Writing a Research Prospectus and Paper

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1 Writing a Research Prospectus and Paper

2 Getting Started 1) Identify a General Topic Ex: political campaigns 2) Narrow the Topic and Identify your Objective Ex: political campaigns during the 1960s or close elections Objective = the paper s goal ex: This paper will examine the presidential election of ) Ask your Research Question Ex: Why did Richard Nixon lose the presidential election of 1960?

3 The Thesis 4) Write a Working Thesis A Working Thesis: Proposes an answer to your research question Asserts a conclusion with which a reader might disagree Can be altered as a result of your research May or may not be the same as your Final Thesis Ex: Richard Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election because a majority of voters found his policy proposals too conservative.

4 The Thesis Statement If your thesis statement does no more than just repeat the topic, then it is NOT a thesis statement. If your thesis statement poses a question without proposing an answer, then it is NOT a thesis statement. If your thesis statement merely articulates a fact or series of facts, then it is NOT a thesis statement. If your thesis statement simply reflects a personal belief or preference, it is NOT a thesis statement.

5 5) Write the Prospectus! Research Problem and Significance What is the historical problem being researched? (Topic, Objective, Question) What is the significance of this problem? (Why is it important?) What is your working thesis? Method and Plan of Work What types of sources will you look at? When do you plan to look at these sources? When do you plan to finish your research? When do you hope to start writing? Proposed Bibliography What are the primary sources you plan to use? What are the secondary sources you plan to use?

6 Primary Sources Material produced by people or groups directly involved in the event/topic under consideration Either a participant or a witness Types: newspapers / magazine articles speeches government / institutional documents autobiographies oral history (interviews) letters / diaries audio-visual (film, music, TV) (if contemporary to the time period)

7 Secondary Sources Material produced second-hand by people who were not witnesses or participants interpretational distance commentary on primary sources Types: books scholarly journal articles documentaries

8 6) Conduct Research Locate and visit the library! READ! Be active, not passive. Pre-Read get a sense of argument, method. Ask questions along the way. Take notes and summarize. Accurately record direct quotes and bibliographic information. Always read with the author s thesis in mind! What is the argument? How does what I m reading relate to the argument? Is there a bias here?

9 7) Finalize Thesis A Final Thesis: Can be supported by evidence from the sources May or may not be the same as your Working Thesis Ex: Richard Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election because a majority of voters saw very few differences between his policy proposals and those of his opponent. This enabled John F. Kennedy s campaign to capitalize on issues related to style and personality.

10 8) Outline Your Paper Introduction Begin with broad context. Narrow to Thesis. Body Paragraphs Craft a narrative or thematic flow. ask: Does each paragraph contribute to my overall argument? Conclusion Begin with Thesis. Broaden to re-contextualize and explain significance. There is NO SINGLE correct way to outline a paper. Be creative!

11 9) Write the Research Paper Focus on your body paragraphs first. Write your Introduction and Conclusion LAST! Always ask: Does this sentence or paragraph directly relate to my thesis? If not, re-write or eliminate! NOTE: If your evidence contradicts your thesis, you need to rewrite your thesis. EDIT, REVISE, and REPEAT!!!

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