Research Paper

Download the Guidelines & Rubric

Draft due for peer review: Monday, April 4 (3%)
Final Paper Due: Friday, April 8 (12%)

For this paper, you’ll demonstrate strong historical thinking by employing both primary and secondary sources in a well-researched essay 6 pages long, on a course-related topic/question of interest to you and for which you can obtain reliable sources.

Your paper should be based on (at minimum) 3 main sources:

1) One primary document from the Chafe book, A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America (or one that was handed out in class).

2) One authentic primary source obtained elsewhere. For example: something from a reliable digital archive, presidential library, Library of Congress, Digital Public Library of America, National Archives, newspaper, online database, Avalon Project, National Security Archive, or museum collection. Or it could be a media artifact: photographic image, newsreel, TV commercial or program, film, radio program, etc.

3) One well-chosen *print* SCHOLARLY secondary source. This means a book (preferably published by a university press) or peer-reviewed journal article. If using a journal article, print or copy it and attach the article to the essay. If using a book or ebook, print or Xerox the title page and attach. A book that you can only see in Google or Amazon preview mode is not sufficient for this assignment (but an ebook obtained full-text online through our library is fine).

All sources should be properly and correctly cited using Chicago Style (footnotes + bibliography). (See a sample paper).

As you develop your inquiry and search for sources you may need to do additional background research, so feel free to add citations in your paper for any relevant reliable sources, but only 3 are absolutely required.

Research method = BEFORE Googling for answers, START with the resources on our library website “History and Political Science Subject Guide.” Please DO NOT USE any websites, Wikipedia entries, or similar sites (, as secondary sources. When in doubt about the quality or suitability of your secondary source CHECK WITH ME or a reference librarian!

Due dates:

Mon 3/7 – Topic and which Chafe source you’ll use, due in class

Wed 3/16 – Library Day, bring laptops with you & meet in LRC instruction area

Mon 4/4 – Peer Review Day – bring your printed draft to class (3%)

Fri 4/8 – Final Draft Due (12%)

The paper is worth 15% of your final course grade.

As I read your essay I will be looking for:

  • High-quality analysis of (not just “quoting from” or summarizing) both primary and secondary source evidence
  • Clear and thoughtful writing using a scholarly tone. Your writing should be free of typos, errors of logic, and biased or moralizing judgment about the past.
  • A core argument/question that is clearly stated in the introduction, carried throughout the well-organized paper, and comes to a logical, elegant resolution in your conclusion.
  • Historical accuracy and attention to detail
  • Complete & correct Chicago Style footnotes and bibliography entries.
  • Independent work and thought; not just re-hashing someone else’s argument, but developing your own original historical interpretation about the past.


  • Use this sample paper as a model for general formatting and citation style.
  • Length = 6 double-spaced pages, plus footnotes, title page and bibliography
  • Paper should have a good title without using the words “research paper.”
  • Number your pages.
  • References should use correct Chicago Style. Refer to our “Writing in History” and other resources on Blackboard, visit my office hours, or use the Writing Center if you need help with citation. Don’t ask for last-minute help – resolve citation issues early.
  • No sloppy work. Proofread your paper very carefully for spelling, verb tense, and grammar.