Research Paper/Proposal Instructions

Research Paper/Proposal Instructions


During this course, students will be required to complete a research paper.  This paper is to be written according to academic standards regarding spelling, grammar, and construction, and the citations and references must be done according to the Chicago/Turabian style manual listed in the course syllabus, and available through the school’s online library.  Unless you have considerable experience writing academic history, do not assume you know the proper style for references and citations – consult the style manual and make sure you do.  This paper will be double-spaced, with standard margins of 1 inch top and bottom, and 1 ¼ inches on the sides (the standard settings in Word if you create a new blank document), and 12 point text font size, and of course, proper spelling and grammar.  The occasional spelling error will not be penalized – it happens to everyone, including professional authors – but if the abuse of the language rises to the level of criminal activity, it will result in a penalty to the paper’s grade, depending on the severity of the abuse.


The main text of the paper must be a minimum of twenty (20) pages in length.  The various supplemental pages – title page, bibliography, endnotes, etc., do not count as part of this requirement.  Please number your pages as well – use Word’s automatic Insert – Page Number function.  You may place the page numbers wherever you feel most comfortable with them.


A separate title page must be included, which in addition to the paper title should list the student’s information – name, course, instructor, date, etc.  The paper must include a bibliography and may include reference notes.  You may use either end or footnotes.  I prefer endnotes, but either is acceptable.  Both the bibliography and, if used, the endnotes should each begin on a separate page of the paper.  Do not rely on spacing to accomplish this – use the Insert Page Break menu command after the text to make sure the next page starts at the top of a new page.  Use Word’s Insert Reference/Footnote function to create the notes.


There is, in the Course Materials section of the class site, a folder with a PDF of the US Army’s Center For Military History’s Manual for Writing Military History.  This is a very useful guide, and follows the required Chicago Style.  Feel free to download a copy of this guide and consult it when working on the paper.


It is expected that students will work with secondary published sources when doing the papers, but if a student has access to and wishes to use any sort of archival material or other primary records, by all means use those as well.  Course textbooks are acceptable sources as well.  Note that encyclopedia articles, whether in books or online, are not an accepted source for advanced college research papers such as this one.  There are also good sources of material available on the web – the AMU library has an extensive selection of journals and articles, and the librarians are very helpful in pointing students in the right direction.  There are also numerous official websites from archives and museums that can be very helpful.


One note on online sources – be very careful about using material from the web.  There is a good deal of excellent and accurate material on the web, on a great variety of subjects.  Unfortunately, there is usually an even greater quantity of absolute junk on the web as well.  Unlike historical books, websites, especially personal ones, rarely contain lists of sources or reference notes, which can make it extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of the material, unless you already have a strong working knowledge of the subject.  So when using websites for your research, do your best to verify the information used from an independent source.  And this doesn’t mean another website, since they often simply copy information from one to another.  Look for something official – government or university sites, academic journals, etc.


Of special concern is Wikipedia, the open source reference web site.  While Wiki often does contain excellent short summaries of a truly amazing number of topics, its very nature makes it inherently unreliable.  By allowing anyone who accesses the site to alter the material posted to it, the site is open to serious abuse.  The original goal for the site, allowing the continuous updating of the information posted on it, was an admirable one.  But by granting that privilege to anyone who accesses the site, it becomes open to pranksters, as well as people with an agenda that doesn’t include “just the facts, ma’am”.  For the purposes of these papers, you may use Wikipedia as a means to point you to other sources, but Wikipedia is not an allowable source for these papers.


The paper must be on a subject that fits within the overall topic and time period of the American Revolutionary War.  This covers the period between the end of the Seven Years War / French and Indian War and Thomas Jefferson’s assumption of the presidency in 1801, inclusive.  The subject of the paper could be a biographical study of significant individual, social, cultural, or political studies, an examination of a battle, technical studies of a weapon, a study of economics or alliances, or almost anything else that you can make a solid case for.


One important thing to remember, which applies to all graduate history work, is that the paper topic should have an analytical aspect to it – evaluate, compare, investigate, etc.  It is not enough to simply recount the facts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, you should also explore some analytical aspect of it.  Was the colonial choice to provoke a British attack wise?  Did the British have alternatives to the direct assault they used?  How did the battle affect both the American and British forces throughout the rest of the war?  Ask questions and then attempt to answer them in the paper.


Students will be required to submit a proposal, with their chosen topic, thesis, supporting arguments, and a list of sources they intend to use – to be uploaded by the end of Week 4 of the course.  Complete instructions for the paper proposal can be found in the Research Paper Proposal section that follows this material.


Any quote or specific information (this includes illustrations, images, and maps) in your paper must be cited, using foot or endnotes.  Also, if you are using a major argument or point from another source, even if you have put it into your own words, you must give credit to the original author in a citation.  These notes must be in the Chicago/Turabian style.  This style manual can be referenced in the online library, in the style manual section, under Chicago/Turabian or History writing.  History writing does not allow the use of in-text, parenthetical citations – you will be penalized 10% of the total paper grade if you do so.


