HIST 5485

Research Paper Assignment


Length: 12-15 pages (double-spaced)

Topic Due: August 31.

Source List Due: September 14.

First Draft Due: October 26.

Paper Due: November 16.


      A research paper offers you the opportunity to ask a historical question and look at primary and secondary source material that will suggest answers to that question.  A research paper should have a strong thesis, and it should make clear, persuasive arguments related to that thesis.  In researching this paper, you should consult as many of the major secondary and primary sources in your subject area as possible, and you should write a paper that reflects an understanding of the historiography of the field.  Footnotes are required. 

      Your paper may focus on any aspect of American religious history from 1865 to the present, which means that there are hundreds of possible topics that would be acceptable for this paper.  Narrow topics will probably be more manageable than broad ones.  If you need some suggestions to help you choose a topic or find relevant primary and secondary sources, I would be happy to meet with you during my office hours.

      After choosing a topic, you should find at least five secondary sources and three primary sources for your paper, and include those on the source list that you submit on September 14.  Primary sources, which are original works produced by a participant in a historical movement or eyewitness of a historical event, might include letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, speeches, and first-person accounts, among other things.  For this class, they would also include sources that represent the religious views of Americans during the time period that you are studying.  These sources might include religious periodicals, sermons, tracts, popular religious literature, and even works of fiction.  Secondary sources are assessments of a historical event written by a historian who had to rely on other primary and secondary source documents for information.  Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps, as well as most of the documents on the assigned web pages, are primary sources.  Most of the other books that we are discussing in this class are secondary sources produced by historians or sociologists.

      Your first draft, which is due on October 26, will not be graded, but it will be critiqued.  You will probably want to rely on the comments that you receive on this first draft when you revise it for final submission on November 16.  If you submit a first draft after October 26 but before November 16, I will deduct 1/3 of a letter grade from your final grade for this assignment.  Failure to submit a first draft by November 16 will incur a penalty of one full letter grade for the assignment.  The first draft is important, so please submit it on time and make it as complete as possible.  The guidelines for footnotes and avoiding inadvertent plagiarism apply to first drafts, as well as to all other essays that you submit for this course.

            Please number and staple the pages of your essay.  Do not submit your paper in a plastic binder or folder.