Research Paper

Download the project guidelines and rubric here

Due dates:
3/30 Midnight: Submit topic + sources via EMAIL
4/23 Bring 2 printed copies of paper draft to class
5/7 Final version due via EMAIL + 50-word summary on the title page

Project Description: For your final project, craft a 6-page biography of a single person, or a small (well-defined) non-famous group of people, using a social history perspective. Remember that social history is “folk history,” and often seeks to challenge or undermine the chronology of political history, the assumptions of triumphant nationalism, or the dominant narratives of history written by and for an elite literate class. This paper is meant to be narrow, specific and deep, rather than wide, generic and surface-level. It should showcase your very best research and writing skills, and should demonstrate exemplary scholarly integrity in the use and citation of sources. The evidence in your paper needs to include at least 2 primary sources (i.e. the raw, “original” material of the past), and 2 secondary sources (i.e. the reliable peer-reviewed scholarship of professional historians).

Citation method: Chicago Style (notes + bibliography) – use footnotes rather than endnotes

Secondary Sources

Begin with WSU’s Library Subject Guide for History

From there, for articles: search U.S. History in Context, then any of the databases listed under “Find Articles and More.” Especially helpful: ProQuest Research Library / History and JSTOR.

For books and full-text e-books, use the library Summon online catalog. Please do not use online books you can only see in partial format, like for example in Google Books Preview or Amazon “Look Inside.” Many books that are in the public domain can be found in full on Internet Archive or HathiTrust. Also try the Digital Public Library of America.

Links and Advice from Ross Griffiths

History and Political Science Subject Guide –> Primary Sources

Primary Sources

These are some starting points, you are certainly not limited to only these. Many of the primary sources suggested in previous “Prof for a Day” may also be appropriate.

Stuck for ideas? Browse Stories from the Smithsonian American History Museum blog.

Internet Archive – contains many books, pamphlets, reports and other historical materials uploaded in full text and in the public domain.

American Memory – Library of Congress
Encompassing a huge variety of digital collections about the American past (all with a consistent / similar search engine), many of these collections are suitable for this project. Complete list at:

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
A massive search portal for primary source collections from libraries, museums, archives, and universities across the country. Has a very easy-to-remember URL:

American Life Histories (Library of Congress)
Collection of transcribed life histories and interviews with people who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century, created by the Federal Writers’ Project.

American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement (Wisconsin Historical Society)
American Journeys contains more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration, from the sagas of Vikings in Canada in AD1000 to the diaries of mountain men in the Rockies 800 years later. Read the words of explorers, Indians, missionaries, traders and settlers as they lived through the founding moments of American history.

Calisphere – Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA)
JARDA contains thousands of Japanese American internment primary source materials like personal diaries, letters, photographs, and drawings, along with US War Relocation Authority materials, including camp newsletters, final reports, photographs, and other documents relating to the day-to-day administration of the camps.

Virtual Vietnam Archive
We stumbled on this one learning about Google search tricks, the command. A nice digital archive from Texas Tech

DocSouth (UNC Chapel Hill)
Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs.

Valley of the Shadow (UVA)
The Valley Project details life in two Civil-war era American communities, one Northern, and one Southern, from the time of John Brown’s raid through the end of Reconstruction. In this digital archive you may explore thousands of original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records, left by men and women in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Giving voice to hundreds of individual people, the Valley Project tells forgotten stories of life during the era of the Civil War.

Women Working, 1800-1930 (Harvard)
This archive is a digital exploration of women’s impact on the economic life of the United States between 1800 and the Great Depression. Working conditions, workplace regulations, home life, costs of living, commerce, recreation, health and hygiene, and social issues are among the issues documented in this online research collection from Harvard University.

Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846-1869 (Brigham Young University)
A collection of the original writings of 49 voyagers on the Mormon, California, Oregon, and Montana trails who wrote while traveling on the trail. Some diarists speak with uncommon eloquence and others with maddening brevity, while telling their stories of persistence and pain, birth and death, God and gold, dust and debris, bugs and buffalo, love and laughter, and trail tedium.

Remembering the 1911 Triangle Fire (Cornell)
NEAR CLOSING TIME ON MARCH 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Factory in New York City. Within 18 minutes, 146 people were dead as a result of the fire. This site includes original sources on the fire held at the ILR School’s Kheel Center, an archive of historical material on labor and industrial relations.

Primary Source Guide (by region) for Native American research (University of Washington)

America in Class (National Endowment for Humanities)
Primary sources aligned w/ K-12 Common Core Standards. Many (but not all) are fine for this project.

You may also use digital resources from any major historical society or university library or public library (for example, MassachusettsChicagoNew YorkUniversity of Iowa … etc)