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Research Guide 2018




2018 Research Paper Topic:

The Making of the American President

Issues for consideration in your paper

1) Broad overview of the context of time period (Civil War era, late 19th century, etc.);

2) Specific issues of the election period (state of the parties, economic issues, racial situation; wartime, foreign relations)

3) Candidates–brief biographical sketches;

4) The nomination process—primaries and debates are a 20th-century phenomenon; conventions;

5) The campaign between the candidates—third party? Dirty campaign? Campaign financing; role of media;

6) Results;

7) Analysis of election—why did the victor win? 

8) Synthesis…how does this election relate to the current political environment?

  1. Introduction

This spring much of your time will be spent on individual research projects in American History.  This paper will count for a significant portion of your grade for the third and fourth quarters.

These are the general paper requirements:

-2,500 words long, exclusive of bibliography (ten pages)

-typed, double-spaced, and in 12-point Times New Roman font, written in the past tense

-citations and full bibliography in the MLA style

Your research must be based on primary sources:

–at least three primary sources

–at least five secondary sources; these should be academic sources, either books or articles, written for a scholarly audience, and published within the last thirty years

-no websites may be used as secondary research sources (including Wikipedia!); however, online academic journal essays are admissible if you get them pre-approved by the instructor.

-Primary sources are the raw materials of historical research – they are the documents or artifacts closest to the topic of investigation. Often they are created during the time period which is being studied (correspondence, diaries, newspapers, government documents, art) but they can also be produced later by eyewitnesses or participants (memoirs, oral histories).

You may find primary sources in their original format (usually in an archive) or reproduced in a variety of ways: books, microfilm, digital, etc.

In contrast…

Secondary sources are interpretations of events written after an examination of primary sources and usually other secondary sources, such as books and journal articles.

  1. Assignments and Due Dates

(submit all assignments to your USHG or APUSH Google Drive folder)

The following are all required assignments, and all should be typed in 12-point Times New Roman font.

Grades will be lowered a letter grade for each missed deadline. Deadlines mean DUE IN CLASS by the dates listed below. Submit all assignments to your Google Drive folder

  1. Two Secondary Sources and Research Statement January 26
  2. Annotated Bibliography and Claim Statement February 9
  3. Rough Drafts due March 1
  4. Final Drafts due (submit digital & Paper copy) April 6


  1. Two Secondary Sources and Research Statement

You will be assigned a pivotal Presidential election in American history. A research paper begins by finding a question that you want to answer. To determine what question you’d like to ask, you should start by investigating the general subject you are assigned. (For more help in how to investigate an election, see section III of this guide.)

You can find secondary sources at the Miller library, the Crozet public library, and the UVa library. Searching the catalog databases on these libraries’ websites will help you to locate which books are available on your given topic. Mr. Fickley and I can help you to decide which books are best for you, and help you to obtain them. You need to start on this phase of your research early! For more info on how to start finding secondary sources, please see section IV of this guide.

By January 26, you will need to submit an initial bibliography of two secondary sources and a research statement. Your bibliography must follow MLA style guidelines (refer to the Miller Writing Manual for how to do this if you are uncertain). Your research statement will consist of a paragraph that outlines what possible question you will investigate for your paper. Your question will be evaluated for feasibility (can you actually find sources to support your subject?) and depth (is your question good enough to spend 2000 words answering it?). Quality Counts!

Turn in on January 26:

-bibliography of 2 primary sources

-one paragraph research statement (See example below)

Example of Research Statement:

Research Statement

There is one question that I would like to investigate and research that involves the history of the United States. What are the similarities between American Vietnam and Soviet Afghanistan? This topic has always interested me considering the vast documentation and demonstrating of the wars in both countries. Also how both countries were involved in the wars the Soviets fueling the North Vietnamese and the Americans fueling the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. These wars have had much speculation about them leading them to be called puppet wars. The puppeteers being the USA and the Soviet Union and the puppets the NVA and Mujahideen. This I feel would be a strong research topic and is why it interests me so much.



  • Tamarov, Vladislav. Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1992. Print.
  • Grau, Lester W., and Michael A. Gress. The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. Lawrence, Kan.: U of Kansas, 2002. Print.


