Democracy in the Early Republic

Democracy in the Early Republic

All students will write one paper for this course.  Most topics are welcome as long as the paper is grounded in the time period and geographic focus of this course.  All good history papers start with a question that normally is chiseled down as you read on your topic.  You might ask, for example, what were the causes of the American Revolution?  After asking a question, you should read up on it, I especially encourage you to visit a library and spend some time browsing through books on the topic.  The PCC Shatford Library Databases are also a good place to start, I recommend the following depending upon the course: America History & Life, Ebscohost, and Jstor.

You also may review a historical monograph or two.  The instructor must approve the book(s) — please email the author, title, and publisher or consult with the instructor during office hours.  Survey books, works of fiction, and those by non-reputable publishers are not allowed.

There is a guide to writing book reviews in the module.

Sources: You must make use of scholarly sources and not rely on “internet” sources, such Wikipedia, etc.  Please read the Hamilton College Guide to Writing History on this issue.  There is no strict rule regarding the number of sources needed since sources vary from paper to paper, though in general a paper must cite at least one monograph and ideally more, and at least one primary source if they are available.  Sources are akin to a lawyer’s evidence; hence a weak range of sources will not make for a persuasive paper.

Word Count: 1500-1800 words (you can go a bit over the word count if you want to).

Format: Typed, preferably double-spaced though you need not worry about this since Canvas might distort the paper when you cut-&-paste it.

Points: 100

Attempts: Two – high score counts.

First Draft Due Date: October 9 at 11:59, students that turn the draft in late will lose the opportunity to resubmit the paper for a higher grade.

Citations: All sources must be cited, including direct quotes, paraphrased passages, and those from which ideas are borrowed.  You can simply write the author’s name, title, and page number in parenthesis after the sentence in which the source is used.

You’re also free to use Chicago style.  There is a link to a guide on the use of Chicago in the module.  History majors should use Chicago since it’s the standard system of citation for historians.

Please include a Works Cited page at the end of the paper.

Failure to cite your sources is considered plagiarism.  You do not need to cite common knowledge.

You should use sources from this course and are free to draw on outside sources.

Rubric: It is in the module, please read it for guidance as to how the paper will be evaluated.

Hamilton College Guide to Writing a Good History Paper Please read it in its entirety, it is in the module.

Tip: You can bounce ideas off the instructor during office hours.

 Some General Tips on Historical Writing

  • History took place in the past. Use the past tense.
  • Avoid the passive voice. “Indians frequently set fire to South Atlantic forests” is stronger and more precise than “South Atlantic forests were often burned.”
  • Avoid colloquial language in formal academic writing. In class discussions, colloquial language (“Portugal got hosed in the Treaty of Tordesillas!”) is acceptable.  Such usage is not acceptable in formal academic writing (rather:  “In retrospect, the Treaty of Tordesillas heavily favored Spain at the expense of Portugal.”)
  • Always leave time to edit your drafts. The best historians in the world still produce lousy first drafts.  Good writing takes time and a willingness to read (and re-read!) your own work with a critical eye.
  • Be certain to have a strong thesis statement/argument, well-organized paragraphs, strong sources, and a conclusion that ties it together and perhaps suggests new courses of research.
  • The assigned articles for this course provide excellent examples of historical writing.


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