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HIST 301: The Historian’s Craft: Reading, Research and Writing History

This is a course guide for students enrolled in History 301 at California State University Northridge.

Research Prospectus Fall 2020/ Professor Kaja

Research Paper Prospectus: You are required to create a research paper prospectus on a topic of your choosing. This is a semester-long assignment and the earlier you start the better your paper will be.  Many of the smaller writing assignments, including your bibliographies, thesis exercises, outlines, and draft paragraphs, will be designed to help you complete this assignment. Those assignments and their due dates are available on your course canvas site. 

Guidelines for the Assignment
For secondary sources include: 

1) Full citation

2) One sentence explaining of the main argument of the book/article

3) 1-2 sentences explaining how you expect to use the reading (relevant topics, themes, ides).


Guidelines for primary sources include:

1) Full citation

2) 2-3 sentences about why you think the source will be useful

Example of Annotated Citations

Topic: Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic mission to Paris during the American Revolution.

Adams, John. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, volumes 1–4, L. H. Butterfield, Editor.  Cambridge, Mass, 1961.

The differences between Franklin and Adams will be helpful to  contrast. I also think Adams will offer another not so perfect perspective of Franklin  while in France. His papers include letters, diary, and writings.

Franklin, Benjamin. 1984. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Buccaneer  Books.

Franklin’s autobiography will help me to see how Franklin perceived himself and his life in politics. This will also be informative to the formation of his early life and its effect on his later life in France.

What is a Research Prospectus

The purpose of a research prospectus is to describe and plan a paper you will later be writing.
A good prospectus should:

  • describe a topic and a problem or question about it that your research will clarify;
  • identify the sources you will draw on to answer that question;
  • lay out a possible plan for the different sections of your paper (the steps of your argument);
  • make your topic understandable and interesting to others.

Tips on Writing a Research Prospectus

Think of your prospectus as a work-in-progress.
1.As you gather secondary literature on your topic, either thinking broadly or narrowly, you should focus on how your study fits into the historiographical literature.

2.As you begin to analyze the primary sources you are able to retrieve, you may discover that you need additional sources, which you should add to the your annotated bibliography entries.

3. And, as you look over the evidence in both your primary and secondary sources, you may discover that your thesis ideas/points may have changed, and that you need to revise, or rethink altogether, your thesis question.