Guide to Writing an "A" Paper (PDF)
Collect primary sources every week, throughout the semester. Write a one-page analysis of each primary source. You should bring your primary source journal to class and be prepared to share it in discussion. The journal is due on the last day of class, Week #12.
The purpose of this assignment is to discover your own primary sources on a specific topic related to class discussion. This assignment will help you hone your research skills and enable you to think about the most effective way of presenting your findings.
The key is to pick a very focused topic such as a person, an event, a new trend, a place, an invention, etc. You want to choose something that illuminates an important historical change in the history of American concerns with energy. Ideally what you select will also shed light onto the broader contours of American history. Think of these as a scrapbook for a historical scavenger hunt.
Where should you look for these clues and stories? For the twentieth century, your choices are endless. The easiest place to begin is in old magazines and newspapers. The library has many choices. You can also gather your sources on-line as long as you can provide detailed information about the document and where it comes from. Note that many historical journals are accessible on-line through the library.
Bring your one-page synopsis to class prepared to share your evidence and what you learned with your classmates. You will want to analyze these texts by explaining what is significant about them. There is no single right way to do this assignment. The more creative you are, the better.
Due Week #3
All research papers build on three basic elements: a good question, a very focused topic, and a body of primary source material. The first step, then, will be to come up with your question, topic, and sources.
Due Week #5
Over the next few weeks, you then need to do much of your background reading and identify most of your research. This bibliography is more than just a list of books and articles you are building on. The purposes of this background reading and the first stage of your research are to refine your question and zero in on your topic. You need to figure out what historical problem you are trying to solve and how your sources will allow you to do that.
Due Week #7
The next two weeks are devoted to research. By the end of the month you should have almost all of your research complete and start to think about writing your paper. By now you should know how you want to use your sources to prove your case. Pick out a single best source and explain what its significance is.
Due Week #9
Spend the next weeks figuring out how to write your paper. Write your introductory paragraph that sets up the problem you are solving. What is changing and why? Then outline your paper.
Due Week #11
Spend the next few weeks writing the rough draft. Then you will have time for revision, and for filling in any missing data or weak evidence.
Due Week #12
Put on the finishing touches and turn your paper in. Don't forget your primary source journal is due this week, as well.