HIST 496: Historical Research on the American Revolution (Syllabus FA 2016)

History 496: Historical Research on the American Revolution
Fall 2016

Professor Terry Bouton
Phone: 410-455-2056
E-MAIL: bouton[at]umbc.edu
Office: 510 Fine Arts
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays 1:30pm-2:15pm and by appointment

(It is always best to email before you plan to come to office hours so I can block out time for you.  I typically schedule meetings with students and advisees during office hours, so it’s best to contact me before you plan to arrive to make certain I’m available.)

Course Webpage:
Course Meeting Place: Fine Arts 533
Course Meeting Time: Tues./Thurs. 11:30am-12:45pm

Course Description:
This research and writing intensive course is the capstone of your major in history. It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate the skills you have acquired as a history major by undertaking a significant research project, much like what a professional historian might do. It will test your ability to think critically, to use sound judgment and analysis, to be resourceful and diligent in mustering evidence, and to write in a way that is compelling, creative, and persuasive. You’ll conduct original research into an important historical question; you’ll uncover primary sources (perhaps ones no historian has ever used before), and you’ll figure out how to weave what you’ve found in the records into existing historical knowledge and debates. The end result will be a 25-30 page paper—one so well conceived, researched, and written that we’ll both be proud of it.

The broad subject for the paper will be the American Revolution. You have considerable leeway as far as the specific topic and research project. However, the paper must focus on some aspect of the Revolution itself and  fall within the time frame 1763-1800. Almost any type of history can be accommodated: political, intellectual, social, military, women and gender, race, class, economic, diplomatic, trans-Atlantic, cultural–or any other specialized sub-field like policy history or whiteness studies. I am also open to approving projects that deal with later time periods and that tie into histories that deal with the memory or celebration of the Revolution. The only real requirement is that the project investigates a historical question related specifically to the Revolution: for example, something related its causes, creation, outcome, or effects rather than a topic that fits within the time period but doesn’t touch on the Revolution. All topics will require my approval.

The course walks students through a step-by-step process for writing a research paper.  We will work together on selecting topics, developing historical questions to guide your research, locating primary and secondary sources, structuring your paper, and revising drafts. The first half of the course is focused on getting you off to a successful start by finding a workable topic and sources and starting your research. We’ll discuss how to pick a topic, how to design a research strategy, how to frame your historical question (and what a “historical question” is), how to find additional primary source material, and how to incorporate secondary sources. Midway through the semester, the course becomes more of a writing workshop, where students strengthen their papers by reading and critiquing samples of each other’s work. We’ll work on developing theses and outlines, finding the most effective way to tell your story, working with evidence, finding a way to interest readers, and proving your case. The goal is to take what can be a daunting task (a 25-30 page research paper) and breaking it down into manageable parts with due dates scattered throughout the semester so that you stay on track and aren’t overwhelmed at the end of the semester.

Most weeks we will meet as a group; other weeks will involve research, writing, or individual conferences. The group meetings will work through each stage of the process, with later classes dedicated to workshops on core elements of the paper: paragraphs, introductions, rough drafts, and titles. The idea of the workshops is for you to help each other work through the process of research and writing—work together through rough spots, commiserate over frustrations, find ways around tricky research and writing issues, and celebrate the triumphs.  To be successful, the workshops will depend on everyone’s willingness to participate and to be responsible, conscientious, and civil about presenting and critiquing each other’s work. Students in this course will have access to one another’s writing (no one outside of the course will be able to see what you post to the discussion boards). And for many of the weeks you will be reading and commenting on your classmates’ work and they will be examining yours. Critiquing someone’s work is never easy. It’s even harder having your own work critiqued. We’ll discuss how to give and receive criticism in an effort to make the workshops as productive and painless as possible.

You will need to be self-disciplined and diligent in this course. The key to success is working continuously throughout the semester. You will be tempted to put this course on the back burner in favor other courses with more immediate deadlines and test dates. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. Every semester, some students taking HIST 496 or 497 assume they can put off everything until the end of the semester. And every semester, these students panic because they discover—despite the constant warnings of whoever is teaching these courses—that there’s simply too much research, thinking, and writing to do in the semester’s final two weeks. Many of these students fail the course (or get a D which is essentially the same thing since the credit won’t count for the major unless you get a C- or better). They don’t fail because they are incapable of writing a passing paper. (I would guess that 99.9 percent of our history majors are capable of passing HIST 496). Those who failed HIST 496 in the past did so because they either didn’t devote enough time to the course or because they plagiarized some or all of their papers (the two are usually related). Don’t put yourself in a similar place. Do the work during the semester. Rest assured, if I catch you plagiarizing any part of your paper or any assignment, you will fail the course and I will see that you are prosecuted to the full extent of the university’s disciplinary system. I will show no mercy. Absolutely none.

