Research Paper Instructions

A primary task in this class is to produce an approximately 10-12 page, double-spaced paper on a subject related to the history of the American West.  [Endnotes and bibliography, which are of course required, do not count towards the 10-page target.]  Your research should come from a combination of primary and secondary sources.  

The topic is your choice.  However, it should be specific enough so that you can cover your subject in some depth.  For example, a history of the cattle industry in America is too broad.  However, a history of the great winter die-off of 1886 might be a good choice.

You are required to use Zotero (a research note database) in the course of this effort so that I can track both the sources that you acquire, and your progress in excerpting material.  I will examine your database twice over the course of the semester.  The first time in order to see how many sources you’ve acquired.  The second time will be to see how many notes you have from those sources.

By October 4th, you must complete the first step in the paper composition process.  You must choose a topic.  Choosing a topic should not be taken lightly because even at this early stage it may make or break your efforts.  Perhaps the best advice I can give you is this:  Make sure you have a substantial number of sources lined up BEFORE you select a topic.  Should you begin with a topic and end up with few sources on it, you will have a very difficult time completing this course.  Therefore, it is extremely important that you begin reading your sources as as early as possible to help you better focus your research.  While you can narrow the focus of your study after submitting your topic, you will not be allowed to change to a completely different subject.

By November 29th, you must complete a draft of the research paper.  It must be a minimum of five pages long, double-spaced.  [However, I strongly encourage you to make it the whole ten to twelve.  The more critiquing I can do in advance, the better your final paper is likely to be.]  Complete and accurate footnotes and (a non-annotated) bibliography are REQUIRED (otherwise I will have no way to judge the quality of your research).  You will e-mail me a .pdf of the draft the night before, then I will post all students drafts here.  You will add 5 useful comments on other student papers while I add comments to everyone’s.

Failure to keep up with the preliminary stages of this assignment may result in my failing you on this assignment before the final product is even done.  

Your final paper is due at the beginning of the final exam period, 1PM on Tuesday, December 4th.  It must be typewritten and include footnotes and a bibliography in proper Turabian format.  Failure to adequately document your sources will result in me failing to accept the paper.  You will present your research to the class and any other interested persons during your final exam period.