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.
- Spring Break: explore IMS for primary sources
- 04/02 research topic and primary sources due
- 04/16 research bibliography of primary and secondary due
- 04/30 bring research paper thesis and outline to class
- 05/07 bring a complete draft of the paper to class for critique
- 05/14 final paper due
- clear thesis and argumentation, indicated in the introduction and in the organization of the paper;
- adept analysis of sources and other information as evidence or examples;
- vigorous, readable prose style free of grammar and syntax errors:
- Historians prefer active over passive voice.
- The instructor will not fix grammar and syntax problems, but will stop reading if she finds more than one error per paragraph.
Format and Structure:
- 12-15 pages double spaced, typed, 12-point font, submitted electronically in Word and in paper if you have images not imbedded in the file. Bibliography should be included.
- Chicago Manual of Style, Humanities style for the bibliography and the footnotes (may use Turabian’s version). These are NOT “works cited” and “in-text citations,” but a full bibliography and footnotes with complete information in the first reference. Footnotes may also be used to give longer explanations of material to avoid disrupting the narrative flow of the paper.
- The main thesis and sub-arguments should be articulated within the first two pages. The line of argument should be evident by reading the first sentence of each paragraph.
- Evidence from primary sources should be described or quoted within paragraphs. Quotes longer than 2-3 lines should be in block quotation format. Make sure you set up your point before the quote and continue your analysis after the quote.
- Secondary quoting should be kept to a minimum within paragraphs: it is not considered evidence and is not a substitute for making your own arguments. Only quote secondary sources to bring to light a controversial or significant point of view among scholars.
Research and Writing Process Guidelines:
- Do consult with the instructor and with the reference librarians at Hamilton (Jodie Mattos is the History specialist).
- Explore lots of primary sources first, starting from our Readings book and IMS. Look for connections, correlations, and influences, as well as differences, controversies, and conflicting interpretations. Keep an open mind on where your topic may go.
- Use the library database systems to search for secondary books and articles; check the web for bibliographies from scholarly resources (e.g., limit to .edu sites for example).
- If several students are doing similar topics, share library resources.
- Keep a good record, either in a computer database or on note cards, of each item with its full reference information (use Chicago Manual of Style NOW not later).
- Once you have a load of possible materials, start narrowing the topic and primary sources to something both reasonable for the project but still balanced (don’t just eliminate troublesome evidence or points of view that don’t line up with your views).
- While taking notes, make a clear distinction between what your source says and what you think, to avoid unintentional plagiarism. As you get ideas, try free-writing: draft analyses of primary sources, write your own responses to secondary sources.
- For the thesis and outline preliminary assignment: work on creating an argument, not just a description of what you will do. The outline should have not just topics but points you want to argue, with evidence and examples below them.
- Write a full rough draft: get to the end so you can find out what you are really arguing. Then you can turn the paper upside down and rewrite the introduction with the strongest possible arguments.
- Beware the danger of turning in a first draft that is incomplete and spends the first 5-10 pages describing background information, never getting to the main arguments.
- Best to include citations while you write, rather than try to find and fix footnotes later.
- To ensure lucid prose free of grammar and syntax errors, read your paper aloud, preferably to someone else, have a friend read it who is able to critique it, and/or visit the Writing Workshop.
- Recommend that you purchase, if you do not have one already, a writing guidebook for style, grammar, and citation. Some good ones include:
- Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, various editions).
- Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (various editions)
- Jules R. Benjamin, A Student’s Guide to History, 10th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007).
- See also links from the online syllabus.