To help you keep on pace, I have created graded assignments that will be due throughout the term, many of which require you to complete a part of the project.  Each part is worth a portion of your total grade. You cannot pass this course (and, again, you need a C- to have it count for the major) by only turning in a final paper.You will need to complete all of the assignments along the way to collect the points you need to pass.  I have no sympathy—none, zero, zip, nada—for anyone who blows off assignments during the semester and then turns in a final paper expecting to pass. To these people I say: “Enjoy your D or F. And, if you were thinking of graduating at the end of the semester, you should try to cancel your regalia order right now and see if you can get your deposit back.”

Required Reading:
The following book is available at the campus bookstore.  If you’re shopping for used copies, you may want to check out half.com or bookfinder.com.

1)      Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) Eighth Edition

Course Requirements:
Grade Scale:

Participation:              25 Points
Assignments:             100 Points (10 assignments, 10 points each)
Final Presentation:     25 Points
Rough Draft:                  50 Points
Final Paper                  200 Points
Total Points                400 Points

At the end of the end of the semester:
360-400 Points will be an A
320-359 Points will be a B
280-319 Points will be a C
240-279 Points will be a D
Below 240 Points will be an F

1) Participation:
(25 points, 6.25% of your final grade)
Part of your grade will depend on participation, to which there are three elements: 1) active attendance, 2) the writing you submit to the workshops, 3) your role in commenting on the work of others.

1) Active Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. To earn participation points you must regularly attend class AND contribute to classroom activities. This means that just showing up for class is not enough to earn points. You must actively participate by opening your mouth and being a part of the learning process. If you miss class, you cannot participate and you will receive zero credit for that day. Miss several classes and you will find your participation grade plummet. If you attend class but routinely sit silently, you won’t fare much better. I take absences on workshop days especially seriously. DON’T MISS WORKSHOPS!

2) Submission of Writing for Workshops ON TIME: For the workshops to be successful, students must submit assignments on time so that other students can read and critique them for workshop days. If you submit assignments late or blow off workshops, you put the other students in your group for that week at a disadvantage. I understand that presenting your work-in-progress for class discussion is a difficult thing to do. The benefits, however, are great. The more feedback you get on assignments (both positive and negative), the better your paper will be. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that constructive criticism (painful though it may be) is more valuable than praise in producing a good final result. That process beings with submitting your writing for workshops on time.

3) Your Role as Critic: The workshops depend on trust. The idea of the workshops is not to tear apart each other’s work. Nor is it to say that everything is great, when it isn’t. The goal is for each of you to help one another make the papers stronger. This means letting the author know what works about her or his paper and offering suggestions for improving what doesn’t. Good historical writing is a collaborative process. The better audience you become for each other’s work, the better everyone’s final papers (and grades) will be.  In part, your participation grade will reflect your overall contributions to the group in providing constructive criticism and helpful suggestions.

2) Assignments: (100 points, 25% of your final grade)
To help everyone stay on track and to give the workshops a better chance of success, I have created a series of assignments and deadlines. Each assignment will be worth ten points. I will grade these assignments based on the level of effort your work displays.  Thus, even if you are having trouble with a particular assignment (as each of you inevitably will) you can still get a good grade on that assignment as long as it is clear that you have genuinely tried to complete it. This applies especially to last several assignments where everyone will feel insecure about submitting their rough drafts and their first shot at an introduction. For most assignments, you will need to upload or cut and paste your assignments to the Discussion Board so that others can read them and offer comments.

Look below for the list of assignments and deadlines.

3) Final Presentation: (25 points, 6.25% of your final grade)
Every student will present their findings in an in-class presentation that will be no longer than ten minutes (and I’m going to be strict about that time limit). You will be graded on how clearly you present your historical question, your thesis, your research, and your conclusions. I’ll give special consideration to creative presentations. You can use whatever props and aids you need. In the past, students have created posters or done Powerpoint presentations, a few put on skits; one enterprising student even made a video. I encourage you to be as creative as you’d like as long as you convey the main point of your research, thesis, and findings. I reward those who don’t play it safe and who take chances: you get big points in my book for trying something creative, even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you plan. This is not to say that you can’t get a good grade by doing a traditional presentation (you can and if that’s what you want to do, I certainly won’t penalize you). I’m merely saying that, if you want to try something different, you won’t be putting your grade at risk—quite the opposite.

