HIS 1493: 010-018 (S18)

Handout 4: Guidelines and Due Dates for Second Paper

Due Dates:

Weds., March 14, 9AM:        Paper Topic

Weds., April 4, 9AM:            Annotated Bibliography and Guiding Research Question

Weds., April 11, 9AM:          Introduction or Abstract

Weds., April 25 9AM:           Research Paper


The research paper is worth 250 points—it is the most heavily weighted assignment of the semester (50 points more than the final exam)—so it will require a significant investment of time and effort. There is a 25-point per day deduction for late papers and a 5-point per day deduction for late Topics, Annotated Bibliographies and Guiding Research Questions, and Introductions or Abstracts. Please turn in every piece of the assignment on time. Each stage is important to the completion of your 2,000-word (approximately 7 pages + notes and bibliography) research essay.

Choosing a Topic and Type of Research Paper:

Writing a research paper is always more engaging when the topic is of interest to you, so take the time to think about the broad topics we have covered in class to date (e.g., Reconstruction, Progressive Reform, World War I), and the broad topics listed on the syllabus for the rest of the semester (e.g., the Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam, Civil Rights Movements). Once you have selected a general topic, it’s time to really focus in on the specific aspects of the topic you would really like to explore, and the type of research paper you are interested in crafting. Be sure to pick a topic you will enjoy researching, because the research component is a major part of the assignment. The separate Research Paper Topics handout provides a wide range of paper options.

Use explorehistory.ou.edu as a Starting Point

As you start to develop your topic you will need to use one of the primary sources databases along with a secondary work, or one of the primary source/secondary source pairings as a starting point. The databases and pairings can be found at: explorehistory.ou.edu. You also need to consult with your section instructor and can meet with me to discuss a topic.

The strongest papers are written after careful reflection, writing, revision, and re-writing. Consider the following steps as you work on your paper:

I: THEME DEVELOPMENT (PRE-WRITING): Papers need to be driven by a key theme or argument. Effective theme construction becomes possible only after careful research and reflection on the topic. As part of this reflective process consider the following:

1) What do you want to learn from the research project? Or, to put it another way, what is the guiding research question you are asking?

2) Think of your primary sources as the core evidence that will help you to answer your question.

2) Develop a paragraph-by-paragraph outline for the paper that enables you to develop your argument through careful presentation of evidence and arrive at a convincing conclusion.

3) Take the time to reflect on an appropriate title for your essay, one that encapsulates your core theme or argument. Thinking about titles can assist in theme/argument construction and development. Your paper abstract must have an appropriate title.

4) Develop a guiding research question and construct a 1-page bibliography of primary sources and secondary works you have already examined, and others you will examine, and list them in proper bibliographic form (Chicago Manual of Style—see the explorehistory.ou.edu site). This bibliography must be annotated. Each annotation should discuss how each major primary source or primary source collection, and how each secondary work will contribute to your examination of the topic. The bibliography should include sources you have already examined, as well as those you still need to examine.

5) Develop a one-page, two-paragraph, typed, double-spaced abstract for your research paper. Or, if you prefer, provide a draft of the first two paragraphs of your essay, in which you clearly outline the scope and scale of your research, the sources you are examining, and the main arguments you are making.

Now, with feedback on the Guiding Research Question and Annotated Bibliography and feedback on the Abstract or Introduction, you are ready to complete your research, develop your theme or argument, and write a full draft of the paper.

II: DRAFT WRITING: Having conducted all the necessary research and reflected on the theme or argument of your paper and the appropriate content to be covered, and having completed a fairly detailed abstract or introduction, and a bibliography, you should begin writing a first draft of the entire 2,000-word essay. It is not mandatory that you do this, but the draft writing stage is highly recommended. Consider the following guidelines as you write this draft:

1) Carefully review the feedback you have received on your Guiding Research Question and on your Annotated Bibliography.

2) Make sure your opening paragraph clearly outlines both the scope of your essay—the general thee or argument, and the kinds of primary sources you are using.

3) If your essay draws on the work of other scholars, then be sure to demonstrate to the reader that you understand the approaches and arguments presented in those works.

4) The bulk of your paper should present the relevant information/evidence necessary to build the theme or lend weight to the argument that you are making.

5) This presentation of evidence should include quotations from sources. Effective quotation requires great care. To quote a few lines from a source simply because they sound good, without fully comprehending their meaning or context, is unwise. Instead, quote material that provides a sure indication of the point of view, or of some key point, or integral element of the argument being made in a source. Avoid long block quotations; short quotations woven into your narrative maintain the flow of your essay. Remember, “chop, blend, and digest”; in this way you will stay in command of your sources and your quoted material.

5) As you write the final paragraphs of your essay draft make sure you have developed a strong conclusion. A concluding paragraph is most successful when it succinctly summarizes the information presented in the paper without sounding repetitious, and then closes with a strong, even memorable line or two.

III: REWRITING: With a first full draft of the essay written you are approximately two-thirds of the way to completion of the assignment. Be sure to manage your time wisely so that you are able to move to the vital third stage of the essay process.

Consider the following guidelines as you turn your initial draft into the polished version of your paper.

1) Set aside your initial draft for a day and then come back to it. Distancing yourself from the draft (for a day or two, or at the very least for an hour or two) will help you to better assess its merits and shortcomings.

2) Read through the draft and check each of the guidelines under section II (above):

  1. a) Have you carefully considered the feedback you received on your abstract or introduction and your annotated bibliography?
  2. b) Is your opening paragraph clear and effective? Have you provided the reader with a strong sense of your paper’s content, source base, and theme or argument?
  3. c) Have you demonstrated a full understanding of the sources you draw on?
  4. d) Have you presented enough evidence for your argument to be convincing?
  5. e) Does the quoted material serve its proper purpose, i.e., do your quotations illustrate key issues, arguments, and perspectives?
  6. f) Does the paper’s conclusion seem convincing to you the as you re-read it the next day?

3) Correct all the shortcomings you are able to find in this initial draft. This process may include a thorough rewriting of the whole draft, or rewriting of a few sections, or the re-ordering of certain paragraphs. You may need to reconsider your title. Remember: you are correcting a preliminary draft, so be a tough critic of your work.

4) Also check the draft carefully for grammatical shortcomings. Use your computer’s spelling and grammar check function, but remember that computerized spelling and grammar checks are imperfect; you should also proofread a printout of the draft.

  1. a) Are your tenses consistent?
  2. b) Is your sentence construction effective, i.e. are your sentences clear and concise?
  3. c) Have you carefully divided your material into paragraphs, each with a topic sentence?
  4. d) Do you have strong transitional sentences that lead the reader paragraph to paragraph?
  5. e) Please consider utilizing the Writing Center: http://www.ou.edu/writingcenter.html The WC staff can help you improve your essay, as can your section instructor.

5) Now you should have a complete second draft of your paper. Whether you submit this revised version or continue to go through the revision process is your decision. The more drafts you go through prior to submission, the more effective the work becomes.

A Final Reminder:

Please turn the paper in on time—Wednesday, April 25 (Week 14), by 9AM. After putting so much effort into this assignment during the semester it makes no sense to incur a point deduction at the very end of the process. You will receive the paper back with commentary and your grade by the end of Wk. 15.