Unlike previous years where students wrote a single research paper on a topic of their choosing, in the junior year, the assignment and the skills required for mastering the assignment necessitates a change in the research paper. Building on the research and analytical skills that students gained in their previous term papers, the junior year term paper emphasizes historiography, the skill of identifying, differentiating, and critiquing the arguments of works of history. As students complete the sequence of papers detailed below, they will gain critical thinking, writing, and research skills that will aid them in the future historical and other academic endeavors.
In the first paper*, students will write a 750-1000 word synopsis of the argument in a chapter of an historical work or an article in a professional journal. The article will be provided to them by their teacher. The goal of the assignment is for the student to be able to identify the thesis of the article and to explain how the author supports the thesis. As students make the transition from text book reading to monograph reading, the ability to isolate an argument and to identify the key themes and evidence that supports it is an essential skill.
In the second paper, students will build on the skills learned in the first paper. For this assignment, teachers will provide their students with a series of edited articles or book chapters and a set of primary source documents. Students must deduce the argument from the selections and use the documents to write a 1000-1250 word paper articulating which argument is the most persuasive. Students will weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various arguments that they read using the primary source documents to support their conclusions. The integration of primary and secondary source documents in an historiographical essay makes this second paper more challenging than the first, while the condensed arguments of the edited selections allows students to spend more time on analyzing the arguments than understanding them.
In the final paper of the year, students will combine the skills they learned in the first two papers with the research skills that they learned in previous years. For this 1250-1500 word paper, teachers will present students with two book chapters or journal articles with conflicting interpretations of an historical problem. Students must research primary source material and craft a thesis which maintains why one of the two assigned pieces is more persuasive based on careful analysis of the documents that they find. This capstone project blends the skills that students have acquired in previous grades with the new skills that they have learned this year.
* The first paper described above will actually be the SECOND essay you will write for this class, etc.