Every spring semester, every seminar sophomore must write an 8-10 page research paper in their Seminar U.S. History. The term paper process includes several steps to make this process more manageable, and to teach you how to conduct historical research. Students who earn the best grades are proactive in this process, and complete every step on time. This also means that you cannot wait to the last minute to write this paper and expect to earn a passing grade. We are going to start the process early and continue this throughout the entire semester.
What you NEED to know:
→ The term paper process will count on your 4th quarter grade. The final submission of your
term paper will count on your fourth quarter grade. See rubric on pages 2 and 3 for a more
detailed breakdown of point distribution.
→ The research paper itself must be handed in with all supplemental materials on the date it is
due during the period you have U.S. History or American Studies.
→ Be sure to save all notes, outlines and rough drafts.These materials must be turned in with
your paper. These items prove that the paper is your own original work!
→ If you are absent for whatever reason the paper still must be handed in on time! Papers are considered late after the period you have U.S. History. Check your computers, printers and storage devices in advance. ☺
Definition of a Research Paper
The research paper is a long essay presenting your own interpretation or evaluation or argument
about a topic or question. Information is taken from diverse sources that must be cited throughout the paper. You build upon what you know about a subject through your research to find out what experts know.
There are two types of research papers. Informational research papers summarize and present factual information in a coherent and organized way. Analytical papers present factual information and draw conclusions from the evidence presented. Often an analytical paper will explore a question. The analytical paper that explores a question has some elements of persuasive writing in that the writer's conclusion is an opinion derived from the factual evidence.
Analysis in research papers involves breaking down a topic into its parts so you can understand it. You do research to become an expert on the topic so you can present it from your own perspective. For example, you could analyze or evaluate the culture of protest movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s for an analytical paper.
If your research paper is exploring a question it needs to support one side or the other for you to be able to draw a conclusion. The paper that explores a question is analytical, but uses information to support your point. For example, you could find research to back up your point that protest movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s were instrumental in bringing an end to our involvement in the Vietnam War. This is a very different focus than evaluating the protest movement culture during the 1960’s. As you explore a question you will use evidence to support a perspective on a topic.
The following steps are suggested in preparing a research paper:
1. Choose a general topic.
2. Find a variety of information sources on the subject (monographs, reference books,
magazines, videos, library databases, etc) and make a preliminary reference list.
3. Limit the subject based on your initial information search and develop a question.
4. Read and research extensively and take notes on note cards.
5. Sort note cards into related stacks.
6. Make a trial outline.
7. Read and take more notes on weak areas.
8. Revise the outline.
9. Prepare the bibliography.
10. Write a first draft with endnotes.
11. Revise and rewrite draft copies.
12. Prepare the final copy.
Schedule of Due Dates
You are expected to hand in each of the following on time. Unless you are legitimately absent from school, the grades for each part will be lowered one letter grade for every day the assignment is late.
Selecting a Topic/Developing a Research Question
Remember that a topic is what a research paper is about. It provides a focus for the writing. Stick
with one major topic in your paper.
Choose a topic that is of interest to you – you will be examining it all semester.
The topic must deal wth U.S. history in some form – social, political, economic, religious, military,diplomatic, etc.
The topic must do one of the following:
explore a thought provoking and controversial question
compare two events or people in history
evaluate an event or person
Topics that are unacceptable:
∅ Conspiracy theories – Who shot JFK?
∅ Straight biography – You may choose a topic dealing with one person but not in biography
format. Ask a question like “Did William Lloyd Garrison help or hurt the abolition
movement.” You will spend very little of the paper discussing his early life.
A research question allows you to look at a topic from a certain perspective and draw a conclusion from your research. While the Colt Firearms Factory and Samuel Colt are topics, asking the question “What effect did the Colt Empire have on Hartford?” allows you to make a point and draw a conclusion.
2. How did Colt’s pursuits affect American History?
3. What effect did the Colt Empire have on Hartford?
Question “1” is too narrow. It can be answered in one sentence. Question “2” is too broad because you might have to explore several topics from his invention of the revolver to his contributions to the Civil War and you might lose focus. Question “3” is focused enough to stick to one topic, yet broad enough to research in some depth.
When you are developing a research question be sure to choose a topic that actually can be
researched. List all the questions you would like answered. Do a preliminary search to see what
kind of sources are available for research. Read an overview source (a source that summarizes the main points of your topic) to help you choose the best question for your research. The perspective from which you choose to explore your research question will develop into your
After choosing a topic you must hand in the topic approval sheet. All topics need to be
approved by your teacher. Also, you may not change your topic without your teacher’s
approval. Some Topic Suggestions
This list is by no means all-inclusive. These are simply topics, not research questions or thesis
suggestions. These topics are meant to spark your thoughts. Political History
American Loyalists/Tories –Impact during the war
Evaluate the Articles of Confederation – strengths and weaknesses
Constitutional Convention- debate, arguments and compromises
The role of the Federalist Papers in constitutional ratification
The constitutional debate over the Alien and Sedition Acts
The development and legacy of Hamilton and Jefferson’s political philosophies
The significance of Shays’ Rebellion and/or the Whiskey Rebellion