  1. Annotated Bibliography, Research Question, and Claim Statement

Once you have done a bit of initial research, you should have a sense of what you would like to write on. Once you settle on your thesis, you need to begin your research in earnest. For the second assignment, you need to submit three primary sources and two secondary sources in an annotated bibliography.

A list of research sites is included in this packet, and more are on the class blog.  Mrs. Goodbar and I can also help you locate sources through the databases accessible at the public library and at UVa. We will have a research trip to UVa to gather any sources that you might want to access from there. (If you need more trips to UVa., see if Mrs. Cason can arrange a weekend trip through a Duty Team.) Please note that any member of the Charlottesville community can get a UVa library card and conduct research at the campus libraries, including accessing their historical databases, to locate primary sources. This project requires independent initiative. You should seek out those community resources, like public and university libraries, which can help you. For more research on how to find primary sources, please see section IV of this guide.

Once you’ve conducted research and located at least three primary sources, you will need to write an annotated bibliography that includes your new primary sources as well as your secondary sources. These can be the same secondary sources you submitted with the research statement, or they can be new ones you’ve found in your research. For each source, you will need to write an annotation.

*An annotation is a brief, 4 to 5 sentence summary of the source and how you can use it in your paper.

Here is an example of an annotated primary source, written for a research paper on American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Kennedy, John F. “Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy. “ January 1961.  

                        http://www.cs.umb.edu/jfklibrary (17 October 1998).

This is John F. Kennedy’s speech from his presidential inauguration in January 1961. In it, Kennedy argues that Americans are entering a new era and that this will require new policies and new challenges. He famously promises to “support any friend” and “oppose any foe” in order to defend liberty. This source could be used as evidence for American willingness to intervene against communist threats anywhere in the world in the early 1960s.

You will also need to shape and refine your research question to narrow it down and to begin to figure out your claim statement. Now that you have done more research and located more sources, you should have a better sense of how specifically you are going to study your subject. The best way to think of your claim statement is the answer to your research question. Along with your annotated bibliography, you will submit your research question and your preliminary claim statement.

Here are examples of possible research questions and claim statements.

Example 1:

Research Question:“How did American opinions about involvement in the Vietnam War change over time?”

Claim Statement: Americans began with great support for the war in Vietnam as part of their broader support for the Cold War. But as the war progressed and a greater number of young men fought and died in the conflict, American opinion changed. By the early 1970s, there was widespread disapproval of the war in Vietnam. The American people no longer wanted to continue the military battle against communism in Southeast Asia.

Example 2:

Research Question: How did the anti-feminists of the late nineteenth century view women’s education?

Claim Statement:  Anti-feminists thought women’s education would make women dissatisfied with their traditional social roles. By becoming more highly educated, women would no longer want to be wives or mothers, and the social order would break down. Anti-feminists believed that women’s education was, therefore, a threat to both women and society.

Turn in on February 12:

annotated bibliography of 3 primary and 2 secondary sources in the appropriate format

-your research question and claim statement

  1. Rough Draft

The rough draft is the nearly finished version of your paper, and my last chance to check in with you about problems with the analysis, writing, etc. It should be nearly complete—at least 1500 words of the final 2000.

Your typed, double-spaced draft should be proof-read for typing errors and misspellings. There should be no contractions, colloquial phrases, and no personal pronouns (except in quotes). Please write in the past tense. Your draft must include citations indicating any ideas or information you took from primary or secondary sources. Your draft should include a bibliography, with a separate listing for primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources should be used throughout the rough draft, either paraphrased or directly quoted. You must have sufficient citations to demonstrate to your reader which ideas are yours and which come from your primary and secondary sources. Please remember that your reader already knows a lot of history – your reader doesn’t need a great deal of background material. Your reader wants to see that you have read primary sources and you know all about them. Remember, too, that all information from documents and secondary sources must be cited. You must cite all your sources!

Please indicate your claim – underline it, highlight it, or print it in bold. I am reading this draft to see how well your paper supports the claim, so I must be totally clear on what you want to prove. You, too, will benefit from being totally clear on what you want to prove. Please remember that your grade will be an assessment of your work with the documents. Be sure that each part of the paper exists only to support your thesis. The more background information you include, the less room you have for analysis of documents.

