The first paper will be a 1000-­word essay based on primary sources that address Reconstruction and the “Meaning of Freedom.” Your task is to use the primary sources listed below to develop an original argument. Imagine your audience as intelligent readers craving new knowledge about the past, but unfamiliar with these documents. What can you tell them about the sources that will deepen their understanding of American history generally and of these events in particular?

Primary Sources (Available on Canvas and via the hyperlinks below)

Requirements and Deadlines

  • You must submit your paper to Canvas for your discussion section no later than 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 20.
  • The paper should be submitted as a Word document
  • This paper should be approximately 1000 words long (around 3-­4 pages).
  • You must integrate and analyze a minimum of three of the above sources in your paper
  • This paper is worth 100 points.
  • All papers must include footnotes formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See the Citation Guide on Canvas and at http://explorehistory.ou.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/CitationGuide2014.pdf.

Writing the Essay

Your grade for the first paper centers around these three categories:

Thesis: First, we focus on the clarity of your thesis by asking the following questions: Is there a thesis? Is it an intelligent thesis informed by your critical examination of primary sources? Does it contain a challenging claim and specific support? We reward students who attempt to craft a thesis based on our discussions and the “Crafting a Thesis Statement” model (http://explorehistory.ou.edu/thesis/).

Quality and Analysis of the Evidence: You should use specific examples from the documents. We ask how effective you were in choosing examples and connecting them to your thesis. You are not expected to provide a summary of the documents. We pay attention to your ability to bring the documents into conversation with each other. Do you situate evidence in historic context, drawing on lectures, readings and discussions? Have you integrated quotations from the evidence effectively as discussed in http://explorehistory.ou.edu/integrating-quotations-chop-blend-digest/).

Structure and Style: The best argument can be undermined by poor writing—weak topic sentences, disjointed paragraph structure, awkward phrasing, excessive or inadequate quotations, a feeble vocabulary, or typos. Do you unify each paragraph with a strong topic sentence and arrange them in a sequence that builds toward your strongest claims? We will not mark every error while grading. Rather, we mark representative examples of often repeated mistakes. Improper citations result in an automatic grade reduction.

Grading Rubric

Excellent (A: 90 – 100)—The paper is well organized, clear, and precise in regards to thesis, evidence, and writing. It contains a thesis that follows the model we have discussed. Analysis of the documents involves insights that go beyond basic facts. The student is also creative in his or her examination of the documents and integrates quotations effectively. Judgments tend to be subtle and reflect an awareness of the complexities of the subject. The paper is well organized with clear topic sentences. The paper contains no writing errors and makes expert use of citations.

Good (B: 80 – 89)The paper is organized, coherent, and technically sound, but provides little additional insight. There might be a weakness in the argument or the student could have done a better job connecting evidence to his or her thesis. Furthermore, although the student provides an effective overview of primary documents, perhaps he or she could have done a better job connecting his or her analysis to the bigger question of what these documents can tell us about the era. The student uses topic sentences inconsistently. Paper also includes some writing, grammatical, or citation errors.

Fair (C: 70 – 79)The paper reflects a basic understanding of the subject, but it displays an obvious thesis. Alternatively, the thesis does not conform to the model we discussed. Although the paper summarizes the documents, it fails to incorporate specific examples, which makes the paper read more like a simple review of the documents rather than a critical analysis of them. The student might have integrated quotations in parts of the paper but not in others. Finally, the paper may include several common writing/grammatical mistakes.

Poor (D: 60 – 69)The paper displays some relevant material, but it is generally characterized by weak organization, a vague thesis, numerous writing/factual errors, or confusion. Although the paper discusses some documents, it lacks sufficient evidence for a paper of this scope. There is no engagement with the exercises pertaining to thesis or integrating quotations. The paper may also include numerous writing or grammatical mistakes and display poor use of citations.

Unsatisfactory (F: 0 – 59)The paper displays little to no engagement with the subject and is in many ways incomplete. The student demonstrates little interaction with the documents and provides a poor argument (or none whatsoever). The paper may include factual errors or value judgments/opinions, further revealing limited interaction with the documents. The paper may include numerous writing/grammatical mistakes. Significantly, you fail to include proper citations. Finally, any paper that contains plagiarized material will receive 0 points; we will report the student to the Office of Academic Integrity.