History Research Paper
Range of Research Topic: The Twentieth
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.
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
-"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
your research. From this point, create three to five sub topics.
Then, create an outline for your paper. see details
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 is the first one or two paragraphs of your
paper; it provides an overview of the information presented
paper. Try to begin the introduction by finding a way to
connect the reader to your subject; you might mention a modern
that relates to your subject. Include the thesis statement
in the introduction, and provide a brief preview of the main
you will cover.
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
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
The final draft should be between 1250 and 1500 words in length,
not including the title and bibliography. Illustrations may
included in the text itself with proper citation. Your final
draft should be double-spaced in 12 point font.