Project 2: Historical Context and Introduction

Research Plan

Research Question: [Revised research question from Topic Exploration Worksheet.]


[Include a three- to five-sentence discussion of background information about your historical event to capture the interest of your audience. Write a two- to three-sentence thesis statement based on your research question that addresses your historical event and explains how your event has been influenced by historical context.]

Historical Context: [Include a three- to five-sentence explanation of your event’s historical context, citing sources one and two. Use primary and secondary sources to discuss what was going on in the world, area, and society surrounding the event.]

Impact of Historical Context: [Include a three- to five-sentence discussion of how historical context impacted your event, and cite your sources.]


Applying Secondary Sources to a Topic

In this module, you will develop the first part of Project 2, which entails the use of secondary sources to develop the context for your research topic and focus. By this point, you have a good understanding of the differences between primary and secondary sources; you have analyzed secondary sources individually and in groups; and you have accessed numerous sources and source collections regarding your project. Now you will begin to think about situating your research topic in the proper historical context.

Framing Research

The introduction to a research project serves multiple purposes. First, it contains your historical argument in the form of a thesis statement. Second, the introduction briefly establishes the historical context of your topic and paper. Third, it convinces the reader that the rest of the paper is worth reading. It is not always easy to incorporate all of these purposes into one or two paragraphs, but the successful historian (just like the successful writer in any field) must do just that.

You have already put much thought and effort into the formulation and revision of your thesis statements. The thesis is the one- or two-sentence answer to your research question. This is the statement that ties the entire paper together, and all the remaining sections of the paper must support the thesis in some way. Remember that your paper, just like any history paper, is making an argument about, or, if you prefer, an interpretation of, a historical topic. Everything else in your paper is written in support of the argument.

You have also already put thought and effort into establishing the historical context of your project. In the introduction, you should include enough historical background, or context, that the reader understands the time period, historical actors, and places that your paper will discuss. You may also want to include a brief narrative of the event so that the reader knows what to expect. Do not overwhelm the reader with an avalanche of dates and names. Provide just enough background or context to let the reader know the content of the paper.

The introduction should convince the reader that the rest of the paper is worth reading. Remember that every major project requires a lot of time and energy on the part of the writer. But it also requires time and energy on the part of the reader, who has many different things competing for his or her attention. There is nothing specific that you should do to intrigue the reader. Do not write unnecessarily grandiose or flowery introductions. If the entire introduction is written in an engaging way and provides interesting examples, clear arguments, and strong defenses of the project’s significance, the reader will probably continue reading. Even if the reader walks away from the paper at the end of the introduction, though, he or she should have a clear understand of the author’s arguments and a sense of where the paper was going.

Using Primary Sources to Evaluate Secondary Sources

In this module, you will develop the second part of Project 2, which concerns the use of primary sources to evaluate secondary sources. In this course, you have read about how historians interpret the past through the use of primary sources. You have also seen how historians can use the same primary sources to arrive at very different interpretations of a topic. You have considered the strengths and weaknesses of various historians’ use of sources, and now you will apply those skills to the primary and secondary sources relevant to your topic.

In Part I of Project 2: Historical Context and Introduction, you analyzed the relevant secondary sources. Part of that analysis included consideration of the authors’ use of sources. Now that you have browsed through various primary source collections, you can comment on whether or not you think the primary sources were used appropriately in those secondary sources.


[Include any references cited in your paper in full APA format. Don’t forget to include in-text citations as well.]


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