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U.S. History Research Paper

Range of Research Topic: The Twentieth Century
Research Question: To be created by you

After choosing a topic that you would like to study further, you will write a well-developed research paper. You must show through your writing a solid understanding of the subject area you have chosen. A well-rounded paper will include ample research, evidence of organized writing skills, and a thought provoking argument showing the correlation between the research and your own personal opinion on what you have discovered through your work. The end result will be a paper between 1250 and 1500 words in length.

Step 1: Choosing a topic or question
This precedes your more formal thesis or thesis question. Choose an area of interest to you that has value within the study of U.S. History and had an impact on U.S. culture, citizens, politics, government, military, or business in the 20th century. The following examples indicate the level of detail and focus that you should provide:
-"I'm interested in the treatment of POW's during World War II and the Vietnam War"
-"How did the American experience of being an teenager change during the 20th century?"
-"The affect of TV viewing on American culture in the 2Oth century"
-"The role of the helicopter in Vietnam"
-"Internment of Japanese-Americans"
-"When did the sixties really start?"
-"American music in the 1960's"

You have already noticed that some of these topics or questions are narrower than others. Narrow is good as it will help you to focus when creating the all-important thesis statement. Consider the difference between:

1) I'm interested in how transportation changed America in the 20th century.

2) How did the creation of the U.S. Interstate system affect American leisure travel (road trips) in the 1950s?

The second question provides a more focused approach (transportation vs, car travel, 20th century vs. 1950s). It hasn't become a thesis statement yet but it is getting closer.

Step 2: Thesis /Thesis Question
Courtesy of: A Guide for College Students, Bowdoin College

The thesis is a one sentence statement about the focus of your paper. It states the main idea or point of view you will support in your paper. You might not discover the thesis until you have completed most of your research. The thesis may change as you continue to research or write your paper. A good thesis derives from a good question. Since the thesis is your conclusion to a scholarly argument, there must be a clear question at stake. A thesis that does not answer a question, or answers a simple or obvious question, is not a thesis. You need to ask thoughtful questions of your topic and primary source material to develop a good thesis. The best theses are good precisely because the questions they answer are significant, complex and original.

There are many sources for questions that lead to a good thesis, but all seem to pose a novel approach to their subject. A good thesis question may result from your curious observations of primary source material, as in “During World War II, why did American soldiers seem to treat Japanese prisoners-of-war more brutally than German prisoners-of-war?” Or, good thesis questions may challenge accepted wisdom, as in “Many people assume that the sexual revolution started because of the invention of the birth control pill. Is this true?” More sample thesis statements here.

Thesis and Outline
The next step will be to develop a “working thesis” and outline for the paper. After consulting primary and secondary resources, narrow down your focus and develop a main idea, or thesis that you would like to support and/or explore in your research. From this point, create three to five sub topics. Then, create an outline for your paper.
see details

Note cards
Note cards—following the note card example distributed in class, be prepared to have at least 20 research note cards, plus relevant resource cards, ready to be checked off in class on the due date. If the outline is the skeleton of your paper than the notecards provide the muscle. You will most likely need more than 20 research note cards to craft your paper. Here is the guide to note card creation.

Writing your essay
The Introduction

The introduction is the first one or two paragraphs of your paper; it provides an overview of the information presented in your paper. Try to begin the introduction by finding a way to connect the reader to your subject; you might mention a modern day situation that relates to your subject. Include the thesis statement in the introduction, and provide a brief preview of the main points you will cover.

The Body
The main body of the paper will contain paragraphs explaining the key points you wish to make about your subject. These paragraphs should stick to the main subject of the paper and make clear the thesis of the paper. Discard information that does not help to explain the subject of the paper.

Do not jump around! Paragraphs dealing with similar information should be grouped together. You might wish to organize your paper chronologically; or you might choose to cover ideas in their order of importance.

Clearly explain terms and concepts used in your paper. It is important to not just tell what it is, but also why it is important. Do not just summarize information from your resources; clearly link the facts you choose to present to clearly support your thesis. Integrate evidence and commentary throughout your essay.

Remember, sources appear in two places, in-text citations in the main body of the paper and are listed in the Bibliography at the end. Your paper should have a minimum of five sources, using primary sources whenever possible. Two of your sources must be books and you may not use Wikipedia entries as sources. See pages 3 and 4 of the Drake English Department Handbook for the proper citation format.

Using your own words
While it is good to include quotes from reliable sources in your paper, the paper should be written in your own words. Do not copy directly from any source unless you put quotes around the material and identify the source. When paraphrasing another person’s work, do not use quotes, but still make it clear where the information came from. Otherwise, you are guilty of plagiarism.

Although your paper should be written in your own words, it should be based on solid research and historical fact. Your paper should not include unsupported opinions. Your opinions matter only if you back them up with factual information.

Include the Human Perspective
A paper that is nothing but facts will be less interesting than a paper that describes how people reacted to events. Try to tell your reader how people felt about what happened to them. This is a good place to use some quotes.

The conclusion is probably the best place to offer your own ideas and judgments about the historical events described in your paper. First, restate the main point or points you have attempted to make. State any conclusions you have reached. You might also wish to suggest why the information presented in your paper is beneficial or how it might be used in the future. The conclusion should be approximately one or two paragraphs in length.

Final Draft
The final draft should be between 1250 and 1500 words in length, not including the title and bibliography. Illustrations may be included in the text itself with proper citation. Your final draft should be double-spaced in 12 point font.


Research Paper due dates, deadlines and resources

2/29 - your topic/question (10 points) - due at the end of class, email to rmilstead@gmail.com - put the word TOPIC in the subject line.

3/3 - thesis question (15 points)

3-17 - thesis and outline due (25 points) - see details in assignment.

3-19 - 20 note cards due (25 points) - see details in assignment

TBD - Rough draft due in class (40 points) - peer editing in class

TBD - second rough draft due (40 points). This draft should answer the comments that I provided on your first draft. This draft should include your full bibliography of sources. Details on sources here.

TBD - Final Draft of paper due (100 points).