Research paper – a topic related to U.S. History up to 1877

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A documented research paper (1000 words in length = approx. 3-4 pages double spaced, 12-point font).

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  • The paper should support a thesis statement with information gained from research or investigation.
  • The paper will not be just a report presenting information, but will be a paper that carefully examines and presents your own historical interpretation of the topic you have chosen and your interpretation of the information you have gathered.
  • The paper may include consideration of problems and solutions, define key terms, or refute arguments against your thesis statement.

It will be important to choose a topic of interest to you.

  • Approach this assignment with an open and skeptical mind, then form an opinion based on what you have discovered.
  • You must suspend belief while you are investigating and let the discoveries shape your opinion. (This is a thesis-finding approach.)
  • Once you have found your thesis, write the paper to support it.

You will use some of the following critical thinking skills in this process:

  1. Choosing an appropriate topic, limiting the topic
  2. Gathering information, summarizing sources
  3. Analyzing and evaluating sources
  4. Defining key terms
  5. Synthesizing information, comparing and contrasting sources
  6. Testing a thesis, making a historical argument, using refutation
  7. Amassing support for a position
  8. Documenting sources

Because this may be a longer paper than you have written before and a complex process is involved, it is recommended that you complete this paper using the following steps:

  1. Choose a topic related to U.S. History up to 1877 (Chapters 1-15) that you would truly like to explore and that you are willing to spend some time on. Your chosen topic should be focused. Pose a question that you really want to answer. You may want to begin with more than one topic in mind.
  2. Do some preliminary reading on the topic(s). You may begin with the textbook, then further explore the information available. Refine your topic. Summarize your topic, your interest in the topic, the questions you want to answer, and a hypothesis you want to test.
  3. Gather information from a variety of sources. Use a minimum of four sources for your paper, and at least one must be a primary source.
    • Examples of primary sources are ones that are used in our discussion forums 2 – 8.
    • They are sources that are contemporary to the times under investigation.
    • An example of a secondary source is our textbook, though the textbook also contains excerpts of primary sources, which you may use as a source in your paper.
  4. Outline the results of your research and the plan for your paper (you are not required to submit the outline).
  5. Write the final draft and be sure to include a Works Cited List, and use the correct MLA documentation style.

Grade Rubric

INTRODUCTION & THESIS: The paper makes a clear and effective statement (the thesis) about the chosen topic. /25

FOCUS AND DEVELOPMENT: Body of the paper focuses on this thesis and develops it fully, recognizing the complexity of issues. /40

SUPPORT AND SYNTHESIS: Uses sufficient and relevant evidence to support the thesis (and primary points), including facts, inferences, and judgments. Quotes, summarizes, and paraphrases accurately and effectively–appropriately introducing and explaining each quote. /40

CONVENTIONS: Uses MLA format correctly; includes a Works Cited list; is free of errors. /20

CORRECTNESS AND STYLE: Shows critical thinking and depth of understanding; uses appropriate tone; shows sophistication in language usage and sentence structure. /25

Possible Research Questions

1) What regional differences in native societies and economies existed on the North American continent before European arrival? How did Europeans make sense of native societies?

2) Compare and contrast motivations and early settlement patterns of the Chesapeake colonies and those in New England.

3) What triggered the Great Awakening in the colonies? What did the religious revival offer colonists and what were its consequences?

4)How did the Seven Year’s War change the approach of the British imperial government toward the colonies? Explain how that led to a crisis over representation and taxation.

5) Discuss the participation of women in the American Revolution, and changes the political philosophy of republicanism brought for women in the wake of the Revolution.

6) How did the authors of the Constitution create a balance between federal and state governments, and between large and small states? What compromises did the Constitution make on the institution of slavery?

7) In what ways did Jefferson’s presidency betray his original vision for the new republic? In what ways did it fulfill that vision?

8) Discuss the different working conditions of slaves in the antebellum South.

9) How did the victory over Mexico intensify the political conflict over slavery?

10) ..Or a topic of your own choosing.

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