Turn in on March 1:

– typed 1500 word rough draft including citations and bibliography

  1. Final Draft

This paper represents some of the most difficult work you have done thus far in school, and it is a vital part of your preparation for work in college. Now is the time to wrap it up, and turn it in, and then practice being proud of a challenge well met.

Final points of order:

   -you have double checked for spelling and grammar errors

    -your pages are numbered

-your paper has a title

    -your  citations and bibliography conform to the MLA style

-all corrections called for in the rough draft reading have been made – no contractions! past tense! citations wherever they are needed!

Turn in on April 6:

– a 2500 word research paper with bibliography

III. Choosing A Topic: How Historians Work

Historians work in several ways to analyze the past. For the most part, historians look for patterns that explain the past. You can reveal these patterns with different approaches. Specific approaches–things to look for within the facts of history–include:

  1. Change over time.

This is the classic. This approach studies how a specific topic or attitude changed by sampling documents from a specific starting point through the moment of specific change:

“How did attitudes about the Vietnam War change between 1961 and 1973?”

This paper looked at newspaper accounts of the war, editorials, and the reports of protests at three moments: prior to US involvement, at the start of US involvement, and at the height of popular protest.

  1.   Comparing points of view.

Another classic. This approach analyzes historians’ favorite truth: everyone has a bias! Historians begin with a subject that is controversial and basically studies the controversy:

           “How did contemporaries view President Buchanan’s efforts to prevent the Civil War?”

This paper looked at three points of view: southern newspapers, northern newspapers, and the papers of President Buchanan himself. The study was limited to the six months leading up to the war.

  1. Themes at work.

This approach uses what you learned in your English class. With this method, historians work with a group of similar documents — posters, photographs, advertisements, etc. — and looks for patterns, and then try to find meaning in those patterns.  

“How did the WPA posters of the 1930s persuade Americans to live healthier lives?”

          This paper looked at a hundred of government-sponsored posters which promoted everything from vaccinations to the importance of washing your hands. The paper looked at the pictures and copy in the advertisements, and found that they used a mixture of fear, encouragement, and simple information to get Americans to “straighten up and fly right.”

  1. Investigating the obvious which has not been analyzed before.

What historians sometimes do is analyze an event which is in plain view, but has not been considered historically. It might be fashion, it might be legislation, it might be education reform:

          “How did the People with Disabilities Act of 1976 demonstrate the activism of the disabled community?”

This paper looked at the specifics of the Act as well as the speeches and interviews with the activists and categorized their goals: specific aspects of federal legislation, changes in peoples’ attitudes, and the role private business might play in getting the workplace to accommodate the disabled.

  1. Investigating the obvious with greater detail.

In this case, historians begin with an already-known truth, and through a more careful analysis of the evidence, attempt to give a fuller explanation of events.

“Given American neutrality in the 1930s, how did the American public view Hitler’s control of Germany?”

           This paper combined the “change over time” with this idea of revelation: it took as its starting point that America was heavily neutral in the 1930s, and framed a time period of 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and 1941 when the US declared war on Germany.

  1. Revealing what’s obvious now, but wasn’t then.

This is the most Sherlock Holmes-ian historians get to be — revealing the truth about something that everyone thinks they know about:

              “What did Americans of the 1950s and 1960s know about the CIA’s role in controlling governments in Latin America?”

              This paper started out with what we know now — that the CIA actively worked to control elections in Latin America to make sure that these governments were “friendly” to American interests. The paper examined newspaper articles and editorials from the 1950s and 1960s to see how much of this activity was revealed in the press, and how it was portrayed.

  1. Research Materials

Below you will find UVA and non-UVa primary source and secondary source databases. These lists are not meant to be exhaustive. They are meant to help guide your research and give you an idea of where to start.

UVa Primary Source Databases

The best places to find historical sources are typically in databases. Through UVa, you can access some of the best available databases for US historical sources. Below is a list of databases accessible that you can use to locate primary sources. Please remember, these are only accessible on the UVa campus! You must be at a UVa library computer to conduct this research.

  1.  Early American Imprints, Series 1 and 2, 1639-1819

This provides the searchable text of all books published in America between 1639 and 1819.  The collection can also be browsed by genre, subject, author, etc.

