Research Paper


In this long-form written assignment, students will build on their previous written work to develop a sustained, thesis-driven argument about chosen research topic. The paper will be 7–8 pages, and include a discussion of at least one archival object. The essay will first be submitted in draft form, and then as a final version. The final version will be accompanied by a cover letter reflecting on the revision process.

The final version of your paper will be due in class on Monday, November 20th. Please submit your essay in both hard copy and electronic copy via email. For the electronic copy, please name the file in the following format: lastname, firstname_Final Research Paper.

Completing the Assignment

The assignment has two components: the research paper itself, including an MLA-style Works Cited page; and a cover letter reflecting on the decisions you made during the revision process. Details on expectations for and assessment of the research paper are below.

For the cover letter, I’d like to hear you think aloud about the key changes you made during the revision process, why you made them, and how the process of revision affected your sense of the project overall. Please go into detail about at least one important instance of revision. This cover letter will help me understand the work you put into this final draft of the paper, which is useful for my assessment of the project. If you find it helpful, feel free to compose your letter in relation to the grading criteria below. The letter should be at least 250 words in length.

Grading and Assessment

In grading your papers, I will have four central criteria in mind:

  1. Argument. Does the paper propose a sustained, thoughtful, and original argument in response to the project’s research question? Are the key ideas of the paper communicated clearly in a persuasive manner? Has the author considered and responded to potential counter-arguments?
  2. Evidence. Does the author make consistent and persuasive use of evidence, both primary and secondary? (Note that you are required to engage with at least one primary source.) Does the author engage closely and thoughtfully with his or her primary materials? Does the author succeed in positioning his or her ideas in relation to those of other scholars and critics as documented in secondary sources?
  3. Organization. Is the paper structured in an effective and well-ordered fashion? Does the introduction establish the key terms and ideas of the paper? Do the paragraphs that follow move the argument forward in an organized manner? Does the conclusion synthesize and extend the insights of the paper as a whole?
  4. Mechanics and Style. Does the paper follow the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and syntax? Does it observe the conventions of MLA style in its in-text citations and Works Cited page? Is the overall tone of the paper appropriate for the genre of the academic research paper? (Note that this does not necessarily mean overly formal—please feel free to use the first-person pronoun in making your argument if your are comfortable doing so.) Does the author’s voice come through clearly in a way that enhances the effectiveness of the paper?

The final draft of your research paper will be worth 30% of your overall grade.