4) Rough Draft: (50 points, 12.5% of your final grade)
The success of your final paper is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the writing you submit for your rough draft. This is you last chance to get feedback from me and from your peers before you submit your final paper. No doubt, the due date for the rough draft is earlier than most of you would like. I understand this, it is intentional and necessary. Your final paper is not supposed to be your first stab at the paper. To get your paper where it needs to be, you’ll have to do several rounds of revisions. The early deadline is to spur you to write so that you have time to revise.

I expect that the rough drafts will be “rough.” You should submit whatever you’ve got, even if there are incomplete paragraphs or sections of the paper. This is one of the hardest things to do because everyone will feel self conscious about the incomplete state of their paper. It is ok if some of the sections are in outline form or are lousy paragraphs working toward an idea. In terms of grading, what I am looking for here is effort and progress: How much effort has the student put into writing the paper thus far?  Is the rough draft little more than a collection the writing submitted for assignments? Or has she or he made real strides in tackling the other parts of the paper?

Although it will be a true rough draft, you must include footnotes in the proper form. Do not submit a rough draft with quotations and discussions of the secondary literature without providing footnoted citations. Part of my evaluation of your rough draft consists of seeing where you got your quotes and assessing how well your assertions match your primary sources and how effectively you integrated secondary sources (not to mention checking to be sure your footnotes are in the proper format). If you do not include footnotes, I cannot do my job and you will receive a low grade.

5) Final Paper: (200 points, 50% of your final grade)
Most of your grade will be composed of the research paper: 25-30 pages in length, double spaced, regular margins, with footnotes and bibliographical material in the proper formats. For proper formatting, see Turabian, ed., A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

Final Paper Due Date: Friday, December 12 by 3:00pm.

If you need to include images, etc., make PDFs and submit them electronically to Blackboard.

Students enrolled in this course must have an active email account and access to the Internet. HIST 496 uses Blackboard On-line software. This means that you will have access to course materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Internet.  Most assignments will be submitted on-line at the Blackboard course website. As a UMBC student, you have a personal email account and access to the Internet and through the many on-campus computer labs (locations, hours, etc.).  You can also access Blackboard off campus.

Getting started on Blackboard: Your registration with the UMBC Registrar for HIST 496 will make you eligible to enroll in Blackboard. To gain entrance to discussion boards and course material, you MUST enroll in the on-line version of HIST 496 on the course Blackboard site in order to have full access.  BEFORE you do anything else, enroll in the course on-line by going to: http://blackboard.umbc.edu

Academic Integrity:
By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal. The full Student Academic Conduct Policy is available in the UMBC Student Handbook (page. 7), the Faculty Handbook (Section 14.3), and (for graduate students) on the  Graduate School website.

For more information, see the Provost’s website: http://www.umbc.edu/undergrad_ed/ai/

Please be advised that the penalty for academic dishonesty –including plagiarism and other forms of cheating– in any UMBC History Department course is an “F” for the course. In addition, cases of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Academic Conduct Committee.

If you are unclear about what plagiarism is, take a look at the Indiana University website: http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml. Also read the brief discussion of plagiarism in Turabian, ed., A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 77-81.

I show no mercy toward cheaters.  If you are caught cheating on any assignment, the rough draft, or the final paper, you will receive a zero for that grade and I will submit your name to the proper disciplinary authority. Rest assured that I will do all I can to see that those disciplinary bodies take the strongest possible action against anyone who cheats. Potential cheaters: you have been warned.

To ensure authenticity of assignments, students will submit their paper through the Blackboard SafeAssign tool, a web-based service that checks papers against everything on the internet as well as the papers in their data banks.  Unfortunately, every semester SafeAssign catches at least one student who plagiarized some or all of a paper they submitted to one of my courses. That said, I see SafeAssign less as a punitive device than as a measure to ensure that those who complete assignments honestly do not have their hard work debased by lowlife cheaters.

I will send all email messages to your UMBC email account
(yourusername@umbc.edu). If you do not usually check this account, have messages forwarded to your preferred email address (such as aol, hotmail, etc.).  There are several ways to have your email forwarded.  The best way is to use the forwarding function in myUMBC, this will ensure that users receive ALL UMBC related email—not just email sent from within Blackboard. Here’s how to do it: After logging into myUMBC, click the “Personal” tab, then the link “Create a Mail Forwarding Address.”  For help with this procedure, or if you have other questions about email, contact UMBC’s Office of Information Technology services or visit the OIT helpsite at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/. Helpdesk personnel in the on-campus computer labs can usually answer most questions. The helpdesk phone number is 410-455-3838.

