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The Final project provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the historian’s craft.  It  will take the form of a  research prospectus for a project on some disaster from America’s Gilded Age/Progressive Era.  While you will not actually be completing this research, you should imagine your proposal as something that would position you to write an original, primary-source based paper for a 400 level class. A list of disasters to choose from is available here.

Your research proposal will take the form of a narrative (rather than an outline) of approximately 10-12 pages, along with an additional bibliography.  It should follow the formatting guidelines stated on the syllabus, as well as the citation procedures detailed in Rampolla. Your proposal need not answer the following in precisely this order, but it must include each of these elements:

  1. Innovative, interesting and descriptive project title (not just “Final paper for American Disasters / HIST300A”)
  2. Topic, an appropriate historical question, and preliminary argument (3-4 pages). What are you going to write about? What specific question do you propose to answer? Why is that question significant to larger concerns or conversations? What context to readers need to understand your topic? And although your answer would develop – and almost certainly change – through the process of research, you should also include a working hypothesis or line of explanation that suggests your preliminary answer to the question you have posed.
  3. Historiography (3-4 pages). A review of FIVE secondary sources (articles/chapters AND at least two books) from the relevant historical literature.  You may include readings from the course, but must also include outside sources. What have previous scholars said about this topic? Make sure to review between 8 and 10 secondary sources. What have been the strengths of their works? What have been their weaknesses? What needs to be explained better or further?
  4. Primary sources (3-4 pages). What kinds of primary sources will enable you to answer your question? Make sure to name specific sources (this should be particular archival collections, articles in newspapers, books or letter collections etc.). Where are these sources held, and are they available to researchers? Why are these particular sources relevant? What insights do they promise? What cautions need to be taken in working with them? Use this part of the proposal to demonstrate your ability to work with primary sources to develop a coherent, persuasive argument that addresses your historical question.
  5. Your bibliography will be divided between primary and secondary works, and it should include both works you have cite and those you would plan to consult. (Check with your workshop Instructor regarding the approximate number of each kind of source you should include.) Please pay careful attention to the formatting of your references.


Your proposal is due on Titanium by the end of finals period. Late papers will not be accepted.