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Research Assignment #1

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In this first research assignment, you will establish the basic terms of your project by identifying a contemporary issue that will help you launch a historical investigation. 

Keep the following parameters in mind when selecting a topic:

  • Topics cannot be narrowly focused on a US domestic issue (i.e. gun control, abortion). However, it may be specific to a single nation other than the US or address the role of the US in the world (i.e. global race politics, US foreign policy).
  • Projects must primarily address history before 1980. Your first newspaper source will likely not address history before 1980, and that’s ok. In stage two of the research process, you will move further back in time by locating historical primary sources.

Step 1. Using the Proquest NewsstandPQresults database, perform a keyword search for a newspaper article published within the last five years on a topic of contemporary relevance and interest to you. For example, if you’re interested in the role of racism and/or Guatemala and want to know more about that history, a search using the terms “racism” AND “guatemala” and limited to articles published after January 1, 2010 turns up over 400 articles (some of which are more relevant to the search terms than others).

Step 2. Read and analyze a relevant article, then write a 5-7 sentence narrative that introduces the event(s) covered in the article. With revisions, this paragraph may well serve as the first paragraph of your final project: a hook that draws your reader’s attention and that introduces the contemporary issue before turning to its historical roots. See sample research assignment #1 for an example and consult the Paraphrasing and Quoting guide for best practices in narrating your analysis.

Step 3. Provide an endnote citation for the article at the end of your narrative. This is your first citation, and you will add citations for other sources as you locate and analyze them. The basic full (first instance) and abbreviated (all instances after the first) endnote citation formats for a newspaper article are as follows:

[1] Author, “Article Title,” Newspaper Title, Date published, URL (Date accessed).

[2] Newspaper Title, Date published.

To find the article’s URL, use the citation toolPQurl in Proquest. But do not use the citation tool to create your  endnote citation. It will not appear in the correct format. Instead, follow the examples above.

Step 4. Recognizing that you may shift your geographic focus based on your research, what is your preliminary geographic focus? See sample research assignment #1.

Step 5. Based on your analysis of the newspaper article, identify 2-4 additional search terms. See sample research assignment #1. The asterisk at the end of the stump set of letters will give you multiple endings to the same root word. For example, histor* will include history, historical, historiography, histories. These are for your use in the next steps and will help you find better sources more easily.

Step 6: Identify one or more of RCI’s course themes with which your topic connects (Humans & the Environment, Globalization, The Roots of Inequality, Diverse Ways of Thinking, or Roots of Contemporary Conflicts) and explain the connection in one sentence.

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After completion, you will receive comments below your post (which you can see in “view” mode, not “edit” mode) about the viability of your topic, geographic focus, search terms, as well as suggestions for additional search terms, potential primary source types, and timeframe parameters.