Writing a research paper provides students with an opportunity to practice rather than simply observe "history." While the students must take an active role in developing an historical argument, they are also freed from being dependent on formal lectures. Students can explore a topic, make their own connections and present their own findings in a professional manner. This process may sound overwhelming, but if students follow the steps explained in detail below, then much of the anxiety caused by, uncertainty should dissipate.
All students will keep a research journal in order to document the progress of their search and thought processes. Students will register how and why they selected their topic, will write down the major and minor questions which arise during their research and record each search for information. Questions may concern either how to find a particular item, or a fundamental insight that occurred while reading or searching. One type of entry might come from an on-line search. A student may wish to search for Lord Palmerston by title, subject or author. The student will then record not only the method and database used for the search but also the result.
SOSU Library Catalog
Wilson's Academic Abstracts
Such entries should help the students avoid redundant searches. Another type of entry may simply begin "I wonder . . .." These entries provide clues to future searches and ideas for writing the paper. By keeping a journal, the students should learn how to take a disciplined and systematic approach to researching a topic. For example, if students use the Interlibrary Loan service in the library, then they should record the date for each request submitted. Students can then have more realistic expectations concerning the arrival of material. This journal is not for compiling bibliographic information, taking content notes or writing rough drafts. The first two procedures should be done on research cards, and the last should be done on computer. The journal will be part of the rough draft portion of the grade.
Helpful Hints for Using SOSU's Internet Services
Set Telnet Command
click "General Preferences"
click "Apps" (applications)
To access Library System
For user name type "library", press <enter>
For password type "information", press <enter>
Command Line will appear "Program/LIST/QUIT
type "pac" for regular library access, press <enter>
type "keyword" for keyword searches, press <enter>
Searching for Primary Sources Using Keywords
diary papers writings
Students may write on any subject within the chronological and geogrphic boundries of the course. The only limiting factors are the students' imagination and the availability of primary sources. Primary sources are firsthand or contemporary accounts of events: letters, diaries, memoirs, journals, books, pamphlets, religious scripture, etc. These do not include historical interpretations--secondary sources--written years after the events by historians.
The students must submit a working research bibliography including both primary and secondary sources. While the number of sources depends upon the nature of the subject, the instructor expects a minimum of fifteen secondary sources, including books AND articles (tertiary sources such as encyclopedias are unacceptable). Students will search not only SOSU's catalogue but also on-line data bases (e.g. Academic Abstracts) in the library. These sources must be present in alphabetical order.
SAMPLE Bibliographic Entries
Charter (London). 1839-1840.
Aydelotte, W.O. "The Conservative
and Radical Interpretations of
Early Victorian Social Legislation." Victorian Studies 11 (1967): 225-36.
Barker, Nancy. The French
Intervention in Mexico, 1821-1861. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.
For other types of sources consult one of the following style manuals.
Turabian, Kate. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
The Chicago Manual of Style
Later in the semester the students will resubmit their bibliography. This time each citation must be annotated in the manner described in the section on primary sources. This process can be accomplished by examining the introduction, conclusion and bibliography of each citation (THERE IS NO NEED TO READ THE ENTIRE BOOK). The students will also provide a short paragraph describing which interpretation(s) is/are used by historians most frequently and why.
Each paper must have a clearly stated thesis (a proposition to be supported by evidence). The students will develop their thesis after several careful readings of primary and secondary sources. The best theses will emerge from original, insightful questions.
The outline should follow standard outline style. The introductory section should include the thesis, geographical and chronological information. The remainder of the outline should indicate main points and supporting evidence.
Students must write is past tense, active voice and third person. The approach can either be a narrative or logical analysis of a event. If the author chooses a biographical sketch, he/she should concentrate on the subject's character or career, portray the character's personality, place the subject within a specific social/institutional context, relate the person's importance in history and the contribution he/she made to his/her society. All people mention in the paper must be fully identified at first mention.
The students must present the penultimate ("rough") draft on the date specified in the syllabus.
Along with this draft the students must turn in their research journals.
EACH STUDENT WILL HAVE RECEIVED GRADES BASED ON THE RESEARCH AND WRITING DONE TO THIS POINT IN THE PROJECT. THE TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS ARE FIFTY (50).
All drafts must include source citations either at the bottom of the page (preferably) or the end of the paper (if necessary). Documentation is important to historical writing because it tells the reader where the author found the information. Historians are skeptical by nature and might want to check the validity of the sources used to write the paper. Students must use their critical facilities when citing a work. They should be proud to tell their reader "I learned this information from . . .." The editor of the book or article will have already done some of the evaluation for the student. Books and articles that are not peer reviewed should be used with extreme caution. The peer review process incorporates into publishing the evaluation of sources, of the author's credentials and of the validity of the argument. Students must began to do this for themselves when using both peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources. For example, students should use information gathered on the Internet with extreme caution. Very little information on the net is peer review and lacks scholarly authority.
Examples of Footnotes/Endnotes:
1Robert Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st
Century Capitalism (New York: Knopf, 1991), 300.
2Reich, Work of Nations, 63.
3Marilyn Ward, "The Feminists Crisis of Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz,"
International Journal of Women's Studies 1 (Sept/Oct 1985): 23.
4Ward, "Feminist Crisis," 21.
The instructor will evaluate the research paper on several criteria.
1) Did the student follow ALL directions and meet ALL due dates?
2) How original, unique or difficult is the topic?
3) How well organized and written is the paper?
4) Does the student clearly state a thesis and support it with the evidence?
5) Does the student use both primary and secondary sources?
6) CHEATING and PLAGIARISM will not be tolerated. Plagiarism includes using the ideas, grammar or vocabulary of another author without proper documentation.
undergraduate: 15 minimum
graduate: 25 minimum
including notes/excluding bibliography
margins: 1 inch
font size: 10 characters per inch or 12 points
font style: Courier or Times Roman
title page: title, name, date only
notes: preferred at the bottom, at end if necessary
bibliography: alphabetical order
separate primary from secondary sources
page numbers: top right, except for the first page (bottom center)