Course Information

Your Term Paper

  1. Your term paper for this class constitutes a major part of your grade, 40%. It is due in class on November 30th.
  2. This is meant to be a research paper and, as such, you are expected to use books and periodicals as your main sources. You must have at least five sources. You make look at Wikipedia for background information, but you may not cite Wikipedia in your paper. If there is an internet resource you would like to use (not Wikipedia), you must clear it with the TA grading your paper.
  3. You must have a complete bibliography and footnotes on all sources, which should all following Chicago Manual of Style formatting. No embedded citations. Anything you cite directly from another source must be in quotes. Any ideas you take from other works must be footnoted. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.
  4. Your paper should be 13-14 pages long. The maximum page limit is 15 pages. You must staple your paper. No paper clips, no folded corners. Your paper must be in Times New Roman, 12 pt font, 1” margins on all sides. You must number your pages, including the first page if it is not a title page. You must write your research question at the top of your paper (in addition to your title)
  5. Late papers will not be accepted for any reason. You must print your paper before class and bring it to class on time. No excuses. There are printers in the library and computer labs (and staplers!) so “my printer broke/ran out of ink” is not an excuse. Leave yourself enough time to print before class. We will not accept any emailed papers or any papers handed in after class is over.

Note: Due to the length of the paper and the volume of students we will not be accepting emailed rough drafts. You may, however, email us an outline of your paper and/or your introduction/thesis statement for feedback. If you are struggling with writing your paper or you would like more feedback, you should meet with a TA during office hours or by appointment. You may meet with us anytime before December 6th, when the paper is due. If you have specific questions about your draft, you make bring it in when you come to see us. If you cannot make any of our office hours, you should contact a TA to set up an appointment. If you need help with writing, you may also visit the writing center.

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The research process

Step 1: Beginning Your Research

I. When you have located a topic, your next step will be to formulate this topic into a question. What are you trying to answer? As with a science experience, this is your first step. For example: Your topic is German-Americans during the Second World War.

Your question might be:

  • What role did German-Americans play for the American home front experience during the war? (This could be politically, socially, for the mobilization, in the military, etc.)
  • What was the German-American attitude towards fascism?
  • Structure this question around the aspect of the topic that most interests you.
  • While carrying out your research keep this question in mind. Is the material that you are looking at relevant?

II. After you have formulated a question, begin your work by looking at a general source. This might be an encyclopedia, Wikipedia, or something similar. While this will not be one of your main sources, it will give you an idea of the major issues of your topic. You can gain an idea of whether there are debates among historians or whether there is a larger consensus. It might even help you to focus your question.

III. After getting a sense of what is out there you’re ready to start looking for books.

The Bobst Bobcat site is the best place to begin: and click on “Bobcat”. Here you can search with Keywords, Authors, Titles, etc. When you search, remember that you may need to fiddle with the keywords. If you want to work on German-American attitudes towards fascism some of your keyword combinations might be: Fascism America, German-Americans As you research you will find new terms that are increasingly specific to your questions.

In addition to books, you might want to look for relevant journal articles. Bobst library has a variety of databases where you can do keyword searches. From here you have access through NYU. Useful databases may include: JStor, Project Muse

Other useful sites may include:*eng
Internet sources as a rule should not count as one of your sources. If you have something that you feel is a vital resource, contact the TAs.

Taking Notes

  • Read the book or article strategically.
  • Do not just start reading the whole book.
  • Look at the table of contents to find out what chapters are relevant to you.
  • Look in the index for key words that point you to passages relevant to your question.
  • If the entire book is on your topic, read through the introduction thoroughly before reading the whole book.
  • If it an article, look to see if the article includes a summary or look at the headings in the article to see if they are all relevant.
  • Do not read information in the book or article that will not lead you to answer the research question.



Your research question is German-American attitudes towards WWII.
If you have a book on German Americans in the 20th century, just focus on the chapter that covers the war.
If you have a book on American attitudes to WWII, look in the index for German Americans or Americans of German descent.
If you have a book on conscription during WWII, look in the index for German Americans or Americans of German descent.

