Topic: How to write a Short Paper Assignment
A Short Paper Assignment allows you, early in the course, to demonstrate your research skills to your instructor and to receive feedback that will benefit you when you write your research paper. With this assignment, you will learn how to do proper and adequate research and write a short paper and prepare you for writing the research paper.
This short paper is at least three double-spaced pages of text (Times New Roman, font size 12) and you must consult a minimum of two academically credible sources. Bibliographies and citations will be in the Chicago Manual of Style format.
. If you use any of the information from your sources word-for-word, you must cite the source by using endnotes or footnotes. If you read the information and write it in your own words and it is not common knowledge, then you must cite the source because you are paraphrasing someone’s information.
The short paper must include a cover page with your name, course number and course title, instructor’s name, and date. You must also include a bibliography at the end of your paper. While composing your paper, use proper English. Do not use abbreviations, contractions, passive voice, or first/ second person (I, you, we, our, etc). Please label your paper as follows: lastnamefirstnameHIST102ShortPaper.
If you use the device of asking key questions, then you need to pull it together in a statement of your answer that serves as the thesis statement, which should appear no later than the end of the first page. Then, the balance of the paper is your analysis and evidence that supports the thesis statement.
Before you get into the body of the paper you should answer the following question: What is the thesis of your paper? Your thesis should give the reader a preview of your essay in one to three sentences and your central argument. It is the purpose of your paper and the single most important argument you want your reader to take away. The thesis also acts as a mapping tool for you to keep the essay focused. Generally, the thesis is found at the end of the introduction.
Define your thesis carefully. A good thesis is precise, interesting, but not obvious. It is your point of view and it should be worth demonstrating. Generally, it stands in opposition to some other view. The reader should know what your thesis is by the end of the first paragraph. Your thesis does not have to say everything about your topic; it only needs to set out your point of view and launch your paper.
As the writer, where are you in this fight and what is your argument? Outside of reporting the facts, what is your interpretation as the author? Why is this topic important in our history and culture?
Your thesis seems to fall into the pitfall of this error: Have you taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
Use citations and footnotes for assertions, facts, dates, and other details not to show that you know them but to advance your argument.
You need to develop a stronger thesis and central argument. An important element of a thesis statement is a unique argument that you will follow-through and proves in your paper. What you have here is a fairly common description that no one would really disagree with. Therefore it is less a thesis statement and more a recounting of a widely held understanding of the past.
Your writing may need a more clearly articulated thesis to support appropriate related subordinate ideas. I don’t see as much of your ideas as author – most of what is in it comes from other people. There is not nearly enough analysis or exploration on your part of the issues involved.
The matter of handling quotations seems to be a difficult one for historians. There is nothing that adds so much to the charm and effectiveness of a history as good quotations from the sources, especially if the period is somewhat remote. Young writers are prone to use quotations in places where their own words would be better, and to incorporate in the text source excerpts that belong in footnotes or appendices.
Organize your paper clearly around answering the question, and avoid deviating into irrelevant side-issues. Develop a central argument to answer the question and stick to it throughout, examining different aspects of it in separate paragraphs. Say at the beginning what your argument is, and at the end briefly summarize why you think you have proved that it is correct.
I would like to see more of a roadmap of your paper in the introduction. The introduction provides you with an opportunity to capture your reader’s attention and to provide an overview of your paper.
Try extracting the first line from your essay paragraphs and see if you can follow your main line of argument. If you can’t, they your essay is not so easy to follow as you might want it to be. The reason why paragraphs should be “headlined” with reference to the overall argument is to keep that argument in the reader’s mind, thereby making it easier for them to see the relevance of the rest of the paragraph. This way, the reader doesn’t lose track, and neither do you. Let the thesis decide how your arguments should be organized, not chronology! Ideally, paragraphs should be well connected to each other. Order your paragraphs so that each one follows logically on from the previous one. To make this logic more obvious, you can use transition words (or “connectors”), so that the paragraphs flow better and the reader is always kept on track. The easiest way of doing this is by using words like similarly, likewise, by the same token, yet, nevertheless, however, etc. Or, you may use longer phrases such as “It is ironic, therefore, that…….” or “Although less obvious, an equally important point here is the fact that…..”
