Why was Thomas Jefferson’s role in the Declaration of Independence so significant?
WRITING YOUR SEMESTER RESEARCH PAPER
The core idea of your research paper is to argue one primary thesis about your topic.
Above all else, lead with a sharp and thoughtful argument from the beginning
to the end of your paper. In the process, you will use diverse sources to answer two to
three research questions related to your thesis.
Your grade will be based on the quality of your argument and the sophistication of your
research questions and evidence. The paper should be 8-9 pages (double-spaced,
Times New Roman Font [size 12], with normal margins) and use at least 8-10
AN ELECTRONIC COPY OF THE PAPER (AS A MICROSOFT WORD
DOCUMENT) IS DUE SUNDAY, MAY 10.
Grammar (10 points)
– Proper grammar is absolutely critical to your grade. You must, I repeat, must proofread
your paper multiple times. I advise printing and reading your work aloud; this helps one
catch errors that you sometimes miss on the computer screen. Aside from comma usage
and other common problems, do not, for example, confuse “there,” “their,” and “they’re,”
or “wars,” “war’s,” and “wars’,” or “its” and “it’s.” Do not mistake “to” for “too” or “two.”
Chicago Style Format (10 points) I WILL SEND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT
THIS – Citing sources properly with Chicago style is another key element of your grade.
You must cite all the information you use! At the end of each paragraph, place a footnote
that cites the source for your information. You must place citations immediately
after any direct quotes in a paragraph. Here is an example of how to cite a source in
the body of your paper.1
For any questions on how to cite different sources in your paper, go to:
STRUCTURING YOUR PAPER
Introduction (15 Points)
– You must properly introduce your topic. In 1 ½ to 2 pages, explain what your subject is
about, why it matters, and discuss how historians view the issue. In the process, you must
do the following two things:
1 Brandon K. Gauthier, My Made-Up Book that doesn’t exist (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011), 40.
1) Pose at least two questions you seek to answer. For example, to use an
example from US history: Why was Thomas Jefferson’s role in the Declaration of Independence
so significant? How can historians make sense of the contradictions between Jefferson’s political
values and his private life?
2) State a clear thesis for the paper and include a couple sentences on why
that argument matters in the broader context of the Global Cold War.
For example, to use another example from US history:
This paper argues that the political principles of Thomas Jefferson—despite his personal
hypocrisy with slavery—remain an inspirational source of liberty for Americans in the past
and present. This is especially important as the core values of the U.S. government, which
Jefferson helped shape, have served as a lodestar for oppressed Americans seeking justice in
daily life. While Jefferson’s personal life was shameful, his political career continues to
promote Lockean natural rights for all U.S. citizens today.
To help you consider the broader importance of your argument, here
are some questions to consider: why does your topic matter (i.e. “who cares?”
Don’t assume it’s self-evident!)? How did your topic influence the course of the
Global Cold War? What conclusions can you draw about the meaning of your
subject for the lives of men and women, past and present?
The Body of the Paper (50 points)
The body of the paper is where you answer your research questions and thus support your
argument with historical evidence from secondary and primary sources; it should be about 5
to 6 pages in length. Again, the purpose of this section is to answer your questions in a
manner that bolsters your overall thesis.
Make sure to use your argument to “frame” your evidence. To elaborate,
don’t just answer your research questions; don’t just include evidence for
evidence’s sake. Explain how and why your evidence directly supports your
thesis. Consistently point out to the reader why your overall argument is
correct based on the answers to your research questions.
Whatever topic you have chosen, you must organize the body of your paper clearly and
efficiently. If you are struggling with the broadness of your subject, organize your paper
around your research questions. For example, if the paper was about Thomas Jefferson (to
continue with the US history example), you might have two sections as follows:
Section I. Jefferson’s role in the Declaration of Independence
Section II. Jefferson’s political and personal contradictions
You can organize the body of your paper however you see fit, but if you are struggling with
a broad topic, try breaking it down into two to three shorter sections.
Conclusion (15 points)
– The conclusion must analyze the body of your paper and be about 1 ½- 2 pages in length.
The purpose of this final section is not to paraphrase your sources! Rather, you must
reiterate your argument and offer an original analysis on the significance of your topic in
history. In other words: your concluding section must critically assess in greater
depth how and why your subject matters in the broader context of the Global
Cold War. For example, think about the following questions: How was history different
as a result of your topic? In the time period you are writing about, how did your subject
change how men and women thought about coming days? How and why does your subject
still matter today? This section will be graded on the sophistication of your reflection.