The papers in this course are exercises in research and writing. They are designed to enhance both analytical and communication skills and to provide a deeper understanding of history.
First Paper: Primary Sources
The first paper will be an approximately 1000-word essay based on the set of primary sources provided on the course website. Your task is to use those sources to develop an argument about an important issue in its historical context. 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 surprise them—that will deepen their understanding of American history?
Requirements and Deadlines
- The paper is due in the discussion section in the fourth week of the semester. It is not a rough draft. Rather it should represent your best effort to write a coherent paper.
- The paper should be 900-1200 words long (around 3-4 pages).
- This paper is worth 50 points (out of 1000 for the class grade).
- The essay will be returned to you in discussion section in the fifth week.
- You will have one week to revise the paper and submit a re-write in discussion section in the sixth week.
- This re-write will be worth 100 points.
- Both paper one and the re-write will be submitted in hard copy and on D2L.
- All papers must include footnotes and a bibliography formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See the Citation Guide on the ExploreHistory web site.
Writing the Essay
Success in these assignments will depend on careful research and clear writing. The website features tutorials to help you:
- Crafting a Thesis: A strong thesis goes beyond simply reporting what you found; it uses the evidence to broaden, qualify, or even contradict our understanding of an important theme in U.S. history. Your thesis may emerge gradually as you wrestle with your documents in early drafts. In your finished paper, however, feature your thesis in the introduction.
- Working the Evidence: Most of a history essay should consist of “evidence paragraphs,” which develop and support the thesis with quotations. Quote when you’ve made an assertion your reader is unlikely to accept without proof. After you quote, always explain: try to tease unforeseen implications out of the evidence; try to fend off a naysayer’s objection to your reading of the quotation.
- Structuring the Essay: As your paragraphs begin to emerge from this process of working the evidence, unify each one with a topic sentence, and arrange them in a sequence that builds toward your strongest claims. Your finished essay should thus feature a clearly sign-posted order as it advances from the introduction through your body paragraphs and, finally, to your conclusion.