-Research Paper: (5-7 pages/12 pt/double spacing) This is a research paper in which you will exam an area of world history of your choosing. It is due on June 28. See below for a guide on writing a research paper. You will also find an essay rubric on Black Board.
~Guide for Writing a Research Paper~
Make sure that you fully understand the assignment.
-Carefully read the description of the assignment in the syllabus and consult with the instructor if you have any questions. This does not simply pertain to matters of length or formatting. Rather it is imperative that you understand exactly what the instructor wants to see in terms of: parameters, subject, structure, content, and argument. History papers can take many forms that include: research papers, reflection pieces, document analysis, or reviews. None of these formats are the same and each one will require you to take a different approach.
Start with a good topic that is clearly defined.
-The best place to start a research paper is by selecting a good topic. Topics should: meet the parameters of the assignment, interest you, and allow you to perform enough research. The best topics are clearly focused on a discretely defined subject rather than something that is too general or vague. The best way to settle on a clearly defined topic is to start by asking yourself what interests you in the most general sense. For example, this could be an era, a country, or a type of history. Once you have settled on a very general idea, start to ask yourself a series of questions that will help you narrow down your topic. If you initially decided that you are interested in the history of France then you could ask yourself a series of questions such as: 1) what era of French history interests me? 2) do I like a particular field of history such as cultural history of social history 3) am I interested in something like the history women or labor history 4) is there a major event in French history which interests me? Depending on the questions you ask and the answers you give, you may decide to write a paper that is a social history of working class women during the French Revolution. Depending on the assignment, you might even choose to break this topic down even further by adding things such as specific dates or a region. Before you know it, you might have a title that reads “Compare and contrast the daily lives of rural and urban working class women from the outbreak of the French Revolution until the coronation of Napoleon.”
The paper should be driven by a clear and coherent thesis.
-This is central to virtually every single history paper that you will ever write. Most professors want papers that are analytically-driven in which you argue in defense of a coherent thesis. It does not have to be anything radical, but you need to demonstrate that the paper is attempting to prove something systematically and that it is not a boring narrative with no real point. The best way to accomplish this is to A) chose a strong topic and, perhaps, shape it in the form of a question B) do your research and see where that leads you C) craft a thesis statement which lays out what you are going to prove and, ideally, place this at the end of the introductory paragraph D) use the body of the essay to prove your thesis statement. In this process, it is essential that you are aware of what constitutes analysis vs. simple description or narrative. Analysis is your opinion on the topic and should be based on a combination of research and careful and thoughtful reflection. Analysis needs to appear throughout your paper and should always be working to support your thesis and larger argument. Simple description and narrative is when you tell what happened without any real thought or analysis. Good papers require certain amounts of description and narrative, however, they must be used in conjunction with analysis to help you argue your case. A paper that consists merely of description and narrative is a poor one because it will not expose the reader to anything that is new or thought-provoking.
Do enough research to answer the question.
-This is not as obvious as it sounds. You need to consult enough material to write a well-researched essay. The library is a good place to start. SLU’s library catalogue can easily be searched online by author, title, subject, or keyword. Likewise use Mobius and Inter-Library Loan to order books that SLU doesn’t have. Academic journals are a great resource as well. SLU library’s homepage has a number of links to great search engines for academic journals which are available online. You can access numerous databases from the library’s homepage as well. The internet can be a useful source of information for your paper, however, it should not serve as a substitute for hardcopies of books. It’s time to stop when you feel as if you’ve found enough material to write your paper. Also don’t be surprised if your ideas and argument change as you do more research. This is fine and shows that you are gaining a firm and thoughtful knowledge of the material.
-This is the vast majority of the essay and should be devoted to proving your thesis in an organized and systematic manner. The body should be a combination of narrative and analysis. You should begin with an introduction that presents the topic, includes a brief overview of the essay, and concludes with the thesis statement. You then build the essay section-by-section. Each section should address an important point and should make sense in terms of how it’s introduced and what comes before and after it. You should finish the essay with a conclusion that briefly reiterates your argument, but much more importantly is used as the last opportunity to prove your point. For example, if you decided to write the essay on French women during the Revolution you might construct an essay like this: 1) Intro that ends with a strong and coherent thesis statement 2) an overview of aspects of the French Revolution that apply to your paper with particular attention to the lives of women 3) a detailed discussion of the lives of rural women during this period 4) a detailed discussion of the lives of urban women during this period 5) an extended section that compares/contrasts the experiences of both groups of women 6) conclusion. If each of these sections is based on your research and supports your argument then you have written a well-researched and well-structured paper.
-The essay should be written in college level English. Please pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. It’s always a good idea to get a friend to proofread it or to take advantage of SLU’s writing center. Make sure to consult the syllabus for matters of formatting. Many professors will be happy to help you with your writing and are willing to look at rough drafts.
-If a piece of information is not general knowledge and not your idea, you must reference it. This is even the case if you are paraphrasing. Depending on the paper guidelines this can be done with endnotes, footnotes, or inside brackets in the text. In any of these cases, you must follow the format required by the professor and provide him or her with enough information to locate the reference if they decided to do so. This normally includes author, title, date/place of publication, and page number.
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