Professor Shelden, Fall 2016

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This paper will be an approximately 2000-word essay based on your own original research of primary sources. Working with your TA, you will use your skills as a historian to identify a topic, construct a research question, examine primary sources on that question using the selected databases on the Exploring U.S. History website, and develop a strong argument that places what you learn from the documents in 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 to your TA in lecture on Tuesday, November 22 (the 14th week of the 
  • Submit the paper on Canvas and as a hard copy.
  • The paper should be 1800-2100 words long (about 6-7 pages) and include a word count at the 
  • You should use one (or more) of the databases listed on the Exploring U.S. History website to 
find primary sources.
  • Use 7-10 primary sources as a target figure. Depending on the kind of sources you use, you may 
need to go over (or under) this range. Check with your TA for approval in that case.
  • You will also be required to turn in several preliminary assignments (a topic and research plan 
and an annotated bibliography) in preparation for writing the research paper.
  • The research paper is worth 150 points; the preliminary assignments are worth a total of 100 
points (out of 1000 for the class grade).
  • All papers must include footnotes formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. See 
the Citation Guide on the Exploring U.S. History web site or at the back of Mary Lynn Rampola’s Pocket Guide to Writing in History.

Writing the Essay

Success in this assignment will depend on careful reading and clear writing. Work closely with your TA and use the resources available in Rampolla’s Pocket Guide and the Exploring U.S. History website to include the following in your paper:

  • A strong thesis in your opening paragraph
  • Body paragraphs that begin with clear topic sentences and support your thesis with 
quotations from the primary documents
  • Historical writing that carefully guides the reader through your argument

Paper Topics

Select a paper topic from the list below (or work with your TA to create your own topic):

Salem Witch Trials

The Colonial Experience in Virginia

Anglo-Native American Relations in the 17th & 18th Centuries

Native American Culture in the Colonial Period

Intellectual Foundations of the Revolutionary Era

Women in the Early Republic

Foreign Policy in the Early Republic

The Slave Experience/Slave Resistance in the U.S.

Creating African American Culture

Andrew Jackson’s Vision for America

Native Americans and U.S. Expansion

The Cherokee Nation

The Secession Crisis

Women/Families in Wartime (Revolution or Civil War)

Soldiers/Black Soldiers in War (Revolution or Civil War)