420: Paper #1

History 420: Essay #1 on Emancipation

Please familiarize yourself with my Paper-Writing Guide. When you get your paper back you are likely to see some references to it like so: PWG, followed by a number corresponding to one of the items on the guide, 1-6.

Write an essay that is about 1000 words long, give or take 100 words.

The paper should be typed, double spaced, with numbered pages and a heading that includes your format and a word count.

Prompt: Enter into a conversation with one of those who have characterized Lincoln's role in emancipating the slaves.

This paper asks you to examine Lincoln's reputation as the Great Emancipator.

For reference: Emancipation Timeline.

Develop an arguable thesis. Consider the fact that contemporaries of Lincoln and historians since that time have not been able to arrive at a consensus about Lincoln's role in emancipation. When you enter into a conversation you have three options: 1. Agree with a difference. 2. Disagree; 3. Agree in part and disagree in part. (To read more about this approach to writing as entering into a conversation, see They Say, I Say, by Graff and Birkensein.)

Check out my paper-writing guide to learn most of what you need to know about writing a history paper. Also, read the list of five items on my "ASSESSMENT OF PAPERS" page.

You should use both secondary and primary documents in developing your argument (ONLY the assigned readings). In general, use secondary sources for information, but not direct quotations. Use concise quotes from primary documents and make sure you know how to properly incorporate quotes into your essay (PWG 4a). Don't do any extra research. I've given you more than enough information to process.

Writing the introductory paragraph. Your first paragraph frames your essay. It should introduce the topic (Who? What? When? Where) and the argument. Consult the Ask Better Questions page. As Graff and Birkenstein say, "in the real world, we don't make an argument without being provoked." Enter into a conversation with an author whose comments about Lincoln's role in emancipation provokes you to respond. The paper should have a well developed thesis statement.

Some important mechanics: Make sure you cite the source of all your quotes and even information you've paraphrased. You should use footnotes, not parenthetical citations. Cite the timeline, this way: Timeline, 1862 (that number refers to a year). For the documents in the packet, cite the last name of the author and a short title for the packet: Davis, 420 Docs, 18. Also, make sure you give them credit for their ideas (you might want to borrow their ideas without naming them in your text, in which case you should credit them in a footnote). For more on citation, go to this page.

If you are interested in what I look for in a paper, read the section called "Assessment of Papers" on the Course Requirements page.

More somewhat random suggestions.

    • When you mention any person for the first time you need to give their full name, and title: President Abraham Lincoln.

    • Capitalize Civil War, South, North, Southern, Northern, Border States, Union.

    • Orient the reader in time. Are there any dates in the first sentence or two? If not, isn't that like putting your readers in a boat and pushing them out into the sea without a compass? Terrifying!

    • Be concise in the introduction. Don't waste my time trying to be fancy. Get to the point and save words for the body paragraphs, where you will use evidence to convince me that your interpretation is plausible.

    • After you have written the whole paper, go back and revise your thesis. Write a thesis that is concise, but specific, and that does justice to the sophistication and complexity of your argument (go here for a discussion of how to write a thesis statement). It should also reply fully to your "They Say."

    • Consider paraphrasing rather than quoting your "They Say" directly. This allows you to unambiguously show the points they make, including ones that may only be implied. You can also quote a key phrase or two in your paraphrase. Also, later in the paper you can introduce aspects of their argument you didn't identify in the introduction.

    • Don't express more certainty than is warranted by the evidence. Use hedging language where appropriate. We don't know what Lincoln thought, but we can make more or less plausible inferences about it. Please read this page for more on the limits of certainty in historical inquiry.

    • If I were you I would disagree or agree in part/disagree in part, but not agree with a difference. The former options make for a more engaging "hook."