What are the critical thinking skills required for writing a historical research paper?


The core assignment of this course is a documented research paper (1500-2000 words in length = approx. 6 – 8 pages double spaced, 12-point font).The essay should support a thesis statement with information gained from research or investigation.The paper will not be just a report presenting information, but will be an essay that carefully examines and presents your own historical interpretation of the topic you have chosen and your interpretation of the information you have gathered.The paper may include consideration of problems and solutions, define key terms, or refute arguments against your thesis statement.It will be important to choose a topic of interest to you.Approach this assignment with an open and skeptical mind, then form an opinion based on what you have discovered.You must suspend belief while you are investigating and let the discoveries shape your opinion. (This is a thesis-finding approach.)Once you have found your thesis, write the paper to support it.You will use some of the following critical thinking skills in this process:Choosing an appropriate topic, limiting the topicGathering information, summarizing sourcesAnalyzing and evaluating sourcesDefining key termsSynthesizing information, comparing and contrasting sourcesTesting a thesis, making an historical argument, using refutationAmassing support for a positionDocumenting sourcesBecause this may be a longer essay than you have written before and a complex process is involved, it is recommended that you complete this paper using the following steps:Choose a topic related to U.S. Historyafter 1877 (Chapters 16-28) that you would truly like to explore and that you are willing to spend some time on. Your chosen topic should be focused. Pose a question that you really want to answer. You may want to begin with more than one topic in mind.Do some preliminary reading on the topic(s). You may begin with the textbook, then further explore the information available. Refine your topic. Summarize your topic, your interest in the topic, the questions you want to answer, and a hypothesis you want to test.Gather information from a variety of sources.Use a minimum of four sources for your paper, and at least one must be a primary source.Examples of primary sources are ones that are used in our discussion forums 2 – 8.They are sources that are contemporary to the times under investigation.An example of a secondary source is our textbook, though the textbook also contains excerpts of primary sources, which you may use as a source in your essay.Outline the results of your research and then plan for your essay (note you are not required to submit the outline).Write the final draft and be sure to include a Works Cited List; be sure to use the correctMLA documentation style.Grade RubricINTRODUCTION & THESIS: The essay makes a clear and effective statement (the thesis) about the chosen topic. /15FOCUS AND DEVELOPMENT: Body of the essay focuses on this thesis and develops it fully, recognizing the complexity of issues. /30SUPPORT AND SYNTHESIS: Uses sufficient and relevant evidence to support the thesis (and primary points), including facts, inferences, and judgments. Quotes, summarizes, and paraphrases accurately and effectively–appropriately introducing and explaining each quote. /30CONVENTIONS: Uses MLA format correctly; includes a Works Cited list; is free of errors. /10CORRECTNESS AND STYLE: Shows critical thinking and depth of understanding; uses appropriate tone; shows sophistication in language usage and sentence structure. /15TOTAL: 100


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The documented research paper is an essential assignment for students taking courses in U.S. History after 1877. This 1500-2000 words paper requires students to support their thesis statement by conducting comprehensive research and investigation. The assignment is not merely a report presenting information, but it is a carefully examined and well-presented historical interpretation of the chosen topic. Therefore, students must use critical thinking skills, including analyzing and evaluating sources, synthesizing information, defining key terms, and testing a thesis, among other things.


The documented research paper assignment requires students to demonstrate their ability to conduct extensive research, critically evaluate sources, and present sound arguments in favor of their thesis statement. The essay should focus on a topic related to U.S. History after 1877 and should be well-researched and carefully presented. To support their arguments, students must gather information from a variety of sources, including primary and secondary sources. The paper should include consideration of problems and solutions, define key terms, or refute arguments against the thesis statement. The final draft must include a Works Cited List utilizing the correct MLA documentation style.

– To develop critical thinking skills in the context of researching and writing a historical essay.
– To guide students in the process of selecting a focused and interesting topic on U.S. History post-1877.
– To help students learn how to gather information effectively from different sources.
– To help students learn how to document their sources properly using MLA documentation style.

Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
– Develop a clear and effective thesis statement about a chosen topic on U.S. History post-1877.
– Focus the body of their essay on the thesis statement and develop it fully with a recognition of the complexity of issues.
– Synthesize sufficient and relevant evidence to support the thesis statement, including facts, inferences, and judgments.
– Use quotes, summaries, and paraphrases accurately and effectively in supporting their thesis statement.
– Select appropriate primary and secondary sources, including a minimum of four sources and at least one primary source.
– Document sources properly using MLA documentation style.
– Use critical thinking skills to choose an appropriate topic, limit the topic, gather information, summarize sources, analyze and evaluate sources, define key terms, synthesize information, compare and contrast sources, test a thesis, and use refutation.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. “A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations” by Kate L. Turabian
2. “They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing” by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
3. “The Thesis Whisperer: An Insider’s Guide to Completing a PhD” by Dr. Inger Mewburn
4. “The Craft of Research” by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams

Similar Asked Questions:
1. What are some tips for choosing an appropriate topic and limiting the scope of research for a documented historical interpretation paper?
2. What are some reliable sources for gathering information for a historical research paper?
3. How can critical thinking skills be applied to the process of researching and writing a historical essay?
4. What is the difference between primary and secondary sources, and why is it important to use both in a research paper?
5. What are some common mistakes to avoid when documenting sources and using MLA citation style in a historical research paper?

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