Take notes strategically.

Once you have identified parts of the book or article that are valuable, take notes strategically.
Write down your research question at the top of your note pages.
Before you write down any notes, ask yourself if this information helps to answer the research question on the page.
If it does not – move on.
You will find most books and articles are full of interesting information that is not relevant to your research question.


Your question is American women during WWII.
You find information about Russian women in the Soviet army. This is interesting, but not relevant to your question.
You find out that X number of American women worked outside the home in X, Y,and Z types of industries prior to the war and the number increased during the war. This is a relevant point.

Reference strategically.

Include the page number, author, and/or book title on your note pages.
You should take notes source by source.


Note page 1 “quote 1,” author, title, page number.
“quote 2, ” author, title, page number.
Or if you take notes source by source, as I highly recommend you do, note page 1, title at the top of the page, “quote 1,” page number.

Re-read your notes strategically.

After you have read one book or article, look over your notes again and summarize for yourself (in your head or on the note page) the main answers the book or article gives to your research question. Also, ask yourself if the book left any aspect of the research question unanswered. Repeat this for each of the sources.


You took notes on German-American attitudes towards WWII from one book. In reviewing your notes, you see you have gathered information on German- American attitudes to the European front and to the war in the Pacific. You realize that you do not have information on the extent to which German Americans fought on either front or belonged to pacifist groups.

Compare the sources strategically.

After your have take notes for all your sources compare the notes for each source. Do they give the same facts? Do they give the same interpretations of the facts?


Browning’s book Ordinary Men gives the fact that a minority of the police reserve battalion did not participate in the shooting of Jewish civilians while the majority did. Scholars do not dispute this. NO CONTROVERSY ON THE FACTS Other scholars emphasize that anti-Semitism more than peer pressure and conformity led the soldiers to join in the murder. A CONTROVERSY IN THE INTERPRETATION OF THE FACTS.

Evaluate which author’s arguments and facts are more convincing to you.

If you have sources that differ in facts or in the interpretation decide which one you think is more convincing. If there is a difference in the facts, decide which scholar did a better job of looking at and analyzing sources for facts. If there is a difference in the interpretation, decide which scholar has a more convincing analysis of the facts. There may be cases when there is no debate about the facts or the interpretation of the facts, this is fine. Notice why there is no scholarly debate, maybe the evidence is overwhelming; perhaps the evidence only points to one interpretation. Or, which is rare, maybe historians have not yet considered a different interpretation.


Author A writes, in response to the research question of the American army’s behavior on the Japanese front, that the American army respected the Geneva conventions regarding prisoners of war. He/she claims that because the Japanese would not surrender, the Americans could take few prisoners. Author B writes, about the same question, that the Americans could have taken more prisoners and that racism led them to kill the Japanese combatants and take fewer prisoners. Evaluate whose argument is more convincing based on the number of prisoners of war the Americans took and the sources the authors use to make their point. Decide whether you think one presents a better case than the other or even whether both are right.

Develop your thesis.

Once you have compared your sources and evaluated which you find more convincing try to answer your research question in a sentence, even a long one. This answer is your thesis. If your sources do not contradict each other, that is okay, just answer you research question in a sentence and include why the answer is so clear.


On the question of the American army’s behavior on the Japanese front, you find that that neither A nor B are totally convincing by themselves. You think that both are right. You formulate this into a thesis. The American army did not abide by the rules of war on the Japanese front due to racist views of the Japanese as sub-human and in response to Japanese tactics such as refusing to surrender and perfidy.

Tips for writing (adapted from The Book on Writing, by Paula LaRocque)

  1. Keep sentences short, and keep to one main idea per sentence.

    Bad: In the present case, not until the final confrontation between Brigid and Sam in which Brigid, Sam’s client, has been thoroughly unmasked as the liar and killer she is (that mystery solved), and the circumstances of Archer’s death are revealed (the other mystery solved), is the story over, its central issue, the one that continued all the way from the beginning, satisfactorily tied up.

