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THIST 410 Early American Politics and Law: The Civil War Era, 1819-1896: Assignment

Useful links and starting points for locating primary and secondary resources.

Research Paper

In addition to exams, students will write a research paper of approximately 9 pp., (no more than 10 pp., no less than 8 pp; notes and bibliography do not count towards page count), double-spaced with Courier New 11type (Word) and normal margins. Write in concise, grammatically correct English prose. Number your pages.

The paper will focus on one year of the Civil War Era, 1861-1877. You will tell the story and context of that year by using minimum two non-assigned secondary sources and at least FOUR non-assigned primary sources, including at least one newspaper account.  Avoid “popular” sources like “Wikipedia”, common encyclopedias, non-academic websites, and non-academic “public library” books (lacking source notes and bibliographies). Scholarly websites often have “.edu” and “.gov” suffixes; pop websites do not.

Note the assignment is NOT to write about a subject---i.e., the Emancipation Proclamation, Battle of Vicksburg, Appomattox, 14th Amendment, Robert E. Lee, or Compromise of 1877---per se. The paper is about a one-year period and how the varied occurrences of that year fit into the larger Civil War Era context. The year you choose need not start on January 1. Your description of the year’s context must include generalizations about major political, military, economic, and racial trends. You may briefly set context for your year and discuss what happened afterwards in introductory and concluding sections. Sign up for your year NO LATER THAN one class session prior to the Midterm.

I will gladly edit and critique optional rough drafts before the final paper is due (see syllabus for due dates). The paper should include numbered pages, a bibliography, and source notes. Students should note all sources of borrowed information, not just direct quotes. Plagiarism--the use of other's words or ideas without acknowledgment is grounds for failure. Buy or borrow the Chicago Manual of Style (aka “Turabian”) as you are composing your notes and bibliography (the UWT Library and Learning Center both have handouts on Chicago Style and you can log onto Type your name only on the last page of the paper, not the cover page.

Some of the most common errors students make on this assignment are grammatical errors, failing to use Chicago style, providing full citations for all sources in all notes (only the first citation is complete; subsequent citations are abbreviated), and noting only quoted sources. Use selected quotes to make your points; do not line up quotes as “filler” substituting for your own prose and analysis. Single space all block quotes. Number your pages. If you don’t understand anything, please ask me, as I am glad to help.   

Sign up for your year by the deadline. You may not write about a year you have not signed up for. After the papers are due, I accept late papers at your sacrifice of 3 1/3 points for each day the paper is late. Make hard drive, disc, and hard copies of your drafts; make two hard copies of your final research paper--one to turn in and one to keep in a safe place at home.