Guidelines for writing your short research paper:


The purpose of this paper is to give you a chance to evaluate a set of primary source documents  and tell your audience (me) what you think these documents tell you about history.  These are your own findings based on your own interpretation of the documents.  Make sure that you quote the documents throughout the paper to support your findings.

Your Paper Proposal (this is due on 9/21 - no exceptions):

  1. Identify your topic by writing a brief paragraph that explains and clarifies your topic.  By the time I'm done reading the paragraph, it should be clear to me what the heck you're writing about. :)
  2. List the questions you want to try and answer in the paper.  This exercise is really like a chance for you to ask your own questions about history, so in a sense you are "questioning" the documents.
  3. A list of your documents.  For each document you should provide as much of the following information as possible:

Remember that in your proposal you identified questions that you thought the documents might help you answer.  It might be helpful for you to identify some of these questions in the introduction of your paper.  Your thesis can then be discussed as an answer to your research questions.



You are welcome to organize your paper as you see fit.  But if you would like some guidance as to organization – here’s a format you can follow:

  1. Introduce your topic
  2. Identify the questions you will answer based on the evidence in your documents
  3. State your thesis (the answer to your questions), divided in a way that fits the organization of your paper (one section of your paper for each part of your thesis)
  4. Discuss Section I of your thesis
  5. Discuss Section II of your thesis
  6. Discuss Section III of your thesis
  7. Conclude your paper by summarizing the findings you made based on your evidence



5-7 pages, typed, double spaced, one inch margins, size 12 Times or Times New Roman

Please cite all of your documents using footnotes (Click here for a quick guide to creating footnotes)


Good online starting points for primary source documents:

American Memory from the Library of Congress & National Archives  This is simply the largest collection of American history related documents on the web.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook  Lots of documents - some of the links are dead but it's a great listing to get you started thinking of topics.

The Avalon Project at Yale  Great starting point for any topic relating to constitutional or legal history.

Making of America Project at Cornell University  A great collection of documents related to American life prior to Reconstruction.

Please remember that a primary source document can be an eyewitness account, journal entry, legal document, contract, letter, newspaper article, political cartoon, and so forth.  The most helpful thing to do once you've found your topic is to run searches that are set up like these:
"women suffrage cartoon"
"john brown editorial"
"american revolution pamphlet"
"civil war soldier diary"

Examples of Good Primary Source Collections:

Women in Military Service

African American Oral History Collection

World War II Documents at the University of Washington

Japanese American Veterans Collection at the University of Hawaii

Speeches and Documents from the Civil War

Click Here for an example of a research paper I wrote based on primary source documents.  It's longer than yours needs to be, but maybe it will give the idea.