    Good: The central issue in ‘The Maltese Falcon is not resolved until the final confrontation between Sam and his client, Brigid. That scene unmasks Brigid as a liar and killer, solves the mystery of Archer’s death, and closes the story.
  2. Avoid pretensions, gobbledygook and euphemisms.

    Bad: Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
  3. Change long and difficult words to short and simple words.
  4. Avoid jargon and cliché.
    Historians use a lot of jargon. Don’t use a word unless you’re sure you know what it means and that your reader will too!
  5. Use the right word.
    When you misuse a word repeatedly in your paper, you confuse your reader and weaken your argument. Make sure all of your terms are precise.

    Watch for tricky word pairs:

    • Affect/Effect
    • Arrogate/Abrogate
    • Defuse/Diffuse
    • Elicit/illicit
    • Forebear/Forbear
    • Imminent/Eminent
    • Reticent/Resistant
    • Ordinance/Ordnance
    • Persecute/Prosecute

    All of these words mean very different things. If you’re not sure of a word’s meaning, look it up!
    If you (or the historian whose work you are using) create/s a new term to explain a part of your/her/his argument, make sure you explain the term in your paper. Just because you read the book and understand what the term means, doesn’t mean that your reader will.
  6. Avoid beginning with long dependent phrases.
    Beware of over-using the “backing in” sentence structure.

    Bad: “Set firmly and with a sustained and vivid sensuous immediacy in the 19th century, and taking place mostly in the exotic world of the British West Indies though some scenes are set in London and the English countryside, the book tells two stories that are closely related, indeed inextricably joined in time and place.”

    Good: “The book, set largely in 19th century British West Indies, tells two closely related stories.”
    Why take out everything else? Two reasons: A lot of the other information is contradictory and meaningless AND the trained eye doesn’t read the dependent clause anyway—a reader often skips right to the main clause were the key information is.
  7. Use the active voice.

    Passive: The visitors were picked up.
    Passive: The visitors were picked up by the tour bus.
    Active: The tour bus picked up the visitors.
  8. Cut wordiness.

    Watch out for repetitive phrases like:
    • Managed to complete = completed
    • Offered a donation = donated
    • Did a study = studied
    • Were in agreement = agreed
    • In regard to = about
    • In the event that = if
    • In the vicinity of = near
  9. Avoid vague qualifiers.
    Very, rather, quite, somewhat.
  10. Prune prepositions.


Chicago Manual of Style

Useful guides for writing

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

LaRocque, Paula. The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well. Oak Park, IL: Marion Street Press, 2003.

Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009.

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Writing Center

Final Checklist for your WWII term paper

You should be able to answer yes to all of these questions!!

  • Formatting
  • Does my paper have a title that tells the reader something about my argument? (i.e. my paper does not have a vague title like “The Holocaust” or “D-Day.”)
  • Did I write my research question under my title?
  • Do I have page numbers?
  • Is my paper properly formatted (double spaced, 1” margins, Times New Roman 12 pt. font)
  • Did I cite all of my sources in the Chicago Manual of Style Format (footnotes)?
  • Do I have a properly formatted bibliography?
  • Do I have at least 5 sources?
  • Is my paper 13-15 pages?
  • Are all of my paragraphs the proper length (somewhere between 3 sentences and about 3/4 of typed page.)
  • Is my paper printed off, stapled and ready to hand in in class on Wednesday, Nov. 30th (We will not accept any late or emailed papers, so you if you don’t bring it to class on Wednesday, you are out of luck. “My printer ran out of ink” is not an excuse.)
  • Content
  • Do I have a thesis statement?
  • Does my thesis answer my research question?
  • Does my thesis address the “so what?” question? (Why is my topic worth knowing about?)
  • Does my evidence support my argument?
  • Are my main points arranged in a logical order?
  • Have I clarified all of my terms?
  • Do I use enough specific examples and have I avoided making vague generalizations and imprecise exaggerations (e.g. The Germans were racist. The war in the Pacific was the worst war in the history of the world.)
  • Do I have a conclusion that restates my argument and my main points?

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