Writing the Senior History Research Paper

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 9:30 AM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Alan Allport, Syracuse University
Most undergraduate history programs in the United States require their majors to complete some kind of extended research paper in their senior year. The rationale behind this requirement is straightforward and reasonable enough: a paper such as this offers history majors an opportunity to demonstrate the skills in primary source use and analytical writing that they are supposed to have acquired during their years of college study. In practice, however, the senior research paper often represents a daunting challenge to students who are not as well prepared to take on the challenge of extensive research and writing as they ideally should be. In this paper I want to talk about some of the problems I have encountered when teaching the senior research paper, drawing on my experience as an Assistant Professor in the history program at Syracuse University. In particular, I want to examine some of the difficulties that such students typically experience as writers, and how instructors might be able to use examples of ‘best practices’ within the profession to offer their students templates of writing excellence – for example, the way in which historians draw on existing scholarship to create an integrated ‘conversation’ in which the student writer can locate a distinctive voice for him- or herself.
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