UMBC is committed to eliminating discriminatory obstacles that may disadvantage students based on disability.  Student Support Services (SSS)
is the UMBC department designated to:

  • receive and maintain confidential files of disability-related documentation,
  • certify eligibility for services,
  • determine reasonable accommodations,
  • develop with each student plans for the provision of such accommodations, and
  • serve as a liaison between faculty members and students regarding disability-related issues.

If you have a disability and want to request accommodations, contact SSS in the Math/Psych Building, Room 213 or Academic IV-B wing Room 345 (or call 410-455-2459 or 410-455-3250). SSS will require you to provide appropriate documentation of disability and complete a Request for Services form available at http://sss.umbc.edu .  If you require accommodations for this class, make an appointment to meet with me to discuss your SSS-approved accommodations.

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offences subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offences against other protected categories such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources here:

Voices Against Violence program: http://umbc.edu/vav or 410-455-3748
Counseling Center: http://counseling.umbc.edu or 410-455-2472
University Health Services: http://www.umbc.edu/uhs/ or 410-455-2542


Class Meeting Schedule, Assignments, and Due Dates

Week 1:
Thurs., Sept. 1: Introduction

Week 2:
Tues., Sept. 6: History and the Revolution

Thurs., Sept. 8: Topic Talk 1: A Revolution of Possibilities

Reading: Gregory H. Nobles, “Historians Extend the Reach of the American Revolution,” Whose American Revolution Was It?: Historians Interpret the Founding, p. 135-255 (historiographic essay on Blackboard)

Assignment #1 (Posting due by 10:30am, Thurs., Sept. 8 to the “Assignment #1” folder on the Blackboard Discussion Board): After reading the Nobles essay: 1) Identify three general areas relating to the Revolution that you might want to make the focus of your paper; 2) Elaborate on several possible specific topic(s) within those areas that you think you might want to research; and 3) Identify the area and topic you are currently leaning toward for the paper. For example, for one of the areas you might be interested women and the Revolution and be looking specifically at topics like “camp followers,” women at home during the war, or women’s political participation. I will grade your posting based on how thoughtful and detailed your responses are, so I will expect you to elaborate on the your choices, being as specific as possible about what you might want to study and detailing the particular aspects of it that interest you. (The idea here is to give me an idea of what you want to study so that I can help to hook you up with a workable topic).

Week 3:
Tues., Sept. 13: Topic Talk 2: A Revolution of Possibilities

Thurs., Sept. 15: Topic Talk 3: A Revolution of Possibilities

Assignment #2 (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by 10:30am, Thurs., Sept. 15): What is an “historical question”?: Part 1: Historical research is based on historical questions that frame the project. Use whatever sources you can to give a detailed explanation of what an historical question is and cite those sources in the proper format (which can be found in Turabian). (Aside from answering the question, this assignment tests your research skills and gets you in the habit of citing sources “by the book.”) Part 2: Write a historical question for three research projects you are considering for your paper (It doesn’t matter if any of these are the topics you end up working on for the semester. The point here is merely to familiarize yourself with historical questions).

Week 4:
Tues., Sept. 20: Individual Conferences: Topic and Primary Sources

Thurs., Sept. 22: Individual Conferences: Topic and Primary Sources

Assignment #3 (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by 11:59pm on SUNDAY, Sept. 25, 11:59pm): Initial Ideas for Topics: Explain in detail the topic (or topics) you are considering along with the specific primary sources you think you will use to investigate each topic

NOTE the different due date: by midnight Sunday evening!

Week 5:
Tues., Sept. 27:  Individual Conferences: Topic, Primary Sources, Historical Question

Thurs., Sept. 29:  Individual Conferences: Topic, Primary Sources, Historical Question

Week 6:
Oct. 4: Individual Conferences: Finalizing Topics

Oct. 6: Individual Conferences: Finalizing Topics

Assignment #4 (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by 11:59pm on SATURDAY, Oct. 8): Defending Your Topic: There are three parts to this assignment. 1) Explain your topic and the historical question your project will address. 2) Explain your research design, including what sources are you going to use to answer the question and how you intend to use those sources. 3) Prove to me that your project is viable by presenting TEN primary source documents that provide direct evidence for points related to your thesis. Links to online documents are acceptable.  If your project is more quantitative in nature (one involving muster rolls, for example), you must provide the sources that you will use along with a detailed explanation of what those sources are and how you intend to use them.

Week 7:
Oct. 11:  Individual Conferences: Secondary Sources

Oct. 13: Individual Conferences: Secondary Sources

Assignment #5: Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Sources (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by 11:59pm on SUNDAY, Oct. 16): You must have at least ten scholarly secondary sources that relate specifically to the historical context of your topic (general histories of the American Revolution won’t cut it). After listing each item in the bibliography, you must include a short paragraph that explains what that source contributes to your study. You need not have read all of the sources at this point, but I expect you to have read the introductions and conclusions of the articles and books and skimmed them over to get a sense of how they might help you understand the scholarly debates surrounding your topic.

