HIST 250 Assignments

1. Participation (15%)

Your active engagement and participation are vital components of the course. Please come to class each day prepared to discuss the assigned readings (with hard copies), bring questions and concerns about the research process, as well as your laptop computer or tablet. You will lose credit for participation after three absences, except in documented cases for extended family or medical emergencies, religious observances, school events, or illness. Your participation grade will also include your attendance at three mandatory conferences with me during the semester to discuss your research projects, as well as your research journal.

2. Weekly Assignments (25%)

You will have an assignment due at the beginning of each week on Sunday at 4pm (except as otherwise noted) via the DROPitTOme service. These assignments are designed to guide you through the research process. Though some may seem small, putting your best effort into each one will ensure that the final paper represents your best work. Late assignments may receive a maximum of 1/3 of the possible credit; none will be accepted more than one week after the deadline.

3. Research Prospectus (5%)

Due on Sunday, March 8. Your prospectus should represent the state of your research at this point in the semester, including the topic and questions you propose to address, the major literature that you’ve reviewed, and your initial findings from primary source research. Further details will be distributed approximately two weeks in advance.

4. Preliminary draft (15%)

The first draft of your paper is due on Friday, April 10 via DROPitTOme. The draft should be complete: 15-20 pages, full Chicago-style citations.

5. Peer review (5%)

Each of you will be paired with another student for a session in which you will discuss each other’s first drafts in class on Wednesday, April 15. This will require you to read the draft of your partner, answer a brief questionnaire that I will distribute, and discuss the paper’s strengths and weaknesses.

6. Oral presentation (5%)

You will give a brief presentation about your research during the last week of classes (April 27 and 29). Details and a sign-up sheet will be distributed about three weeks in advance.

7. Final draft (30%)

Due Wednesday, April 29 at 8:30am via DROPitTOme. Your final paper should be 15-20 pages, make an original argument, situate it within relevant historiography, and substantiate it through in-depth analysis of a wide range of properly cited primary and secondary sources.


Submission Instructions

All assignments for the course will be submitted via DROPitTOme. Please follow these steps:

  1. Save your file in the following format: “Lastname Week #.docx” It is very important that you save your file with a unique name, because otherwise it will overwrite any other versions with the same name.
  2. Click here. When prompted, enter “hist250” as the password.
  3. Follow the instructions to upload your file.


Week-by-Week Assignment Descriptions

Week 2: Introduction

Draft a one-page introduction to yourself that address the following questions:

  1. What’s your history background? What other courses have you taken (and where)?
  2. What do you think are your strengths as a student and a historian?
  3. What do you think are your weaknesses as a student and a historian?
  4. What historical topics interest you? Are there any particular topics related to “the Atlantic world of Benjamin Franklin” that you already know are of interest?

Week 3: Proposed Research Questions

Write a one-page essay that briefly describes the research questions you may be interested in pursuing. You will not be bound to follow these through to the end of the semester, but it is beneficial to begin thinking about your reading and research in the form of questions you can ask and answer from a very early point.

In your essay, you should identify, based for now largely on your reading of Franklin’s Autobiography and our conversations in class, three possible topics that are of interest to you and several questions you might pursue to study them. Keep in mind that a good research question asks “why” or “how” and seeks to explain or interpret the past in some way, rather than simply answering a factual question.

Week 4: Bibliography of Sources

For this week, you should identify sources and create a bibliography using proper Chicago style format. It should include:

  • Primary sources
    • 5 possible sources, which can include individual letters, newspapers, other printed publications
    • You may include the Autobiography as part of your bibliography if you intend to use it as a source, but it will not count towards your total.
  • Secondary sources
    • 3 books related to your selected topic (found through the Whittemore Library catalog or WorldCat)
    • 3 articles (via JSTOR, Project Muse, or other search databases)

To organize your bibliography, provide separate headings for primary and secondary sources, and then list your sources alphabetically by the last name of the author. We’ll talk in more detail about organizing bibliographies through the semester.

Week 5: Analysis and Annotation

This week’s assignment asks you to complete two related tasks, one for primary sources and one for secondary sources. You should submit a single document containing all of your work. Please note that this assignment is due on Monday, February 16 at 4 pm.

Primary Source: You should provide an analysis of a single primary source you are using in your research. This should include contextual information about the source as well as some early insights. That is, you should do more than simply provide a summary of the document (though that would be helpful) but rather offer suggestions about how it fits within your topic, some perspective about how the document reflects some aspect of Franklin and his world.

Secondary Source: For three (3) of your secondary sources, provide a brief paragraph that explains the argument of the piece, its strengths and weaknesses, the evidence the author uses, the source’s historiographic contribution, and what other sources it relates to. Note that you can use the questions below under the Historiography Report as a guide, but you need only write one paragraph per source.

Week 6: Updated Annotated Bibliography

By this week, you should have the following in your bibliography:

  • At least ten primary sources
  • At least twelve secondary sources. For each secondary source, you should include a brief (1-2 sentence) blurb explaining the argument or contribution of each.

