Family History Research Paper, due Dec. 2 at the start of class.
The family-history research project is worth 30% of the course grade. PLEASE SUBMIT BOTH A HARD COPY AND UPLOAD AN E-COPY TO COURSE WEBSITE.
This essay of 7-8 word-processed, double-spaced pages is meant to illustrate how personal and family stories intersect with national history (as we will have seen through our reading and discussion of Youngs, Raibmon, Ulrich, Murray, Ueda, Sone, Ruiz, and Moreno). Students are asked to pick one or two individuals from their families—ideally but not necessarily somebody slightly removed from their nuclear family, such as an uncle or great grandmother—and interweave their personal stories with events or forces operating at the “national” level. Thus we might hear how the G.I. Bill created upward mobility by allowing a veteran to attend college; how U.S. law or policy presented hurdles for prospective immigrants; how passage of suffrage legislation permitted a great grandmother to vote for the first time; or how U.S. foreign policy led to ancestors experiencing war or dislocation. There are many, many possibilities. Students are expected to research in both primary sources (oral interviews, diaries, letters, memoirs, etc.) and secondary works. One key to success here is to start thinking about the topic in plenty of time. Another is to recognize the wide range of resources available, not the least of which are the UW Libraries and History Librarian Theresa Mudrock. Ms. Mudrock has developed a website to help students launch their research (http://guides.lib.washington.edu/hstaa110 (Links to an external site.)). The course website has copies of sample papers from previous quarters, and we will discuss sample papers as a group in lecture on Nov. 7.
This essay is based on research. Students are expected to use primary sources and secondary works in developing their essays. We do not frown on the use of on-line resources (indeed some very good reference works [identified on Ms. Mudrock’s website] are available as on-line books, and the library has e-book versions of Paul Spickard, Almost All Aliens). Nonetheless, we strongly urge students to utilize the very rich materials available in the UW Libraries, particularly scholarly books and articles. The UW Libraries on-line catalog can be explored with keyword searches, and such indexes as America: History and Life (again, see Ms. Mudrock’s website) are very helpful as well. For work at the college level, we have much greater confidence in the veracity of scholarly works than we do in generic websites. Internet sources of information can be wonderful, but they can also be rather sketchy or unreliable. It is always best to try as much as possible to corroborate what you find in one type of source by checking out another. This includes personal memory! Interviews with our family members are usually an essential source of information, but memories cannot always be trusted to be 100% reliable.
Having done research, students are expected to make plain to readers where they got their information. This is done by employing a system of citations (endnotes or footnotes, or some other forms of referencing). Each T.A. or instructor may have his or her own preferences for what format to use and how much is needed. So please heed the preferences of those in charge of grading your essays. Above all, keep in mind that some consistent system of citations is necessary.
By discussing successful papers from previous quarters, and by providing feedback on your topic paragraphs and rough drafts, we have tried to highlight our expectations for your essays. Here, let us say a little more about what we expect from these papers. Like with your essay exams, we expect to see a thesis that is presented at the beginning of the essay and that provides the reader with a sense of direction. The thesis should be an arguable statement, and it ought to be developed from start to finish of the essay. Statements and arguments made in the essay ought to be supported by evidence, which comes from your research. In these papers, we hope you will be able to interweave the “national story” with the personal story of your family member(s). This may be challenging as a writing task, but it is preferable to telling two stories separately. The power of Pauli Murray’s and Monica Sone’s accounts comes in part by situating their family stories in the history of the nation at large. Thus the Fitzgerald family experiences the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction, while the Harry Fukuhar's family experiences restrictive immigration laws and Executive Order 9066. The families’ lives help us to see how laws and policies and events affected real people; they make history less abstract.
One more bit of advice is that it is often helpful to look closely at the laws and policies that created contexts in which family members acted. What were the specific provisions of the G.I. Bill that affected one’s great-grandfather, and how did Congress change those provisions in later years? Which immigration laws influenced your ancestor’s immigration to the U.S., and how exactly were those laws applied before departure, upon arrival, and once living in the U.S.? How exactly did the Selective Service System function as a means of drafting American men to fight in the Vietnam War? What tools did resisters have to defy it?
When turning on the final draft of the family-history research paper on Dec. 4, please staple it together with a copy of the three preliminary assignments—the topic paragraph, the bibliography, and especially the rough draft. Thank you.