Week 8:
Oct. 18: Individual Conferences: What’s Your Thesis?

Oct. 20: Individual Conferences: What’s Your Thesis?

Assignment #6: Paper Thesis and Introduction (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by NOON on Friday, Oct. 21): Write a several paragraph introduction to your paper. These paragraphs MUST introduce the topic (hopefully in an interesting way), spell out the historical question that you are investigating (with specific reference to the secondary historiography), and present the thesis your paper will argue (which answers your historical question). At this point, your findings may be preliminary based on your research thus far. I understand that many of you will be uncomfortable presenting a firm thesis when you are still trying to make sense of your evidence. That’s ok. The point is to push you toward a thesis, which you will need sooner rather than later and to begin thinking about how you want to set up your paper. It is also a chance for you to use your research findings to sharpen (or change) your historical question as well as your statement of how your work relates to existing historical scholarship.

Week 9:
Oct. 25: Workshop: Improving Your Thesis

Oct. 27: Individual Conferences

Assignment #7: Argument and Evidence Based Outline (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by NOON on Friday, Oct. 28): Develop a detailed outline that maps out the structure of your paper. You should include the major sections of your paper as well as the specific arguments you intend to make within each section. As you lay out those arguments, you should also indicate the primary source evidence you intend to use to prove those points and where you need to research to find additional evidence. You should outline in full sentences that spell out what each section is supposed to do and what each part of that paragraph is going to argue. Think about your outline as a series of topic sentences—the first sentence of every paragraph—each of which explains what a paragraph is going to do followed by bullet pointed references to specific evidence (examples and quotes) that prove your points. Although I fully expect some sections of your outline to be less well developed than others, I will grade your outline on both the coherence of your topic sentences and arguments and the level of detail you provide in terms of evidence. I see the outline as an excellent gauge of who has been keeping up and who has not.

Week 10:
Nov. 1: Workshop: Peer Review of Outlines

Nov. 3: Individual Conferences

Assignment #8: An analytical paragraph from your paper that uses specific examples and quotes from your primary sources as evidence to make an argument (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by NOON on Friday, Nov. 4): This paragraph must be an analytical one, designed to make a specific argument (as opposed to a narrative paragraph that tells part of a story). This paragraph must be at least ten sentences, start out with a strong topic sentence that presents the paragraph’s argument, and work to develop that argument with specific quotes and examples from your primary source research. It is fine to include evidence from secondary sources as well. But the heart of the paragraph must composed of evidence from primary source material. All source material in the paragraph must be footnoted in the proper form.

Week 11:
Nov. 8: Workshop: Peer Review of Analytical Paragraph

Nov. 10: Individual Conferences

Assignment #9: A second analytical paragraph from your paper that uses specific examples and quotes from your primary sources as evidence to make an argument (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by NOON on Friday, Nov. 11): This paragraph must be an analytical one, designed to make a specific argument (as opposed to a narrative paragraph that tells part of a story). This paragraph must be at least ten sentences, start out with a strong topic sentence that presents the paragraph’s argument, and work to develop that argument with specific quotes and examples from your primary source research. It is fine to include evidence from secondary sources as well. But the heart of the paragraph must composed of evidence from primary source material. All source material in the paragraph must be footnoted in the proper form.

Week 12:
Nov. 15: Workshop: Peer Review of Analytical Paragraph

Nov. 17: Individual Conferences

Assignment #10: Paper Introduction and Title (Due on Blackboard Discussion Board by NOON on Friday, Nov. 18): You should submit a revised version of the introductory paragraphs to your paper that: 1) introduces your topic in an interesting way, 2) presents your thesis, 3) and explains how your thesis fits into the existing historiography. I encourage you to find a creative way to introduce your topic. You may want to use an evocative example from your research that focuses on a dramatic incident or a critical moment in the life of your subject. You should also develop three alternative titles for your papers. The titles should be creative and provide a strong suggestion of the main thesis of your paper

Week 13:
Nov. 22: Workshop: Peer Review of Introductions and Titles


Week 14:

ROUGH DRAFTS DUE by 11:59pm on Monday, Nov. 28

Nov. 29: In-Class Presentations

Dec. 1: In-Class Presentations

Week 15:
Dec. 6: In-Class Presentations

Dec. 8: In-Class Presentations

Week 16:
Tues., Dec. 13: PAPER DUE!