The purpose of writing a paper proposal is to give your professor an opportunity to provide feedback on your topic, argument, and research goals. Perhaps most importantly, a paper proposal requires you to narrow your topic and begin formulating the argument you’ll make. Paper proposals help students by possibly redirecting you away from a potentially unworkable topic and toward one that is answerable in a semester’s worth of research. The point is to avoid the problem of finding out too late that your topic/research question isn’t going to work. However, to make the exercise meaningful, you need to do at least some real research before you write your proposal.
For the purposes of this class, your final research paper must cover some aspect of American Women’s History. This means you have a LOT of different topics open to you. When you’re deciding on a topic I have a few suggestions.
Look into something you’re interested in. Since you do have many options, you should find a subject you’d be interested in learning more about. So, for example, let’s say you’re interested in the roles of women in the Black Panther Party. From there, you’d begin doing research on the Black Panthers in order to narrow down what you’d like to discuss in the final research paper.
Think about what you could reasonably discuss in 3,000 words (approximately 12 pages). This is why you need to do some preliminary research. If you hand in your proposal and you say you’d like to discuss the Cold War, you haven’t properly narrowed your topic. You cannot possibly discuss everything related to the Cold War in 3,000 words. You could then narrow that down, for example, and say you’re interested in the impact of World War II labor propaganda. Though still broad, this is at least headed in a manageable direction.
DO RESEARCH. Those of you who are on campus should be heading to the library. Everyone can utilize the library’s website. You will need to logon for off-campus access. The library’s site explains how to do this. You shouldn’t contact me to ask how to login off-campus.
You need to be using scholarly sources. This means published books, journal articles, etc. If you find it through the library, it’s probably a reputable source. Don’t rely on Google- although you will find some solid sources there you may also fall into the trap of using disreputable sources. It should be obvious by this point in your college career, but WIKIPEDIA IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SOURCE. Period.
You’ll need to find BOTH primary AND secondary sources for the final assignment. A primary source is a source coming from the time period you’re studying. These can include (but aren’t limited to): speeches, diaries/journals, interviews, newspaper articles, etc.
A secondary source is what scholars write. So, these are books, journal articles, etc which analyze primary sources. You can find both primary and secondary sources through the library and online.
Your prospectus should be 3 pages (750 words) NOT including your list of references. In these pages you should do the following:
Introduction to topic: In essence, you need to explain why you chose your topic and potential themes/issues you plan on covering in your term paper. It might be best to think of this as filling in the blanks of this sentence: “I am researching…. because I want to know….. in order to understand….” Note: don’t word your proposal in this exact way. This is simply a guide.
Statement of your research question: You are in the preliminary stage of research, thus this will likely evolve as you continue to do research. However, you need to explain the goals of your project and state your potential argument in as clear and precise a manner as you can at this stage. In essence, your goal here is to show that you’ve done enough research that you have a clear direction. Remember, however, that this is a proposal. You will not be allowed to change your topic, but it is highly possible that your thesis will evolve (or even change completely) as you continue your research.
Significance: You should briefly explain why your topic should be interesting to outside readers and why your thesis is worth pursuing. Essentially, you are justifying your research topic and thesis here.
Type of assignment: You can choose from four types of final assignment: a podcast episode, a zine, an alternative your propose, or a traditional research paper. You need to let me know which option you’re choosing. If you want to submit an alternative to the three above, you need to explain what you hope to do and why it works as a project option.
A discussion of sources: You should briefly discuss what sources you’ve found and where you plan on finding more sources. Simply listing each source in this section is NOT appropriate. Rather, you should explain, for example, that you’ve found a number of secondary sources which will help you discuss X, Y, Z. Or you could explain that you’ve found a trove of primary sources in a certain book or archive. This is where you must show that there are enough sources to support you as you continue researching
Finally, you should include a bibliography of the sources you’ve already found. Note: you must be specific here. If you’re using readings from Women’s America you must indicate the specific source you plan on using. At this point in your research you should have at least three secondary and three primary sources from outside the course readings. Remember, your bibliography is separate from the rest of your proposal. This means you must have 3 pages (750 words) for the proposal AND a separate bibliography.
If you quote or paraphrase a source in your proposal, you may use parenthetical citations. Your bibliography should be in Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style format.
You cannot hand in a final assignment without giving me a prospectus.