The goal of this assignment
is to give you direct experience in writing and revising an
undergraduate scholarly article while pursuing your own interests,
puzzles, and life questions. Paired with our close critical readings of
similar articles by professional scholars, the assignment will be a fine
opportunity for you to refine your skills at expression, analysis, and
persuasion. Our multi-stage process is intended to show the value of
multiple drafts and collaborative writing in a scholarly context. As an
example of project management the process modeled here should also
translate well to your career and civic interests outside of this
The major elements and
timetable of the term paper assignment are as follows:
Initial research question ideas presented in class and research
journal started (week four).
Preliminary Paper Prospectus with introductory and concluding
paragraphs (week five)
Preliminary primary source write-up (2 episodes) and paragraph-level
paper outline (week six)
Finished Final Draft, final exam time, Friday 1 May at 8:30AM.
The first stage of this
assignment will be to identify a topic or query as your
central focus, and to develop a guiding question or mystery to be
solved, documenting everything in your research
journal. Review the relevant topic planning sections in Booth, et
al., The Craft of Research, especially chapters
3, 4, and 5. Review the discussions of the assassination and its moment
in the historical overviews we viewed during week
one. What seems most mysterious, intriguing, or inexplicable to
you? Then reflect on the main passions and questions in your own life
that you are thinking about more generally. A good topic for the term
will combine these two sets of problems. Is there some driving interest
in your life as a whole that could be delved into using some topic
related to the topic of this semnar? The emphasis should be on
uncovering a mystery or discovering new territory. What is it that you
don't know very well now, that you could explore through this project?
The research journal will be an important tool for enabling us to help
you with your information fluency skills. We have established a
digital research journal for each of you on the linked page. This
journal should be exclusively devoted to research for this class. You
should not use any of your other personal blogs or journals as the final
target for this purpose.
The date of each research session, posted in the journal as closely
as possible to the actual time of the activity you are recording.
The specific items you found, including author, title, year, volume,
The means you used to find each source (i.e.: "looked in Alcuin,"
"consulted the JSTOR database," or "found a reference to it in the
bibliography of another book.") This is a mandatory element of the
A brief comment or two about the material's value as a source your
topic. (i.e. "Too old," "Not a scholarly source," "Very useful for its
coverage of ...," "seems to contradict the account I read in..."
"Claims that the motives of my author were," "The author's research
question seems to be...")
Any other remarks or comments that seem relevant to your research
In the next stage you will
write a first draft of your term paper. We will look closely
at the classic organizational structures used in historical writing and
dig into the research examples of professional researchers and writers.
Using your research question, you will start by assembling an
authoritative bibliography of relevant scholarly sources. We will spend
considerable time learning how to evaluate the quality of sources and
how to leverage the work of other researchers through "bibliography
chaining." We will also consider various styles of scholarly persuasive
writing. To help you clarify your research questions we will ask you to
write up your introductions and conclusions first, You will turn this in
to the instructors along with your bibliography and research journal.
You will then use this as a base for completing a draft of the paper.
This will then be shared and discussed with other students in a peer
review process. See below for technical and footnoting standards.
The main stages in the first
draft of the term paper include the following:
(weeks three and four) For your initial question proposal, please
post a paragraph or so to the discussion board listing between one and
three possible research questions for your term paper project. For
each question, please describe the scope in time and place, the major
stakeholders, and the core puzzle you seek to solve. Explain why each
is so puzzling and why it might be interesting to others for you to
explore it more.
(week five) Your prospectus will provide an overview of the project.
It will need to include:
a polished draft version of your paper's introductory
paragraph(s), including a statement of what your topic scope,
genre, and research question are, and why it is compelling and
a summary in a single paragraph of the theses of two or three
scholars who have studied this same area of interest, and how
their arguments relate to your research question;
a paragraph summarizing some of kinds of primary sources you
expect to use, and why;
a polished draft version of the conclusion of your paper,
stating your thesis and the reasons supporting it;
an annotated bibliography of the most authoritative and relevant
secondary works for your project along with a list of your likely
For preliminary bibliography, please create a formal list of at
least a dozen books and articles which seem especially relevant to
your topic in some way. These should be recently published secondary
works, ideally from scholarly presses. For each book or article you
should provide a one sentence annotation describing the book's scope
and research question and assessing its merit and its relevance to
your proposed research question. Each book should be listed using the
Chicago bibliography format.
