FYW-1182: The Assassination of Lincoln

Term Paper Requirements

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 course.

The major elements and timetable of the term paper assignment are as follows:

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.

Required Content for Journal Entries

(Go here for your personal research journal).

  1. The date of each research session, posted in the journal as closely as possible to the actual time of the activity you are recording.
  2. The specific items you found, including author, title, year, volume, and page
  3. 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 journal.
  4. 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...")
  5. Any other remarks or comments that seem relevant to your research and analysis.

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:

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 reviews.

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 instead.

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.


Style Guidelines

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 draft.

  1. A clear, logical, and non-obvious thesis is essential.
  2. Write concisely.
  3. Avoid passive constructions such as "it was," and "it has been." You must tell who is doing the thing you describe.
  4. Like strong seasonings, quotations should be used sparingly.
  5. 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 confidence.
  6. Sentences that combine commentary with precise descriptive information are a plus.
  7. Strive for gender-neutral phrasing.
  8. Do not start sentences with the word "however."
  9. The following words or expressions are powerless and inaccurate. Do not use them:
    1. obviously
    2. in terms of
    3. certain, certainly
    4. basically
    5. "on a ____ basis"
    6. feels, felt
    7. in-depth
    8. deals with, dealt with
    9. dominate (adjective), when you meant dominant, or predominate when you meant predominant
    10. "Succession" when you meant "secession"
    11. "State's Rights" when you meant "state rights"
    12. "Democrat Party" when talking about Democrats before 1994
    13. "Negro" when you mean "Black" or "African American"
    14. "Yankee" or "Rebel" when you mean someone from the North or the South.
    15. "Lead" instead of "led" when discussing something being guided around in the past.
  10. Avoid qualifiers. Words such as "somewhat," "literally," and "definitely." are right out.
  11. Centuries and decades ("the 1700s," "the 1860s") are plurals, not possessives. Do not use an apostrophe.
  12. Always use the past tense when describing events in the past.
  13. Be accurate in your terminology and avoid sweeping overgeneralizations about groups, regions, etc.
  14. Bold and clever interpretations are always a plus. If you got these from someone else, you must cite your source, of course.
  15. Do not use parenthetical footnotes.
  16. Do not call a book a "novel" unless it is a work of fiction in the explicit genre of novel.

Technical Requirements:

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.


Footnoting Examples

Correct formatting of notes is critical. Most importantly, proper footnoting helps focus your attention on how you think and what brought you to the conclusions you arrived at. It also helps you to give appropriate credit for the work of others. Papers will need to be cited using the Chicago Humanities Notes: format. Below is a quick reference list of example footnotes that may prove helpful. Footnotes need to be numbered sequentially, using Arabic numerals. Notes can be placed at the bottom of the page or the end of the paper. Additional works cited or bibliography pages are not needed for this assignment.

For this type: Use the Footnote Citation Form in this column:
Book 1Kent Masterson Brown, Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1993), 142-156.
Same book, next footnote 2Ibid., 256-267.
Same book, later note, not immediately following (the short book or article title is mandatory) 13Brown, Cushing, 154.
Scholarly Article 4Bruce Tap, "'These devils are not fit to live on God's earth': War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865," Civil War History 42 (June 1996), 116-132.
Primary source, in collected letters or papers 5Abraham Lincoln to Charles D. Robinson, 17 August 1864, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (11 vols., New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 7: 500.
Primary source, accessed from a digital collection or database 6"Speech of Gov. O.P. Morton, at Rockville, Indiana," The Liberator, 30 August 1861, (American Periodicals Series).
Primary source, accessed from a digital collection or database (example #2) 7Sam Aleckson, Before the War, and After the Union. An Autobiography (Boston: Gold Mind, 1929), 34-56. (digital version at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Documenting the American South).
Newspaper 8Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury, 17 March 1857.
Source quoted in another source 9Edgefield, South Carolina, Advertiser, 28 May 1856, quoted in Elizabeth Varon, Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 270.
Internet 10Smithsonian Institution, "1846: Portrait of the Nation," http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/1846/index.htm; accessed 24 January 2013.
(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.)
Multiple references
combined (typically
for a note at the end of a paragraph.)
11Ibid.; Tap, "Committee on the Conduct of the War," 130-32; Brown, Cushing, 45-56; Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury, 17 March 1857.
Scholarly
Encyclopedia
12"Stevens, Thaddeus," s.v., Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=S000887, 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 third-hand sources.)