Also, a minor but important note – do not use Roman numerals (I, II, III) for your note (or page) numbers.  Use the more common Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3) instead.  Please make sure your software isn’t using the Roman numerals as a default setting – recent versions of Word seem to do this for endnotes, for some reason I’ve never been able to figure out.  If your software is using Roman numerals, change the setting to the Arabic numbers.  Roman numerals get very long as they get bigger, take up a lot of space, and can be hard to decipher as they get larger – compare LXXXVII to 87!  If you use Roman numerals in your citations, they will be treated as incorrect and will be penalized 10% of the paper grade.


I am willing to look at and evaluate draft copies of the papers, but these would need to be submitted to me with sufficient time to read and comment on the work, and then return it to the student.  Please do not submit a draft copy to me two days before the paper is due, and then complain that you didn’t have enough time to finish it.  If you are uncertain about how much time you should allow for such an evaluation, ask.


One further note – this is formal academic writing, and so should be in formal style.  Please use third person past tense when writing history research papers, and be careful about bouncing back and forth between past and present tense – it is very easy to do without realizing it.  History written in the present tense sounds very odd.  Also, do not use slang, colloquialisms or contractions in your writing – this is unprofessional and hard to read.  If you have questions regarding this, please consult the style manual or ask the professor.


Papers are due, in accordance with school policy; at the end of the week listed as the due date in the course syllabus – in this case the final week of the term.  It is strongly recommended that, if possible, papers be submitted early.  Grading papers is the single biggest part of my grading activities for any course, and it really helps to be able to grade them in small batches, spread apart, rather than trying to do a large number of them in a day or two after the term ends.   Papers will be graded and returned to the students promptly, with commentary in the margins.


Papers will be penalized for failing to adhere to the standards listed above.  Papers with improper title pages, bibliographies, or sources will be penalized 10% of the total possible grade.  Incorrect or missing citations will be penalized 10%.  If the paper is short of the required minimum length it will be penalized 10% per missing page.  As can be seen from this, it is possible for a paper with excellent content to be penalized down to an F level if you ignore the required style and format guidelines.  These guidelines are not difficult, nor are they intended to frighten students – rather, their purpose is to produce a uniform appearance and structure, which makes grading them much, much easier.


Papers will be read and assigned a grade based on their content, organization, research, and writing.  After this grade is assigned, any penalties for the above will be assessed.


If you have any further questions regarding the overall nature of the research papers, do not hesitate to ask.  I will be happy to clarify issues and point you in the direction of source material if desired.


Research Paper Proposal Instructions


As part of the Research Paper assignment for this course, students will be required to compose and submit a Research Paper Proposal.  This Proposal, in addition to a title page containing the student’s name, course and section number, and date – and of course, a title for the project, will consist of the following information:


A brief description of the chosen paper topic – a thesis statement, sentence or paragraph


A short (1 to 2 paragraph) description of how the student intends to structure the paper


A listing (in outline form) of the supporting arguments and sub-arguments that are intended to support the thesis


A bibliography listing sources the student intends to use for researching the paper – must include at least eight to ten accepted sources


Note that this information does not need to be complete, or a “final version” for the proposal – a major reason for doing a project like this is to learn more about it as you work on it.  But you do need to present me with sufficient material to show me you understand the topic and the sources available for it.  The paper is a work in progress, so it is expected to evolve to some degree while being worked on.


This proposal will be worth 50 points, and will be due at the end of the 4th week of the term.  Note that it is possible to change topics after submitting the proposal, but if the topic change is a major one, you will need to submit another proposal for the new topic.  This proposal should be considered a working document, and the final paper need not conform exactly to what was set forth in the proposal.  If a student obtains additional information that requires modifying part of the thesis or supporting arguments, that process is part of the nature of academic writing.  But don’t push this concept too far – a paper that starts as a study of the Battle of Brooklyn Heights should not “evolve” into a biography of the Ben Franklin.  That would be considered a change of topic, and require a new proposal.


I may, when grading your proposal, ask you to rework it in some way – most likely to narrow the focus of an overly broad topic.  In that case I will give the proposal a temporary grade of 0 until the revised proposal has been received.  Then the revised proposal is submitted, within the deadline I set, I will grade the new proposal with no penalty for the late submission – as long as the revised proposal is submitted promptly.  This process may be repeated a number of times if necessary.  I want students to pick a relatively small, manageable topic – twenty pages may seem like a long paper when thinking about it, but trying to write a comprehensive twenty page account of the Revolutionary War is beyond even the best professional historian.  If you have any questions about topics or the proposal, ask.


In order to demonstrate what the instructor is looking for, a generic sample of a Research Paper Proposal is provided below.  Your outline need not be as detailed as this, but the more detail you are able to put into the outline, the easier it will be to write the paper from it.


