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Choose a topic for your paper–it can be anything that interests you from the place (America) and period (Reconstruction through the present) that this class covers!–and find 2 primary and 2 secondary sources.  At least one of the secondary sources has to be a real book (not a web site).  Moreover, your textbook is not a valid source for this assignment; you can  certainly use it for your paper, but you must have two secondary sources besides it.  Also, your online sources must be from reputable, scholarly sources, such as universities, museums, historical journal, or others along those lines; do not try to use the History Channel’s website (history.com), or biography.com, for example.  Please use this template to help you format this assignment: First Paper Assignment Template.docx.

If you need a review of what primary and secondary sources are, check out the “What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?” page.


Remember, you need a narrow topic, not an incredibly broad one.  For example, don’t write about World War II.  Think about one of these instead:

A specific person’s experience of World War II.
A single woman?
A mom?
A Japanese-American?
A businessman?
An ordinary soldier?
A general?
World War II medicine.
Knitting for the troops during World War II.
The tactics of a specific battle.
Should we have used the atomic bomb?
World War II-era political cartoons, music, comic books, etc.
Another topic of your choice!
If you need other ideas for your topic, check out the Help Choosing a Topic page.

Why choose a more specific topic?  Two reasons.  One: you can go into much more depth in a short paper.  Two: more specific topics are generally more interesting!


Second, be sure you have a specific conclusion you’re drawing or argument you’re making.  This paper should not just be a summary or a biography: you need to be saying something.

Not a good thesis:

The life of Franklin D. Roosevelt
September 11
Medicine in World War II
Yes a good thesis:

Roosevelt’s overall impact on the world was good/bad, and here’s why.
September 11 changed America forever, in X, Y, and Z ways.
World War II medicine led to important medical breakthroughs, and here they are.
When you’re thinking about a thesis, think about things like “this is significant because” or “this is important because” or “this person was important because”.  Then, once you have your thesis, you should focus your paper on proving that point, or supporting that argument. also needs book citations

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