  1. Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), 1701-1800

Searchable full text and page images for books, almanacs, broadsides, magazines, pamphlets, songs, and sermons printed between 1701-1800 in any language in the British Isles and North America, and in the English language throughout the rest of the world.  Includes 18th-century publications about the history, geography, arts, religion, law, medicine, economy, etc.

  1. America’s Historical Newspapers, 1690-1922

Searchable full-text collection of U.S. newspapers.

  1. Gale 19th Century US Newspapers

Searchable full text and page images of several hundred U.S. newspapers from the 19th century.

  1. ProQuest American Periodicals Series

Full text of over 1,000 magazines and journals published in America between 1740 and 1900.

  1. ProQuest Historical New York Times

The searchable full text of the New York Times from 1851-2007.

  1. North American Women’s Letters and Diaries

Searchable full-text database of American and Canadian women’s letters and diaries written from the Colonial period through 1950.

  1. ProQuest Congressional

Full-text information by and about the U.S. Congress, including testimony before Congressional hearings, the Congressional Record and its predecessors, the Serial Set, legislative histories of laws, biographical information on members, etc.

  1. Declassified Documents Reference Service (DDRS)

Provides access to collections of declassified documents from the CIA, FBI, presidential libraries, and other agencies, from the 1940’s through the 1980’s.

  1. Digital National Security Archives

Contains the most comprehensive set of declassified government documents available on U.S. foreign policy events from 1945 to the present.

  1. iPOLL

Contains nearly a half-million questions from surveys conducted since 1935 by academic, commercial, and media survey organizations, including CNN, Gallup, AP, the Wall Street Journal, and many others.

Public Access Primary Source Databases

The databases and websites listed below offer access to different types of primary sources and can be accessed from anywhere.

  1. The Library of Congress:


The Library of Congress is the premier public access collection for American historical documents and books. The American Memory project, in particular, has an enormous collection of documents relating to various aspects of the American experience. The Founders Online project has over 149,000 digitized papers from Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton. The American Time Capsule project has printed ephemera (things like proclamations, advertisements, forms, programs, election tickets, catalogs, clippings, timetables, and menus) mostly from the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. This site is a must-stop for all topics!

  1. Documenting the American South:


A huge collection of documents, many of which have been digitized, on the American South from colonial times to the early twentieth century. It has a very diverse collection, including everything from records of the colonial government of the Carolinas to the development of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is an excellent resource for many different topics across a broad range of history.

  1. The Valley of the Shadow:


A digital collection of documents relating to the Civil War as it was experienced in Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Excellent source base if you are looking for a specific Northern or Southern perspective on the Civil War.

  1. The Making of America:


A vast collection of newspapers and periodicals from the mid-19th century, plus full-text versions of the official histories of the Civil War. Good for social or cultural research of the nineteenth century.

  1.  Home Economics Archive


The very phrase, home economics, often conjures up images of women learning how to prepare a household budget or learning about various child-rearing techniques in a somewhat less than empowering setting. However, a reassessment of this rather multifaceted discipline has begun in recent years. You will want to start by looking through the Subjects section of the site, where they may read brief essays about the various sub-disciplines within home economics, such as clothing and textiles and home management. You can then click on “Search” to conduct a search through their in-site search engine.

  1. Google News Archive


This Google version will lead you to some 20th c. newspaper and magazine articles — full text, but no illustrations — on all sorts of events and social movements. You need to search with precise keywords and specific phrases because the Google search engine is powerful enough to bring you far too much information if you do not search carefully.

  1. Foreign Relations of the United States


Presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and diplomacy from 1861 to the present. Contains documents from the departments of State and Defense, the National Security Council, CIA, presidential libraries, etc.

  1. Presidential Libraries


Homepage for the Presidential Libraries and Museums administered by the National … interesting educational and public programs, and informative websites.

  1. US Elections Atlas


The Atlas aggregates Official Election Results from all 50 states + DC.

UVa Secondary Source Databases

A general search of the Miller Library, the Jefferson-Madison Regional Public Library, or the UVa library will lead you to secondary sources on any subject. But just like with primary sources, some of the best secondary sources are found in databases that you need a subscription to access. In particular, there are two secondary source online databases, accessible only through UVa, that might prove helpful for your research. Remember, these can only be accessed on UVa campus through a UVa computer.

