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Ekstrom Library

HIST 528/612 Recent American History 1929-1945: Assignment

Research Paper: Recent American History 1929-1945


In this assignment you will produce a piece of original historical research and writing. This research paper comprises 30% of your grade. There will be several small assignments along the way toward the completion of the paper.

The final paper is due on December 8 to my email or department mailbox by 4:30 pm.


The purpose of this assignment is to have you practice the work of a historian. That means identifying a historical question, searching for original sources (that is, sources produced at the time) that help to answer the question, reading secondary materials (that is, things written after the fact by a historian or other) and putting your information in its broader context, and then writing a persuasive argument convincing me of your conclusions and your answer to the original question.


The research paper assignment includes several minor assignments, as follows:

  • Short paragraph outlining topic and possible research questions. September 12
  • List of sources. September 27
  • Thesis sentence and outline. October 27
  • Draft to fellow student. November 8
  • Draft to professor. November 15
  • Final paper. December 8 by 430 pm

Nuts and Bolts

  • Paper will be 5500 to 6200 words for undergrads and 6500-8000 for graduates.  
  • Graduate student papers should include a short section on historiography
  • See syllabus for rules regarding late papers
  • The paper will be typed and double spaced with one inch margin. Times new roman 12pt font.
  • Keep a back up copy. Computer problems are not acceptable excuses for late papers.


Papers should make use of a minimum of four secondary and six primary sources. The more primary sources the better.

  • The more original and unedited the primary source the better--use as few as possible sources quoted in another work.
  • Do not use current popular press magazine articles for secondary sources.
  • Do not use encyclopedia articles, dictionary entrees etc as one of your minimum sources
  • Care must be taken with web sources. Make sure you can determine the origin of a source,
  • whether it is primary or secondary, author, date, etc. And, make sure it is from a trustworthy web page.

Writing and Citations


  • Every paper should have a thesis--a statement in the introduction which clearly states the answer to the original question and which stands as the main point you are going to make in the paper
  • The thesis should be coherently argued throughout the paper
  • To do this the paper should have an introduction, body and conclusion
  • Use proper paragraph structure at all times, including topic sentence, more than two sentences per paragraph, etc
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar errors. Spell checking by computer does not catch all spelling errors so proofread as well. Because this is a WR class papers will be graded in part based on grammar, structure, presentation.
  • See Grammar Tips on Blackboard


  • Using secondary or primary source without a proper citation is plagiarism
  • Papers must be footnoted using the Chicago Manual of Style or Turabian. Do Not Use MLA!!!
  • Papers should also include a bibliography


  • This paper should be on a question about some aspect of some part of United States history during the period covered by the class. Papers should not address questions about other countries, nor should they stray into later time period.
  • This paper is meant to address a historical question; that is, one that can be answered with historical evidence. Papers should not address rhetorical or philosophical questions. Nor should they ask “what if.” Avoid papers that seek to prove the importance of some event. Importance is ambiguous, hard to prove, and often too deeply enmeshed in other issues to establish in a semester-long project.
  • This paper is meant to provide an analysis of evidence. It should NOT be just a story or just a narrative.
  • We will discuss in more depth the nature of proper topics in class.


The components which will be taken into consideration in the grade are:

  • Strength of thesis
  • Whether thesis is argued successfully in the paper
  • adequacy and use of sources including proper documentation
  • writing, grammar and ability to express yourself
  • organization and overall presentation