Finally, for class on Monday, please bring something from one of your readings that you’re having trouble figuring out to share with the group.

Week 7: Literature Review

This is your first opportunity to fully discuss the secondary sources you’ve been reading and to assess the historiography of your topic. Draft a review of approximately 750-1,000 words (a little longer is okay, but certainly no shorter). In your review, summarize the major themes and points of agreement and disagreement in your historiography, citing the relevant sources as you go. Your discussion should be organized around themes rather than authors, so each paragraph should discuss more than one author by focusing on how they are in conversation. As far as you’re able at this point, you should also offer your own thoughts on the state of the historiography.

As you write, you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • On what points of interpretation do the authors agree?
  • On what points of interpretation do the authors disagree? For these points, what are the contours of the debate? Have interpretations changed over time?
  • Are there issues/themes that the authors have not addressed that you feel should be? (This is a good place to bring in a taste of your primary research.)

Week 8: Research Prospectus

Your prospectus is an opportunity to write a brief essay (1,200-1,500 words) explaining your topic and laying out your plans for the paper. It should include the following elements:

  • Introduce your topic and your proposed thesis and argument;
  • The major historical and historiographic questions you intend to address;
  • A brief review of the historiographic literature (this is an opportunity to revise and reduce your literature review);
  • Some initial findings from your primary source research.

You should write the prospectus as a single essay with an introduction and conclusion. As with the literature review, in your conclusion you are welcome to raise questions that you have about the material at this point in the semester. Keep in mind that this document will serve as the basis for you to begin working on the outline of the paper over the two subsequent weeks (that is, by the end of spring break). Finally, as noted above, this assignment will count separately from the other weekly assignments, and stand for 5% of the final course grade.

Week 10: Outline

Outlining is a key component of the writing process, in particular for essays of historical analysis. It allows you the opportunity to think about the structure of your paper, how you will organize your argument, where your evidence will go, and so on. As with all of the weekly exercises it is best to think of this assignment in a way that most benefits you, but each outline should contain some core elements:

  • The outline should be written in complete sentences (except for possibly 2-3 subheadings).
  • You should include quotations as part of the evidence. You do not have to have selected the precise portion of the quotation you will use, so you can simply include an entire sentence.
  • You should cite all of your evidence and references to secondary sources. In total at this point you should have at least twenty footnotes, including both primary and secondary sources.
  • Word counts will vary widely depending on how you organize, but you should have a minimum of five pages of material in your outline (assuming that everything is double-spaced).

We will go over some examples of outlines in class and discuss how to make the best use of them.

Week 11: Introduction and Five Body Paragraphs

It’s time to begin drafting your paper. For the first week, you should write your introduction (1-2 paragraphs) and also five body paragraphs. You should abide by the following guidelines:

  • You may write any five body paragraphs you like, anywhere in the structure of your paper.
  • Should you choose not to write consecutive paragraphs, you should keep what you write within an outline so that the place of the paragraphs is obvious.
  • All material should be fully cited.
  • You should include a working title (it may change week to week until the final version is turned in).
  • You should also treat five as a minimum rather than a goal. The more you write now, the more time you’ll have to revise later.

Week 12: Five Body Paragraphs

The same rules apply as last week, though by this point you should have at least ten full body paragraphs.

Week 13: Full Draft (due Friday, April 10)

By 4pm on Friday, April 10, you should submit via DROPitTOme a full and complete draft of your paper. That means it should be within the 15-20 page range, include full citations, a title, and bibliography. I will distribute essays to your partner for the review process.

Week 14: Revision Plan (due Monday, April 20)

By 4pm on Monday, April 20, you should submit a copy of your self-assessment (found at the end of the peer review document distributed with the first drafts). In that document you will answer questions about your peer review and the professor’s comments on the draft and lay out your thoughts on how to revise the paper for the final version.

Week 15: Oral Presentation (April 27 and 29 in class)

You are required to offer a 10-12 minute oral presentation on your research during the final week of classes. In that presentation, you should offer a brief sketch of your topic, argument, analysis, and evidence. You are welcome (encouraged, even) to prepare notes for your talk in whatever way would be helpful (there is no requirement to memorize your talk).

The schedule will be distributed via email.

Historiography Report

Each report should be approximately one page (i.e., 250-300 words), and include the following sections:

  1. Thesis: State the thesis of the article in your own words in 1-3 sentences.
  2. Argument: List the main arguments that the historian presents to advance his or her thesis. You may use bullet points, but you should write in complete sentences.
  3. Evidence: What sources of evidence does the author use? How does the author use them to support the argument of the essay?
  4. Historiographic Contribution: How does the essay contribute to the secondary literature on its specific topic? How does it contribute to understanding the economy of the Atlantic world?
  5. Critique: In 2-3 sentences, offer a brief critique of the author’s argument. You may consider the effectiveness of the argument overall, the use of evidence, and/or the significance of the argument for the secondary literature.

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