History 434 Spring 2008 Research Paper


Write a 12-15 page research paper: Choose an ethical issue in medieval Christianity and examine the different points of view on it then and now. What accounts for the differences in perception?

Your paper should have a clear thesis that addresses a well-defined issue and be supported by historical arguments and evidence. You will have to narrow the topic to a specific time frame and region(s). The thesis should be a historical argument, not an opinion piece. Your task is to illustrate the ethics of historical empathy and careful handling of source materials, while demonstrating an awareness of how modern perceptions play a role in our interpretations of the past. The thesis should therefore address the complexity of the issue in a balanced fashion, taking into account arguments from different rationales.

The paper should use both primary and secondary source materials. Primary sources include texts and artifacts from the time period that are used as evidence to support your arguments. You may have one main and several supplementary, or three to five major primary sources. Secondary sources include scholarly books (at least 3) and articles (at least 5) that address your topic in some way, either specifically or generally. While encyclopedias, textbooks, and similar websites are useful background during the research process, they are tertiary sources and should be used only to guide you to appropriate secondary sources. Scholarly sources are those written by professionally trained historians or academics and published by peer-reviewed presses or journals.

It is vital that you follow the timeline to stay on task. Research is a winnowing process and writing well takes multiple drafts. Students who miss deadlines will not get adequate feedback from the instructor.


Grading Criteria:

  1. clear thesis and argumentation, indicated in the introduction and in the organization of the paper;
  2. adept analysis of sources and other information as evidence or examples;
  3. vigorous, readable prose style free of grammar and syntax errors:

Format and Structure:

Research and Writing Process Guidelines:

updated 2/8/07