Corbett, P. Scott, Volker Janssen, John M. Lund, Todd Pfannestiel, and Paul Vickery, U.S. History, Houston, Open Stax, 2016.
I choose Theodore Roosevelt, President Wilson and William Seward.
The purpose of this assignment is to choose three important people or events in American history through the readings of weeks 1-4 . You have some flexibility with this assignment. Write about a topic that you find interesting, but check with your instructor if you think your topic may be outside of the boundaries of a history paper. Contact your instructor if you need guidance regarding a topic and feel free to send along a rough draft of your thesis statement in advance of the due date. Note: if you feel comfortable in doing so, you may write in depth about one person, event, or topic. In other words, instead of devoting each of the three body paragraphs to a different person or event, you would be writing three in-depth paragraphs on one topic.
The assignment asks you to find a minimum of two academically credible sources (one may be your textbook), develop a clear, focused thesis statement, and to support your thesis with clear, insightful, consistent writing. This assignment will enhance your research and writing skills, both of which are applicable not only to this course but to many different careers. Note: web sites cannot be used as sources for this assignment.
The primary goal is to analyze factual information and support your thesis statement. This is not a book report. Therefore, do not summarize vast amounts of information without making a point or including analysis. Papers that merely tell the reader “what happened,” without supporting the thesis with analysis, will be penalized significantly. Your ideas must be supported by information from your sources since you are using these sources to prove your thesis. After all, the purpose of a research paper is to make a case and to convince the reader that your writing and research supports your thesis.
Whether you quote information directly from your sources, or paraphrase, you must cite your sources generously to give credit to the sources and to avoid plagiarism. You may utilize any citation method in this course as long as you are consistent throughout the paper (MLA, Chicago, APA.)
Your paper must contain a proper heading, an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs (one paragraph for each of your three people/events) and a conclusion paragraph. The paper length is 2.5 to 3 pages, double-spaced. Please read over the sample/model student essay in the Resources section of the classroom for guidance. Refer to this document to get a visual representation of what your essay should look like. During the two weeks before each writing assignment is due, your primary goal should be to read carefully, to collect additional source material, and to start thinking about ideas for your paper. Compose an outline or rough draft (not required) in order to begin the process of getting your ideas down on paper.
As far as your writing is concerned, here are the important components of a college-level paper which I will be grading along with your ideas (these and other components are found in the writing rubric and general writing guidelines found in your course documents):
1. Develop a clear, strong thesis statement letting the reader know your plan for the paper. Never use “I” or “you” in a history or English paper. Here is an example: Unacceptable: I am going to tell you about three important events in American history in this paper which I have written for you. Better: An analysis of three important events in American history reveals how each was critical in the development of the nation.
2. Develop sentences that are more complex. A sentence does not have to be five lines, but avoid a sentence with less than ten words.
3. Each paragraph should contain a topic sentence. The topic sentence introduces the main idea which will be explored in the paragraph. For example, if your second paragraph will focus on the presidency of George Washington, your topic sentence may look like this: A second important person who had a major impact on the development of the American nation is George Washington whose presidency was characterized by many challenges.
4. Each paragraph should contain a closing sentence. The closing sentence briefly summarizes the main idea which you have just explored in the paragraph. For example, in the same paragraph about George Washington, your closing sentence may look like this: The overall impact of Washington’s contributions to the young republic cannot be diminished, for the country emerged from his presidency more unified, more stable, and more prosperous.
5. Quotations in a short paper should not be more than three lines. The majority of your paper should contain your writing and your ideas. In a short paper there should only be one quote per body paragraph. Whenever you include a quotation, make sure the quote is fully integrated into the text of your paper. Below I have an example of a quote that stands alone (unacceptable) and a quote that is fully integrated (required): “A group of Separatists in Holland, after negotiating with the Virginia Company, at length secured rights to settle under its jurisdiction.” The future of North America changed forever when a “group of Separatists in Holland, after negotiating with the Virginia Company, at length secured rights to settle under its jurisdiction.” Your final paper will be penalized for each quote which is not integrated, or for quotations which are not integrated properly.
6. Each quotation must be followed by a certain degree of analysis. After all, the reader does not know why your quote is important. As the historian/researcher/writer it is your responsibility to present evidence and then analyze this information clearly. This will become very important as you prepare for the research paper. Unlike a book report, a research essay must go beyond summarizing facts or merely telling the reader “what happened.” A research paper should seek to prove a point or main idea, but in either case should leave the reader with something to think about (new ideas, new conclusions, new discoveries, lessons, etc.)
7. Avoid sentence fragments, run-on sentences, spelling mistakes, and grammar errors. Your work reflects strongly upon you as a scholar, so please make sure your paper represents the very best you can offer to the academic community! I respect your experiences and your ideas and I want to be able to reward you with the grade you deserve. For additional information, you are strongly encouraged to read a document in the “Resources” area of the classroom entitled “Writing Papers: Twelve keys to writing a great paper.”
8. Web sites cannot be used as sources for this essay (10% penalty). Watch my short video in the Resources section of the classroom for guidance regarding how to find scholarly sources in the databases.
9. A thesis statement should not be descriptive, but should seek to prove a point. Here is an example of a poor thesis statement: Thomas Jefferson was an important president. Here is an example of an effective thesis statement: Thomas Jefferson made three significant contributions to American history by trying to abolish slavery in Virginia, authoring the Declaration of Independence, serving as President of the United States.
Please contact me if you are uncertain about my expectations, or if you need me to clarify one or more aspects of this particular assignment. I am looking forward to reading your work! Sincerely, Prof. Weber
Here are the rubric categories which the professor will use to grade your Short Paper and your Research Paper:
1) Has the student cited sources properly? Are sources scholarly (no web sites)?
2) Is the student’s writing free of sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and other major grammatical errors?
3) Has the student integrated all quotations and followed each quotation with adequate reflection and analysis, and do the quotations offer insight into the topic?
4) Has the student balanced historical, factual information with prose that is insightful, reflective, and analytical, or does the student’s writing merely state the obvious or paraphrase the factual information?
5) Is the thesis statement clear, focused, and well-developed?
6) Does each paragraph begin with a topic sentence that introduces the content of the paragraph to the reader and connects to the thesis?
7) Is the student’s writing clear, fluid, consistent, insightful, and reflective?
8) Did the student cite all sources and include a bibliography page?
9) Did the student include scholarly/academic sources (no web sites!)?