Paragraphs can be of varying lengths, but they must present a coherent argument unified under a single topic, namely your argument or thesis. Paragraphs are hardly ever longer than one page, double-spaced and usually are much shorter. Lengthy paragraphs usually indicate a lack of structure. Identify the main ideas in the paragraph to see if they make more sense as separate topics in separate paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs usually indicate a lack of substance; you don’t have enough evidence or analysis to prove your point. Develop your idea or integrate the idea into another paragraph.
Make the first paragraph count. Do not fool around with long paragraphs of background or vague introductions. Avoid introductory blather, high-flown phrases about the beauty of culture, assurances that this literature has fascinated generations, or other empty observations. If you are at a loss for how to start your paper, you might try one of the following strategies: outline the argument that your thesis refutes, describe a problem of interpretation, or present a vivid example. Your last sentence in your introduction should be your thesis statement.
Organize your paper. No simple formula will do; in fact, simple formulas often make for dull reading. Give your paper a suitable design so that each part follows logically from the previous one and leads logically to the next. Include signposts in the text to make your design clear. Guide your reader through your argument with clear transitional sentences.
Organize your paragraphs. A paragraph should be unified, coherent, and developed. It should center upon one particular question, idea, or example. The sentences should follow in some clear sequence. Ensure that you support the central idea. Relook at how many times you offer an observation after presenting the facts. Do the reverse so that the “history” or facts support your interpretation. The reader can decipher the weight of your argument. If you took out all the factual information from your paper that you have gleaned from your research, would your narrative (topic sentences) support the central argument?
I would like to see higher level analysis. Do not simply pick a subject and tell what happened. A graduate level paper will have an argument, a strong thesis, and attempt to make an original observation and will include historiography
I would like to see you push your historical analysis and try to develop a strong thesis and your own unique argument about the past. How does your research diverge or agree with other scholarship on this topic? Try to use papers like this as a stepping stone for you to develop your own voice and arguments about the past which you might later refine in a thesis or a publication.
Argue from evidence. Keep your unsubstantiated opinions in the background. Instead, show the reader that the words of the source you are analyzing support your thesis. Your evidence may consist of quotations from an author, simple reference to a passage of an author, or (sometimes) reference to a modern work of scholarship. Explain to the reader what the evidence you cite means and how it proves your thesis.
A firm understanding of a source in its context, well-selected evidence, and an incisive thesis are the basic necessities. However, the manner in which they are presented will determine one’s success. Well-constructed arguments flow logically from one to the other, not leaving the reader to figure out how they relate. And evidence should be used with brevity. The right quote can bring the spirit of a period to your argument, but only if it is apt to your subject and phrasing. Otherwise, paraphrase succinctly, using enough detail to be clear, without overwhelming your point with needless story-telling.
Your paper is thin on both content and analysis, and does not do a good job with sources. It is, in part, composed primarily of citations strung together by intervening text. Not plagiarism, exactly, but not really a lot of original writing either. Almost all the sources cited in both these papers are simply the course texts, with one or two small additional works thrown in.
This is informal or conversational in style. Academic writing is structured and formal, and what may seem appropriate in everyday conversation is not appropriate for your essay.
Use citations and footnotes for assertions, facts, dates, and other details not to show that you know them but to advance your argument.
This assignment requires that your source be from academic sources.
Graduate level research is not simply about having one page of your paper from one source and the next page from another. Research is about integrating what you find, combining ideas, and coming up with a new analysis. What you have here is just one source followed by another.
You need to go beyond merely retelling this story based on secondary sources. Infuse your work with primary sources to develop an original argument.
The job of a historian is not to cut and paste quotes together. You need to analyze them, draw your own conclusions, and use research as evidence for your own original thoughts.
You did not tie your analysis into any of our readings from class. The syllabus specifically called for the final paper to discuss how your topic “specifically relates to course materials.”
