Seminar Research Paper Guidelines
As noted in the syllabus, a specific set of guidelines
those already available in the main syllabus) for the
final paper is to be provided. Rather than impose my sense of
things on you too early in the research process, however, I have
decided to provide the guidelines in the midst of your writing the
first draft. The guidelines, as you will note, are somewhat
general and that is for a simple reason, there are many ways to produce
a successful research paper. In addition, I would not advise you
to view the guidelines as a recipe that you can follow to ensure
yourself of a particular mark. Instead I would view the
guidelines as mimimum standards that must be achieved to have a chance
at the mark you aspire to. That said let me delineate the
1. The paper must have an introduction in which you give the reader
some indication of the thesis or main point you are trying to prove in
your paper. In other words, a person reading the introduction
should be able to answer the "so what" question, that is, what will the
about the topic of this paper by reading it and what interpretation of
the phenomena under consideration will be given? The
introduction should not be more than 1 page double-spaced. If it
is longer than that you will be devoting space to it that should be
used to achieve other important goals in the paper.
2. The paper should give a clear sense of how the results of your work
speak to (i.e. specifically relate to) the relevant historical work on
your chosen topic. Sometimes a historian achieves this by
devoting a specific section of a given essay to discussing the
strengths and weaknesses of the relevant historical work and then
indicating the question or questions that he/she will address in her
essay, including what will be achieved by answering them. At
other times a historian includes references to the relevant historical
literature throughout the body of the essay to achieve the same
purpose. I will leave it up to each of you to decide how you
think it best to achieve this important goal. This may involve
relating your work contemporaneously (i.e. to work produced quite
recently), as you did in your historiographic pieces, or historically,
by discussing what others have said about your topic over time, or a
little of both.
3. The body of the essay (13-14 double-spaced pages in length)
primary-source driven. That means that there must be substantial
use of primary sources on almost every page of the body and on at
least 10 pages of it.
4. Next, you need a conclusion, which should sum up what you have
demonstrated in your paper and should be no more than 1 page double-spaced.
5. Finally, you MUST have a bibliography and it MUST be properly
formatted; I have strongly recommended that you create this
bibliography as you go along, i.e. format each entry for each new
source as soon as you know you will be using the source.
6. Beyond these specific minimum standards, your paper ought also to
adhere to the standard guidelines in the Standard Guidelines for
Written Work listed in the main syllabus for this course.
7. A friendly reminder to those who think that it will not be
clear that you have used 5 primary and 15 secondary sources in your
final paper; the way to make it clear what you have used is through a
bibliography and, of course, by making use of all sources at least once in the
course of your paper.