I. Thesis Statement. A thesis statement is the key to a paper—without it, you have nothing to write about. I strongly suggest, but do not require, that your thesis statement explain the importance of your subject. If your subject was the military campaigns of George Washington, for instance, then a good thesis statement might
begin something like: “The military campaigns of George Washington were important because…”
II. Evidence. Your evidence is a big deal here. You want to think carefully about it.
a. Except for primary source, evidence MUST come from acceptable sources—books and library-approved websites only, please. If you were with us in the computer lab, you’ll know how to find these; if not, please see me.
b. Evidence MUST be cited with Chicago style, using footnotes. Again, if confused, ask me!
c. Nothing makes a paper more convincing and powerful than clear, organized, carefully chosen, and specific evidence.
III. Writing. Writing counts. A LOT! Proofread, please, and when you’ve finished, proofread it again, read it aloud, and proofread it a third time. The more work you put in here, the smoother it will be. If you want help, PLEASE bring me a draft, and I’ll happily go over it so long as it’s not submitted the day before the due date or anything like that. You’re also welcome to go to the ARC for help, of course—always!
IV. Structure: A research paper is always structured the same way, with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction presents the problem to be solved, and MUST include your thesis statement. The body presents your evidence. In the conclusion, you’ll be explaining the importance of your conclusion
a. Introduction: A good introduction briefly introduces your subject, as well as introduces your argument about your subject. Often, though not always, it will also give the reader some sense of how your argument will proceed. For the essays you’re writing, they will likely be only one paragraph long.
b. Body: The body is where almost all the work of the essay will be found. This is where you present the evidence for the thesis.
i. Each paragraph in the body MUST begin with a topic sentence, telling the reader what the paragraph is meant to accomplish.
ii. Each paragraph in the body MUST contain evidence. While a longer research paper will occasionally be broken down still further, and might have paragraphs that don’t have evidence in them, your papers are too short for this, so every single paragraph has to have evidence. If it doesn’t, go back over it—chances are it’s either part of a different paragraph or it isn’t necessary.
iii. Because every paragraph has evidence, every paragraph MUST end in a footnote. This is important. It’s a good way to make sure that you’re citing everything and that you’re not including paragraphs that don’t need to be there.
iv. You should think A LOT about how paragraphs move from one to the next. There needs to be some sort of connection between them—but whether that connection is chronological, or relates to your argument in a different way—that’s sort of up to you. (I generally encourage you to think about what order will best serve your argument.)
c. Conclusion. These are notoriously hard to write. A strong conclusion will allow you to reflect on what you’ve done. You may want to think more about the events’ connection to today’s events, or you may want to think about how it might relate to other past events, or to other past issues we’ve discussed—what I’m mainly looking for in the conclusion is something to show that you’ve thought about what this essay can teach the reader.
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