The rationale for incorporating the review of the literature in the research is that when you substantiate what you say, you usually substantiate it through the literature you have read. Therefore, you must document your source for your rationale and your theoretical/conceptual framework.
College-level papers are distinguished by standardized notational schema. These display the primary and secondary sources being quoted or used in the construction. Your professors will certainly call for endnotes, but also may request a formal bibliography:
Endnotes/Footnotes, the primary focus in Turabian, are used to indicate the source of a quotation, paraphrase, or resources–as well as to add explanations or digressions outside the flow of the main narrative.
Bibliography is an optional device at the end of the paper, which highlights the materials cited as a separate, alphabetized list in addition to the endnotes or footnotes.
Turabian and the Chicago Manual use sequential Arabic numbers. The numbers are normally collective and at the end of quotations, paraphrased sentences, or paragraphs for collected references. Note numbers:
o May be in-line, but preferably set in raised superscript.1
o Should come at the end of the paragraph and collectively account for the resources used. Do not insert for each sentence. The exception is if a short quotation is used within a paragraph. Then cite as appropriate for the information preceding the quotation, the quotation itself (after commas, quotations marks, periods, or other final diacritics), and at the end of the paragraph if needed for subsequent information.
o Must follow one another in numerical order, beginning with 1 and running continuously throughout the paper.
For a full explanation go to: http://www.apus.edu/Online-Library/tutorials/chicago.htm#notation
Footnotes acknowledge which parts of their paper reference particular sources. Generally, you want to provide the author’s first name and last name, publication title, publication information, date of publication, and page number(s) if it is the first time the source is being used.
I would like to see a stronger conclusion. The conclusion should summarize the main points of your argument. This summary is still part of the argument, so you cannot simply repeat your introductory ideas. It may help to think of the conclusion as if it were the closing argument made by a lawyer in a case — you need to remind the judge and jury (your readers) of what you are arguing and why your case is convincing.
The bibliography should be formatted with what is known as a “hanging indent.” You will see this only in the bibliography section and nowhere else in the paper. Think of it as a mirror image of the paragraph indentation. The reason is, according to Charles Lipson, is that “Hanging indents are designed to make it easy to skim down the list of references to see the authors’ names.” For an example see:
Common websites are not to be used for a scholarly research paper. What this means is that there is no scholarly peer review and there is no permanence to it either. So if I check your web address the information might be completely different from when you cited it. Therefore it has no value in historical research papers like this one. The same goes for sites like Wikipedia, or almost any other common web site.
The Internet is a wonderful source of information on all sorts of topics, but use it with the same caution that you would a book – or, indeed, with still more. Internet sites are commonly not screened and refereed as are academic journals and publications. On the whole, you would do better to cite printed material rather than web pages. If you do cite web pages, give the exact address (that goes for material taken from this site, as well as material elsewhere on the web;) in the case of online journal articles, cite them as though they were in printed form (you can also give the stable url of the article, but that isn’t necessary.) If you cut and paste a quotation, put it in quotation marks, just as you would if you had copied it from a written text.
First, you have explored a historical problem worth addressing. This paper would be better by citing and comparing additional secondary history sources, such as monographs and journal articles. Simply finding relevant secondary materials requires its own particular set of skills in using the library: searching catalogs, accessing on-line databases, using interlibrary loan, and even knowing how to pose questions to reference librarians. Reading these sources, determining their arguments, and putting them in conversation with each other constitute another broad set of skills which are enormously difficult to master.
Second, having explored and developed ideas about a historical problem, you should find a set of primary historical sources which can actually address the question you have formulated. Once again, this is no easy task. It requires another array of skills in using the library. Students must know how to use the on-line library catalog, and perhaps even (gasp!) use the best sources. This kind of primary source research demands a diligence and persistence rare in these days of easy Internet access.
Finally, you must put all this information together and actually produce knowledge. You must craft a paper wherein you pose a clear historical problem and then offer a thesis addressing it. In a well-structured, grammatically correct essay, you must work their way through an argument without falling into common historical fallacies. You must match evidence to argument, subordinate little ideas to big ones, and anticipate and pre-empt challenges to their argument.