(week six) You will write least two primary source summaries using
documents from your project. (If you are unsure what the difference
between a primary and secondary source is, see this nice summary "What
is a Primary Source?" from Princeton University Library.) Each
of these mini essays should accomplish two goals. First, each should
accurately describe the source contents to someone who cannot see or
read the document in question. Second, you should place each document
into its historical context. What relevant things were going on in
history at the time the source was written or created? What was going
on in the communities in which your source was created? What important
themes, trends, concepts, or consequences does it illustrate? What do
we know about the world from examining this source that we didn't know
or understand before encountering it? What things make this document
significant and worthy of someone else's attention? Tell us everything
you can think of that makes this document important, with some
attention to priority and ranking of these factors. This summary
should be around 300 words long. Each of the two primary source
summaries should be saved into a separate document file (preferably
PDF format). Please upload copies of each episode to the course
website. There will be an in-class reader response
peer review editing process. This will be followed by a formal
essay evaluation write-up to be completed before the next class
meeting. Please share copies of your formal reviews with the author of
each episode and with both instructors.
(week six) Your initial project outline should include the complete
written text of the paper's introductory, literature review and
closing paragraphs (revised from the earlier exercise) This should be
followed by a paragraph by paragraph outline of the major subsections.
These paragraphs should be described using the
Structured Outlining Categories. The outline should finish with
the (revised) full text of your last one or two closing paragraphs
summarizing the paper's major insights and research answers.
(week seven) The first complete draft of your paper should be 8-10
pages (approximately 2,700 words ± 300 words) long. Submissions should
be typed, and double (or 1.5 line) spaced, in 10 point font or
greater, and should have a margin of at least an inch on all sides.
Papers must be submitted in MS-Word (.DOC) or Open Document Format
(.ODF). Documents in Pages format or PDF or some other framework are
not acceptable. You will need to learn and use your word processor's
automatic footnoting tool. Do not use a cover sheet, include blank
pages, or use a plastic binder or paper folder binder. Essays will
need to be properly footnoted using correct historical format. (See
Citation Quick Guide, (Notes: format) for details, as well as
the footnoting examples below.) Footnotes
must be precise enough so that I can locate the specific page or item
you reference. Parenthetical footnotes are not acceptable.
Once you have developed the
first draft we will create a poster project using this
initial research as a launchpad. See the
poster session guidelines for complete instructions. These posters
will be displayed at the Furman Engaged! poster session. (Your poster
session times T.B.A.)
The end of the term will be
devoted to revising and polishing the essay. With your
research journal close at hand, you will continue to track down new
sources, fill gaps in your argument, work on organization, and refine
your prose. All of the other exercises and activities we do will be
designed to complement and reinforce your research project. We will
continue to study the writing and research of excellent historians. We
will build our knowledge of the events and historical context of the
period. Each of these activities should lead you to develop new insights
into your own project.
The final stage will be the
production of the final draft. After finishing your latest
revisions, you will submit a penultimate draft for a final round
of instructor and peer review. Please e-mail copies of your penultimate
draft to both instructors. There will be a mandatory face-to-face
"reader response" peer review. After your group's session, please e-mail
a statement to the instructors describing when and where you met, who
attended (physical participation is required for everyone in your group)
and what your 2-3 key takeaways from the process were. This will be
coupled with a formal
essay evaluation write-up exercise. You must complete both of
these as part of the penultimate assignment. The instructor grade for
this draft will be based on the draft submitted to your peers and on the
quality of your comments in the reader response write-up and your formal
After making the corrections suggested by your peer reviewers and the
instructors you will submit the ultimate version at the end of the term
-- the "take home" portion of your final exam. The final paper will need
to be 10-12 pages (3000-3600 words) long, not counting notes and
illustrations. Footnotes will need to be formatted in correct Chicago
Manual Humanities Notes: style. Final papers that are not in compliance
with this footnoting style or that have academic integrity issues will
be marked down severely if they pass at all. You will not need a
separate bibliography. The research journal will serve that function
Final projects will be assessed
according to the standard FYW essay
evaluation criteria, the principles expressed in Booth,
The Craft of Research, the stylistic habits, organization, and
flow insights from Williams, Style, and evidence of quality
and improvement in your information fluency skills as shown in your
research journal. Papers that pose a great research question, explore
this question using the full range of sources available through Furman's
library, are well-organized and clearly written, that analyze their
topics with a high degree of integrative
complexity, and that have other intangible signs of artfulness,
elegance, precision, and insight will be evaluated most highly.