  1. JSTOR (available thru the Miller School library)

Provides the full-text volumes of many important scholarly journals. You can find many articles on your subject using a JSTOR search.

  1. America: History & Life

This is the major index for finding scholarly articles, book citations, book reviews, etc. published about American history since 1964.

  1. Academic Search Complete

A general database of articles from a variety of scholarly journals, popular magazines, and some newspapers. Includes some speeches and interviews.  Years of coverage varies according to the title, but some publications are covered back to the late 19th century.

Public Access Secondary Source Databases

If you would like to do some searching of digitally available secondary sources, the databases below contain free digital books and articles. There are far fewer sources available as e-books than you will be able to find by using the public library or the UVa library. Use the databases below only to supplement your other research.

  1.   University of Pennsylvania Online Books Page


Links to over 25,000 free books online.  An astonishing collection of full-text books on different subjects — from etiquette and child-care manuals [Beautiful Girlhood, 1922], and a host of other treasures.

  1. The Internet Public Library/Project Gutenberg


A number of historical texts and secondary sources are available to you free of charge! You can search by author or title, and download what you need. This is where you will find DeTocqueville and others!

  1. Google Scholar


This uses the Google search engine to specifically browse for secondary sources that are edited, peer-reviewed, and otherwise verified as acceptable sources. A great place to start looking for articles or book chapters for your secondary research.

  1. Citations

Citations are to follow the MLA style, per the MSA Writing Manual. You can find an electronic version of the manual here:


A more in-depth guide, which includes lots of examples for different kinds of sources such as you might have for your research paper, can be found here:


A helpful tool can be online citation creating sites like:


VI. Grading Rubrics

Papers are assessed according to a number of basic elements, beginning with the use of primary sources, and including thesis-building, writing, and structure.

90-100 Papers

  • -Show exceptional use of primary sources: sources are interpreted correctly, analyzed in depth, and correctly applied to support the thesis.
  • -A well-defined and specific thesis, exhibiting original thought, arguing a point created through a reading of primary sources.
  • -The thesis is sustained throughout the paper with explicit connections, and the paper is predominantly analytical.
  • -The thesis is proved through extensive use of primary sources, properly cited.
  • -Background information minimal, correct, and essential to the thesis; all information from outside sources cited.
  • -Paper is well-written, well-organized, and all parts support the thesis with evidence and analysis.
  • -Paper is proofread, with correct citations and an appropriate bibliography.

80-89 Papers

  • -Shows good use of primary sources: interpreted and analyzed correctly, and used appropriately to support the thesis.
  • -A clearly stated thesis, arguing a point created through a reading of primary sources.
  • -The thesis is sustained throughout the paper, and the paper is largely analytical.
  • -The thesis is demonstrated mostly through the use of primary sources.
  • -Background information correct and relates to the thesis; information from outside sources cited.
  • -Paper is well-written and organized and supports the thesis.
  • -Paper is proof-read, with correct citations and an appropriate bibliography.

70-79 Papers

  • -Uses primary sources throughout the paper, with indications of understanding and analysis, and sources support the thesis.
  • -The thesis may elaborate on or prove, an existing thesis. The thesis may be weak or self-evident.
  • -Thesis or related ideas are sustained throughout the paper, with more narrative than analysis.
  • -The thesis is demonstrated using primary and secondary sources.
  • -Background information correct and relates to the topic; outside information cited.
  • -Paper is well-written and organized, and largely supports the thesis.
  • -Paper may have some typing errors, with mostly correct citations and an appropriate bibliography.

60-69 Papers

  • -Paper makes only limited use of primary sources, relying instead on secondary sources or general information; no meaningful use of primary sources, although the paper tackles the question.
  • -Thesis missing, or very weak; paper is largely narrative rather than analytical.
  • -Little or no use of primary sources, or no meaningful use of primary sources – for example, ‘sound-byte’ quotes which demonstrate nothing.
  • -Background information has errors or omissions, or gives information unrelated to the topic; some information from outside sources not cited.
  • -Writing/organization may be below average for a project of this duration, given multiple drafts.
  • -Paper has typing, citation, or other errors, or fails to present an appropriate bibliography.


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