HIST 4484W Senior Seminar


Spring 2013

Tuesday 3:30-6

Pafford 206


Dr. Michael de Nie

TLC 3204
Office Hours: TR 10-11, 1-3:30, and by appointment
Tel.: 678.839.6033
Email: mdenie@westga.edu


Course Description

This course provides students with the opportunity to conceive and execute their own original historical study. It thus represents the capstone of the history major’s course of study at the University of West Georgia. The work in this course is the apex to which the history program at West Georgia has been building. In the first part of the course we will do some common readings together. Our analysis of each of these readings will focus on examining what evidence the historians found and how they used that evidence to construct an original historical argument. These readings will offer models and guidance for students’ own research projects. In the second part of the course, the focus shifts to the research and writing of those student projects. Along the way, there will be several milestones that must be reached.


This course is writing-intensive. Effective writing is essential to the historical discipline and to a liberal education. The “W” designation for this course indicates that it is a Discipline-Specific Writing course.



Each student must have already completed HIST 2302 and have senior standing. Any student registered for the course who has not completed the prerequisites must see the instructor.


Required Reading:

Hellstern, Mark, Gregory Scott, and Stephen Garrison. The History Student Writer’s Manual


Learning Outcomes

This course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to conceive and execute their own original research project. As part of that work this course is designed to permit students actively engaged in the learning process with the opportunity to develop further the following skills:


·         to recognize and to pose significant historical questions;

·         to find useful primary and secondary sources;

·         to analyze sources critically;

·         to cite sources properly;

·         to write and to speak clearly;

·         to construct a persuasive historical argument based on evidence; and

·         to think historically.


Thinking historically requires one:

·         to seek to understand the people of the past;

·         to seek to understand the perspective of historical actors and to view those historical actors from a critical, scholarly perspective;

·         to recognize that people, events, ideas, and cultures have influenced later people, events, ideas, and cultures;

·         to recognize that history involves both change and continuity over time; and

·         to draw and to explain connections between par particular people, events, ideas, or texts and their historical contexts.




Participation                                                   10%

Topic statement                                              5%

Question and bibliography                              5%

Primary source presentation                           5%

Introduction and historiography section         10%

Final presentation                                           10%

Paper                                                               50%

Reflective essay                                              5%


I do not accept late or electronically submitted assignments.


Each student will write an original, typed, double-spaced research paper of 20-25 pages in length examining some question of interest related to the course. The paper must assert a thesis and sustain it on the basis of evidence drawn from both primary and secondary sources. The paper must incorporate at least six primary and ten secondary sources. The paper must cite its sources in footnotes and list works consulted in a bibliography according to the documentary note style specified in section 5.3 of The History Student Writer’s Manual. That citation style is based on documentary note style of the Chicago Manual of Style.


The project must be an original work undertaken for this course. The paper will be graded on the basis of the rubric set out at the end of the syllabus. The paper is due at the beginning of class on April 16. Each student must submit two copies of the final paper.


We will start the semester with some common readings. The readings are intended to help us to consider how best to understand the past and to write about it. Students should consider the readings as potential models for their own work. Students should bring all of the completed readings with them each week, because we will compare and contrast approaches among them.


Each student is encouraged to consult with a professor who specializes in the field that the student is researching. Students should submit a written draft bibliography to an expert professor for advice and heed that advice in researching their questions.


On January 22 each student must submit a topic statement. The topic statement is a typewritten statement of the topic to be addressed by the paper. A clear, workable topic statement submitted on time will receive an “A.” One letter grade will be deducted from that topic statement grade if the statement of the question presented diverges from the topic statement. One letter grade will be deducted if the primary source presented does not address the topic selected. One letter grade will be deducted if the final paper does not address the topic selected in the topic statement.


On February 5 each student must submit a statement of the question to be addressed and a bibliography. The written statement of the question to be addressed should represent a refinement of the paper’s topic. The question should be sufficiently interesting and important to merit at least a twenty-page paper. It should be sufficiently narrow to be answerable adequately within at most a twenty five-page paper. The question should be answerable in a statement that will be the paper’s thesis. A question that meets those requirements and that is supported by a bibliography will receive an “A.” One letter grade will be deducted from the grade awarded for the question presented if the primary source presented does not address the question stated. One letter grade will be deducted if the final paper does not answer the question stated.


In the primary source presentations, each student will pick one important primary source from among the primary sources used for the paper. The presentation will describe the source to the class and explain how the paper will make use of the source in its argument. Students should come to class with copies of the source or relevant extracts of the source for everyone in the class. The presentation should address questions such as: Who wrote the document? Who was the audience of the document? What was the purpose of the document? What does it say? Why is it significant? Each student will also answer questions from the group about the source. Grades will be based primarily on the quality of the analysis.