Grades for late papers will be
reduced in proportion to their lateness, typically one letter
grade for each day overdue. You are expected to be familiar with
Furman's general guidelines regarding academic integrity and plagiarism.
It is understood that you have also reviewed the integrity policies for
this specific course.
Organization is critical.
While strategies for organizing term papers vary according to the
subject matter and research questions, there is a basic structures that
most scholars use for articles. The opening paragraphs pose a question,
often by telling an anecdote that will require explanation. This is
typically followed by an historiographical literature review. In this
portion you will summarize the various interpretations scholars have
offered to explain your problem. What do they think Caused it? What was
the Chronology? What do they think were the key turning points or phases
in time? What do they believe were the Consequences? How do they frame
this particular topic in a broader Context? How do the viewpoints of
different scholars Compare? You are likely to follow this with an
argument of your own outlining the mysteries or problems these existing
interpretations have left unresolved. This list of problems should match
your overall research question. Then you will build a case for your own
explanation of the mystery. The final section will summarize and justify
your argument, revealing the final mystery at last. Above all, your goal
should be to generate an "Aha!" moment in the reader, making them say "I
never thought about this topic that way before."
Below I have listed
a few of my personal peccadilloes about style and grammar. Using your
word processor's search function it should take no more than thirty
minutes to check and correct any problems before turning in the final
A clear, logical, and non-obvious thesis is essential.
Avoid passive constructions such as "it was," and "it has been." You
must tell who is doing the thing you describe.
Like strong seasonings, quotations should be used sparingly.
Do not use "I" in formal writing. Declarative sentences are more
effective. Everyone already knows from the essay format that this is
your own viewpoint. Within the genre of historical writing,
indiscriminate use of "I" is at once a sign of vanity and of poor
Sentences that combine commentary with precise descriptive
information are a plus.
Strive for gender-neutral phrasing.
Do not start sentences with the word "however."
The following words or expressions are powerless and inaccurate. Do
not use them:
in terms of
"on a ____ basis"
deals with, dealt with
dominate (adjective), when you meant dominant, or predominate
when you meant predominant
"Succession" when you meant "secession"
"State's Rights" when you meant "state rights"
"Democrat Party" when talking about Democrats before 1994
"Negro" when you mean "Black" or "African American"
"Yankee" or "Rebel" when you mean someone from the North or the
"Lead" instead of "led" when discussing something being guided
around in the past.
Avoid qualifiers. Words such as "somewhat," "literally," and
"definitely." are right out.
Centuries and decades ("the 1700s," "the 1860s") are plurals, not
possessives. Do not use an apostrophe.
Always use the past tense when describing events in the past.
Be accurate in your terminology and avoid sweeping
overgeneralizations about groups, regions, etc.
Bold and clever interpretations are always a plus. If you got these
from someone else, you must cite your source, of course.
Do not use parenthetical footnotes.
Do not call a book a "novel" unless it is a work of fiction in the
explicit genre of novel.
Essays will need to
be in either MS-Word or Open Document format. Plain text, pages,
PDF, and other formats are not acceptable. It will need to be
typed and double-spaced, with text right-justified and a font size at
least 12 points. The paper should have margins of at least an inch on
all sides. You should come up with an original title that includes your
subject's name. Woe unto the paper submitted without a staple in the
upper left corner. Along with the print copies, please e-mail copies to
Lloyd Benson and Steve Richardson.
If you do not own a stapler, go buy one this very instant. I would
prefer that you NOT include a cover sheet, a separate title page, nor a
plastic binder cover.
All Furman University and course integrity guidelines apply to this
assignment. As a university student you are expected to have a full
understanding of what constitutes unauthorized attribution or
plagiarism. Please ask me or another faculty member if you have even the
most minor questions about this. There is some really useful information
about how to avoid trouble on the Furman
University Academic Integrity web pages.
10Smithsonian Institution, "1846: Portrait of the
Nation," http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/1846/index.htm; accessed 24
(The date should be the date you consulted the source. Use your
browser's information function to determine this. Because sites
change frequently this date is mandatory.)
12"Stevens, Thaddeus," s.v., Biographical
Directory of the United States Congress,
accessed 16 April 2011.
(Note that Wikipedia is not an acceptable source.
Where possible and appropriate, you should consult the sources
the encyclopedia writer used, rather than relying on these