The purpose of this project is to demonstrate your ability to identify and work with primary and secondary sources, to ask historical research questions, and to plan and design your own research project. You will not be writing the actual research paper for this class. However, writing a research proposal is a critical first step for beginning a larger research project such as the paper for History 500. For more information on writing a research proposal (also referred to as a research prospectus) please follow the links to the “prospectus writing tips” and “on the art of writing proposals” in the assignment details folder under course content on Blackboard. Your proposal should contain the following components:
1. A short working title for the project. This should give the reader some sense of the subject matter, geographical location, and time period you expect your paper to cover.
2. A brief description or summary of the topic. In other words, you should provide a paragraph or so giving a barebones description of the broader event or issue your paper will explore and place them in a historical context. This paragraph should answer the who, what, where, and when aspects of your research topic.
3. A description of the issues and questions you will be examining. This step of the assignment moves to the how and why questions. It asks you to identify the research questions that you expect to ask and answer as you read your sources and write your paper. Here you are asked to move beyond the topic to think about the larger analytical or conceptual issues that you will examine, and to explain why they are important to ask. You may want to review the first chapter in Benjamin, A Student’s Guide to History to remind yourself about the sorts of questions and issues historians are often concerned with. You will also want to explain why this is an important question to ask.
4. Historiography: A brief description of where your research fits into existing scholarship based on what you have learned from our course readings and your searches of secondary sources. Who are some of the major scholars who have studied this topic and how do they disagree with one another? In what ways are you challenging or building off of their work? In other words, how does your project fit into the existing conversation? This section will be different for everyone depending on the specific topic or issues that you wish to explore. (Note: You can learn a lot about existing scholarship by reading the introductions of scholarly books on your topic, by reading the introductions and abstracts of scholarly articles, by reading book reviews or state of the field essays that are often published in scholarly journals, and by paying attention to who scholars cite in their own footnotes and bibliographies. Also, you may want to put this paragraph before the one on research questions if that makes more sense for your proposal.)
5. Project description: items 5 and 6 are part of the project description and can be grouped together. This should be a brief description of the primary sources you expect to use, including a brief discussion of how you found them and where they are located. You should have four to six substantive primary sources; if you have looked for and been unable to find primary sources on your topic, you probably should re-think your topic.
6. An overview of the major sections you expect to have in your paper, not counting the introduction and discussion of secondary scholarship. In several paragraphs, briefly introduce the specific primary sources you plan to use to make different points in your paper based on your thesis statement and working outline. Think of this as an outline in paragraph form, but also remember to relate the parts to your main research questions.
7. Next steps: Some indication of your next step. In other words, what do you expect your research schedule or plan to be? For example, what are you going to do to get copies of your primary sources and to identify others? If you plan to take History 500 in the fall, give a general timeline for doing you project, including any work that you plan to do over the summer to expand the project or your background on the topic. Even if you don’t plan to take History 500 in the fall, you should still lay out the steps that you would need to do to carry out your research project.
8. Conclusion: briefly return to the research questions that you plan to address and the contributions and significance of your project. Leave your audience with the take home message that you want them to have.
9. Style details: The research proposal (not counting the annotated bibliography) should be around 1200 words (around five pages) and should be typed, double-spaced and be written in twelve point readable font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Cambria with one inch margins. It should include the date, class, your name, and page numbers. It should include footnotes, properly formatted in Chicago or Turabian style, for all sources that are referenced in the text. It should also use correct grammar and spelling, so make sure to proofread your paper and arrange a session with the writing center if needed.
10. You must also submit a complete version of your annotated bibliography along with your proposal. The primary and secondary sources should be separated with sub-headings. You should have at least twelve (12) sources, with at least six (6) secondary sources and four to six (4-6) primary sources. You should have looked at at least four of the primary and secondary sources by now – not just identified them, but actually looked at them. For a book, this means at least reading the introduction, table of contents, and conclusion, and preferably skimming the beginnings and ends of the chapters as well. The annotated bibliography should be single spaced, with an extra space between each entry and between the entry and the commentary. The entries should be in proper bibliographic format (see Benjamin chapter 10 or use the online links for guide to Turabian or Chicago Manual of style posted under useful proper format for your particular type(s) of source). For more information on The Siege of Perking check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Peking_(1900)
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