On March 12 students will turn in the introduction and historiography section of their papers. That section should be about three pages in length. It should introduce the historical question the paper examines and briefly state the paper’s answer to that question. It should also place the paper in its historiographical context and identify the paper’s original contribution to the existing historical writing related to the question under examination. Note that the section handed in should not be a rough draft. It should be a polished draft, as good as it can be, since it will be graded, and that grade will weigh 10% the final grade for the course.


I will comment on the introduction and historiography section and assign it a grade. Each student should take into account those comments in the final paper and incorporate a rewritten introduction and historiography section in the final paper. The final paper should represent an improvement over the earlier version of the section. The marked-up draft of the introduction and historiography section must be turned in along with the final paper.


In the final presentations, each student will describe the paper’s argument and supporting evidence to the class in a ten-minute talk. Students should not simply read excerpts from their paper. Students will then answer questions from the group. Grades will be based on the quality of the oral presentation of the paper’s argument and evidence and responses to questions posed.


The reflective essay due at the end of the course should be 2-3 pages in length and it should address the following question: What have you learned during your time as a student at West Georgia? The essay will be graded on the basis of the quality of the reflection and the writing. It is due on April 23.


Statement on Plagiarism
Please note that anyone committing plagiarism in any written assignment will earn an F for the course and may face further disciplinary action. Plagiarism is defined in the University of West Georgia Handbook as “representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own. Direct quotations must be indicated and ideas of another must be appropriately acknowledged.” Please see the UWG’s History Department statement on plagiarism at http://www.westga.edu/~history/plagiarismhtm.htm and the UWG English Department’s guide for avoiding plagiarism at: http://www.westga.edu/~engdept/Plagiarism/index.html.


In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and university policy, I will make reasonable accommodation for any recognized disability. Students should contact me during the first three weeks of the course and present documentation from the University’s Student Development Center.



Course Schedule

Jan. 8               Introduction


Jan. 15             How do I make an original argument?

Readings: J. Harrison Powell, “‘Seven Year Locusts’: The Deforestation of Spotsylvania County during the American Civil War,” Essays in History http://www.essaysinhistory.com/articles/2011/4

Writer’s Manual, pp. 118-22 and ch. 2


Jan. 22             How do I structure my paper?

Readings: de Nie, “‘Speed the Mahdi!’ The Irish Press and Empire During the Sudan Conflict of 1883-1885” (distributed by instructor)

Writer’s Manual, ch. 10

Written topic statement due


Jan. 29             Strengths and weaknesses

Readings: Lauren MacIvor Thompson, “‘I wish I could forget myself...’: Mary Todd Lincoln and the Pursuit of True Womanhood, 1818-1882,” Essays in History (2011) online: http://www.essaysinhistory.com/articles/2011/31/

Tyler Green, “George B. McClellan: Political Forces and Generalship,” The University of Arizona Undergraduate Historical Review 1 (2009) (online)

Kirk McFarland, “A Split Decision: How Republican Division Ensured Democratic Victory” The University of Arizona Undergraduate Historical Review 1 (2009) (online)



Feb. 5              Written statement of question to be addressed and bibliography due


Feb. 12            Individual meetings


Feb. 19            Presentations of primary sources


Feb. 26            Presentations of primary sources


Mar. 5             Discussion of use of primary sources


Mar. 12           Introduction and historiography section due


Mar. 26           Discussion of introduction and historiography sections


Apr. 2              Final presentations


Apr. 9              Final presentations


Apr. 16            Final presentations      

Paper due


Apr. 23            Reflective Essay due






Rubric for Senior Seminar Papers

1. Academic Honesty

Does the paper adhere to the fundamental requirement of academic honesty? Pass/Fail

2. Analysis

A. Does the paper pose a significant historical question?

B. Does the paper offer a clear, persuasive thesis making a claim worth arguing about?

C. Does the paper position its thesis within the context of the existing historiography?

D. Does the paper effectively use evidence in support of its argument?

E. Does the paper demonstrate critical analysis of sources?

F. Is the paper free from any failure to document sources, including omissions that appear inadvertent or otherwise not egregious?

G. Does the paper demonstrate an ability to think historically?

H. Is the analysis marked by particular originality or insight?

3. Research

A. Does the paper reflect a substantial amount of research?

B. Has the paper found and engaged with the most important primary and secondary sources?

C. Does the paper reflect in-depth knowledge of the subject?

4. Organization

A. Is there a logical organization to the paper?

B. Are paragraphs within the paper logically organized?

C. Does the paper flow smoothly?

5. Writing

A. Is the writing clear and precise?

B. Is the writing persuasive?

C. Is the writing free from grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, citation format, or other errors?

6. Other

A. Does the paper reflect that its author considered comments offered previously by the instructor?

B. Does the paper indicate that a good deal of effort went into it?

C. Does the paper give an overall impression of high quality?