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Argumentative Historical Research Paper

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In this assignment, you will propose the research topic pertinent to US History from Reconstruction (1865) to the present you would like to investigate this term in a brief, 1 – 2 page (300 – 500 word) essay.


The purpose of this assignment is to decide what you want to write about and to receive guidance on how to focus your topic and make it something that you are able to examine in depth in an argumentative, historical research paper of 5 – 7 pages (1250 – 1750 words) in length.  **Remember that this must be argumentative.  You cannot simply list facts about this topic, but instead must take a position on an issue and prove this position.**

  • Review the “How to Study History” in the eText FIRST.
  • Then in proper essay format, begin by describing your topic in a sentence or two and how it relates to US History from Reconstruction to the present.
  • Discuss what sources you think you might find and where (200 – 400 words).
  • Describe what argument or arguments you think you might be able to make about this topic.
  • Finally, describe any difficulties you have encountered or anticipate encountering with this project.
  • Make sure you format your essay using the proper format for your selected style (MLA, APA, or Chicago Style for Humanities) including margins, spacing, heading requirements, title, etc. Please don’t forget you name!
  • Submit your Research Topic and Proposal Essay to the appropriate Assignment folder by the due date on the Course Schedule in .docx or .rtf format (No PDFs).

See the Schedule in the Syllabus Module for due dates. Review the Rubric attached to the Assignment Submission Folder for grading information.

Examples of broad paper topics that can be narrowed down to fit an argument – 

  • How Yellow Journalism pushed the U.S. into war. 
  • Women activist in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • The Chicano Movement
  • Angel Island – the west coast Ellis Island
  • Japanese Internment Camps
  • Wilson’s neutrality during WWI
  • Nixon and Watergate
  • Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
  • Presidential assassinations
  • Johnson and the Pentagon Papers
  • The Iran-Contra Scandal
  • Palmer and the Red Scare

Example of a broad topic getting narrowed/focused –

20th Century Labor Movement > using strikes as a tool to accomplish goals > 1892 Homestead Strike > Pinkerton Detective Agency/Strikebreakers > the meaning and origin of the song “Father Was Killed by the Pinkerton Men.”

A very broad topic (20th Century Labor Movement) used to guide to a very narrow sub-topic (the meaning and origin of the song “Father Was Killed by the Pinkerton Men”).

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