Important note:  A paper submitted without a previously approved and graded proposal will be given a grade of zero!  This is a very important thing to keep in mind.  The proposal itself is a fairly easy assignment, and is intended to get you thinking about the topic and beginning the research for it.  It is also a device for me to make sure you haven’t picked a topic that is far too broad, or way off the course subject matter – a paper on Alexander the Great or the Battle of Hastings, or the Warring States period in China would all be inappropriate for this course.


So if you might feel tempted to skip the proposal, because it is a fairly small assignment, and you know what you are doing already – don’t!  Without an approved and graded proposal, you won’t get any grade for your paper either, and the loss of those two assignments, combined, means a D is the absolute best you can do for a course grade.


If you have any questions about either the proposal or the paper itself, please ask – that is what I’m here for.











“Unexpected Failure: The Generalship of Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg”









Research Paper Proposal

MILH 542

Civil War Command and Leadership










Thomas Goetz




I intend to write my paper of the generalship of Robert E. Lee during his 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania, and how his uncharacteristic mistakes and inability to deal with his subordinate officers cost the Army of Northern Virginia the opportunity to win the Battle of Gettysburg.




Robert E. Lee has come down in history as one of America’s most successful and able generals, as a man who was nearly able to read his opponent’s minds, anticipate their moves, and counter them with brilliant battlefield maneuvers.  But during his 1863 campaign into western Maryland and Pennsylvania that brilliance unaccountably deserted him, and he made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes.  These mistakes, taken as a whole, provided an opportunity for the Union’s Army of the Potomac, ably led by General George G. Meade, to inflict the most serious defeat suffered during the entire war by the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg.


Lee’s mistakes stemmed from a number of sources – a failure in his usually reliable ability to get inside his opponent’s head and divine his intentions; a lack of accurate and up to date intelligence about his opponent’s whereabouts and movements; an unusual degree of willful stubbornness among his subordinates, which his characteristically polite and open-ended command style proved unable to overcome; and the fact that Lee allowed his aggression, desire for victory, and belief that his army could achieve whatever goal he set it, to tempt him into ordering the attack that became known as “Pickett’s Charge” on the third day of the battle.




Supporting Arguments


I           Lee’s ability to “read” his opponent failed him in this campaign

A          Meade appointed as commander after Lee began his campaign

B          Meade not as well known to Lee as previous Union commanders

C          Meade’s aggression and fast movement caught Lee off guard


II          Lee lacked timely intelligence during most of the campaign

A          Lee’s own orders to JEB Stuart lacked precision, allowed Stuart to                          go haring off in the Union rear

B          With Stuart out of touch, Lee had no accurate data on Union                                              movements or location

C          Lee forced to make decisions without accurate information – he                            was not used to that

D          Lack of data on Union army let Lee get sucked into Gettysburg fight




III         Lee’s genteel command style proved unable to deal with fractious             subordinates during the battle

A          Lee’s command style depended on having reliable subordinates                             who could be trusted to interpret his desires correctly – Jackson                           and Longstreet were of that type

B          Lee’s style of giving orders was to give subordinates wide latitude                          in carrying out his instructions – didn’t work with generally who                                   lacked initiative

C          Repeatedly throughout the battle, Lee failed to impose his will on                          subordinates, leading to many squandered opportunities, such as                          Culp’s Hill

D          Lee deferred to subordinates at times when he should have                                                ordered them to carry out his instructions


IV         Lee’s aggression got the better of him during the battle

A          Lee did not want to fight at Gettysburg, but after victory on the first                                  day; he refused to back away from the battle

B          Strategically, it would have made more sense for Lee to disengage                                    and attempt to get between the Army of the Potomac and                                             Washington, forcing the Union to attack him on ground of his choice

C          Lee refused all suggestions to take this course, citing the effect on                                     soldier’s morale

D          Even when committing to fight at Gettysburg, it would have been                          tactically feasible to attempt to work around the Union flanks, but                               instead he launched two days worth of direct assaults

E          Pickett’s Charge was an obvious and very costly mistake – his most                        reliable subordinate, Longstreet, told him it would fail and why, but                                    he ordered it anyway



Working Bibliography


Anderson, Nancy Scott & Dwight Anderson  The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant            and Robert E. Lee  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988


Buell, Thomas B.  The Warrior Generals: Combat Leadership in the Civil War       New York: Crown Publishers, 1997.


DiNardo, R.L. & Al Nofi, eds.  James Longstreet: The Man, The Soldier, The           Controversy  Pennsylvania: Combined Publishing, 1998.


Freeman, Douglas Southall  Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command  Charles        Scribner’s Sons, 1943.


Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Lee: The Soldier  University of Nebraska Press, 1996.


McPherson, James  Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era  Oxford       University Press, 1988.


Nofi, Albert A.  The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July, 1863 Combined Books,         1986.


Pfanz, Harry W.  Gettysburg: Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill University of North      Carolina Press, 1993.


Sears, Stephen W.  Gettysburg  Houghton Mifflin, 2003.


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