Instructions for Paper 3
An original research paper
10–12 double-spaced pages. You should use standard margins (1-inch to 1.25-inches on each side of the page) and a 12-point font.
Your grade on Paper 3 will contribute 35% of your final course grade.
In this assignment you will be writing a 10–12 page paper that advances your own specific historical argument and supports it by citing primary and secondary sources. In order to construct and present your argument, you will have to bring to bear all of the skills that you have been practicing this semester. You should select one of the two topics listed below. Your paper must draw on at least two primary sources and at least four secondary sources. A "primary source" is any text written by a physicist at the relevant historical moment. For example, the 1949 report by the General Advisory Committee (GAC) to the Atomic Energy Commission is a primary source; the article analyzing the GAC report by historians Peter Galison and Bart Bernstein ("'In any light'...") is a secondary source.
For the two topics listed below, we have compiled a list of references and made them available on the course website. You are not required to restrict yourself to these sources; however, you are strongly encouraged to talk with Prof. Kaiser or the TAs to help you identify additional sources that might be of interest. Likewise, if you prefer to write about a different topic, you must discuss your topic ahead of time with us, so we can help you identify good sources to use.
Your paper must articulate an historical argument, with a clearly stated thesis, and back up that argument with specific examples from the primary and secondary sources. The goal is not to summarize what other historians have said about the topic. Use those historians' writings as information and sources to help you craft your own argument.
First, you should do a close reading of your primary sources. What exactly do the authors say? How do they argue for the points that they make? What is taken for granted? What remains ambiguous or unclear at the end of your reading? What do the authors assume about their readership? Are there obvious ways that the text has been shaped by its social, cultural, intellectual, institutional, or political context? Next you should read your secondary sources to determine how scholars have interpreted the events in question and to identify relevant themes or sources. Have historians understood these sources in the same way that you do? How do they position these sources in the flow of history? What points have been particularly interesting, contentious, or murky? What is your own interpretation about the events in question?
As you are reading and rereading your sources, take detailed notes. You will need to know where you found a particularly interesting quotation or idea so that you can cite the source properly. Proper footnote and bibliography citations are required.
When you start to compose your paper, think carefully about its structure. Do you have an introductory paragraph that sets up the problem, clearly states your thesis, and outlines your ensuing discussion? Do each of the points that you raise in the body of your paper support your thesis in a clear and compelling way? Do you have a concluding paragraph that wraps up your argument and gestures at its wider significance? Is your writing concise, precise, and explicit? Is it lively? Are your TAs going to fall to their knees and bless your name for putting such a thing of grace and beauty into their hands?