Catherine Kelly

Second Paper: Research Essay

The second paper builds on the skills that were introduced in the first paper. This assignment begins with the pairing of a primary document and a secondary work drawn from the list provided on the course website.

For example, you might choose a pairing like the following:

Primary Document: Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863. » Read

Secondary Work: Dorothy Ross, “Lincoln and the Ethics of Emancipation: Universalism, Nationalism, Exceptionalism,” Journal of American History, 96 (Sept. 2009): 379-99 » Read

Once you’ve chosen your pairing, you will use it as a starting point for library research to find other sources related to your topic.  Your essay should engage with both the primary and secondary source in your pairing, and with the supplementary sources you discover. We have compiled a list of suggested pairings below.

Requirements and Deadlines

  • The research paper will be 1800-2100 words (about 6-7 pages).
  • The paper is due at the beginning of discussion section in Week 14. Submit the paper on D2L and as a hard copy.
  • As a rule of thumb, 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 or Professor Kelly for approval in that case.
  • You will also be required to examine at least one additional secondary source, either an article from a scholarly journal, an essay from an anthology, or a book chapter(s) from a pertinent work on the topic.
  • The research paper itself is worth 225 points; the thesis paragraph/bibliography is worth 25 points.


In order to encourage you to write the best paper possible, and in order to discourage procrastination, we have set the following mandatory intermediate deadlines:

  • You must select a paper topic and deposit it in D2L Dropbox by 5 pm, March 11.
  • You must submit a thesis paragraph for the paper, as well as a bibliography listing your primary and secondary sources, at the beginning of discussion section in Week 13.
  • In addition, you are strongly encouraged to consult regularly with your TA or Professor Kelly about topics and sources.


Writing the Essay

Writing this research paper involves the same core writing skills you learned while composing the shorter essay: crafting a strong thesis, using evidence and considering its possibilities, and organizing your essay. Proofread your essay carefully before turning it in, and be sure to follow the guidelines for citing sources outlined in the Citation Guide on the Explorehistory web site.

Suggested Pairings: You may select any of the pairings posted on the Colonial America, Revolutionary America, and New Nation pages. (All of these pages are under SOURCES on OU’s Explore History website.)  Nevertheless, we encourage you in the strongest possible terms to select from the pairings listed below, which run the gamut from diplomacy and war to high politics to explorations of ordinary life.

Why select from this menu? The articles are particularly readable.  The pairings intersect with primary sources that are especially user friendly. They connect to themes and issues that we’re covering in class, which means that you are already somewhat familiar with them; in some cases, you’ll have already worked on the readings in section.  Finally, the TAs will be better prepared to help you locate key primary and secondary sources.

Colonial America: Pairings 3, 6, 7, 10.

Revolutionary America: Pairings 1, 2, 6*, 8, 9, 12.

New Nation: Pairings 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 21.