American History Term Paper
An American history report should use findings from scholarly research to thoroughly examine a specific aspect of American history. An American history term paper is different from a typical history essay in its length and breadth. A term paper, as its name suggests, implies that its composition is the culmination of a term of study. It is intended to present the student's comprehensive grasp of the topic at hand and her ability to communicate intelligently in the field. Therefore, an American history report should present a detailed knowledge of both the chosen topic and the general context of American history.
American history term papers can take various forms, but the most common are research essays and historiographies. Research essays present a definitive thesis and proceed to argue that thesis using ample evidence from scholarly research. Historiographies do not contain an argument, but rather present a comprehensive overview of research on a single, specific topic. Both types require a similar investment in preparation and research.
The first key to an accomplished American history term paper is selecting a specific and interesting topic. To write either a research essay or historiography on the Civil War would certainly be interesting, but would take a lifetime. The topic must be narrow enough that it may be fully addressed in the scope of the allotted page limit. Therefore, it is imperative to pick a very defined, narrow topic. For instance, examining African-American soldiers in the Civil War is significantly more specific than the Civil War. But even that could be a book. This topic could be narrowed again to be African-American soldiers in the Union Army in the Civil War, and then again to be African-American soldiers in the 33rd regiment of the Union Army.
Once the topic is selected, extensive research must be undertaken to uncover multiple sources on the topic. This research should then be synthesized and presented according to the style of paper the student is writing. If it is a research essay, the student must develop a thesis—a statement or group of statements that asserts an argument and explains how that argument is going to be defended. Given the topic above on African-American soldiers in the 33rd regiment of the Union Army, the student might choose to present a thesis that argues that the members of the 33rd regiment were unique among other African-American soldiers in the Union Army. In that case, the report would go forth to give evidence of why the 33rd regiment was distinct. If the student were writing a historiography, the report would be an organized presentation of what scholars have said about the 33rd regiment over years of historical writing and research.
American history reports should clearly introduce the topic and its significance early in the text. Do not launch into the report without first providing the reader with a specific definition of the topic and a contextualization of the topic in the scope of American history. The body of the document should use clearly defined paragraphs with strong topic sentences to discuss the points defending the thesis (if it is a research essay) or the various scholars who have written on the topic (if it is a historiography). The conclusion should draw new light to the thesis (if it is a research essay) or point to areas needing further research (if it is a historiography).
American history papers generally follow Turabian or Chicago Style for citations and references.
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