arguments or events. To do so without giving them credit is plagiarism. If you have doubts about something, please ask.
Due Date: This is not the kind of paper that you can write in one night, and so the requirements for the paper are set up to prevent that from happening. Remember that your assignment is worth up to 100 points (20% of your grade) and is due to me by the 29th of April. Anything handed in after that day cannot be accepted. Do not e-mail me your assignment; I need a hard copy.
You should also consult with the following Campus Writing Labs for assistance: MTM Writing Clinic, MLK 252, (713) 313-7981 / SAES Writing Lab, Fairchild 167, (713) 131-4355