Information & Instructions
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The Big Picture
Your Midterm Essay Assignment is to write a longer essay that informs us about something we have studied thus far in the term.(CHAPTERS 1-12)
- State a claim of historical importance about someone or something that you want to tell us about.
- Present facts, evidence, and details which support the importance of the topic you are informing us about.
- Provide an explanation of how the evidence you presented gives us an explanation of the person or event you are telling us about.
Yes, you may have noticed that these three steps follow the typical pattern of an essay: First comes the introduction with a thesis statement, then comes all of your main points with supporting evidence, and then comes your conclusion. This is your opportunity to investigate an interesting person, event, or historical trend and tell us more about it.
How to Write an Informative Essay(link to more information on Informative Essays)
Has it been awhile since you tackled an informative essay?
Here is a link to a short and sweet description of an informative essay (click on the underlined words above to follow the link). Your three essay choices are all informative essays. So, take a look. A writing guide sometimes assumes a five paragraph essay, but keep in mind that these essays will have more paragraphs.
The three-step procedure described in this guide is great – take that to heart as you organize your thoughts.
You will need sources besides your textbook for this essay. This is not a research paper, but good sources will make your essay easier to write as well as stronger in content.
Find good, solid sources ahead of time and read them over to let the content sink in, Then, use these sources to bolster the main points in your essay. Cite the sources as you use them, and then list your sources as references at the end of your essay.
If you choose good, solid sources which are comprehensive, then you might need perhaps three sources. If you choose shorter, more focused sources, then perhaps you might need six sources. So, one of your tasks for this essay is to find three to six sources which support the main points of your essay.
Choose sources which are academically sound. Please avoid encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, and also avoid textbooks as sources since they are considered tertiary sources, which means they are three steps removed from the historical event. Look for journal articles, books, or robust web articles which are scholarly in nature. A good sign of a robust sources is when it lists its references at the end of the source and cites those sources as part of the narrative.
Top Ten Tips on Essays
Pause for a moment before you start your essay. Here is a short list of the most common mistakes that my students make when writing essays. Let’s learn from these previous mistakes:
- Use the essay format of an introductory paragraph, one paragraph for each main point, and a concluding paragraph. You probably will need at least 600 words to complete your essay, and perhaps as many as 1000 words. Organize those words by using the essay format.
- State the purpose of your essay clearly in the introductory paragraph. You need a thesis, a theme, a guiding purpose. What is your argument? Tell the reader about it in the introduction.
- Support each main point with details or examples. Tie each main point to the goal of the essay that you stated in your introduction. Cite your sources as you use them to support your main points.
- Use transitions to guide the reader from point to point. Make it a smooth ride for your readers.
- Tidy things up with a conclusion that summarizes your main points as they related to your argument. Be sure to list your references in APA format at the end of your essay. You do not need to double-space your references or use hanging indents since this is hard to do in Blackboard, but include the necessary information in APA format.
- Run a grammar and spell check.
- Let the essay sit for awhile and then go back for proofreading and editing. Don’t turn in your first draft.
- Don’t plagiarize. Be sure to give credit to the sources of your ideas.
- Use your own words. Avoid lots of quotes. Indeed, you probably don’t have to quote at all unless the quote is a memorable phrase.
- Have something to say. Don’t just fill in words to make your essay long enough.
With these things in mind, go ahead and select a topic below and get started!
You will be posting this essay in our class discussions for your classmates to read. Here are some formatting tips to help make your essay easier to share with your classmates:
- You do not need a title page. Simply put a title at the top of your essay and then leave a blank line.
- Single-space this essay, with a blank line between each paragraph.
This is not an APA paper with a title page and an abstract and such. However, you need to cite sources in the body of your essay as you use them and then list your references at the end of your essay. Use the APA format to cite your sources. Also, use the APA format for your references except that you do not need to double-space or use hanging indents since those are hard to do in Blackboard.
Remember, you need at least 600 words and perhaps as many as 1000 words. Follow the essay format of introduction, main points, and conclusion.
Topics to Choose From—PICK ONE
Topic – Option #1
Historians sometimes like to figure out what motivated a leader at the time of a big decision. The motivations might be immediate – something happens and a leader has to respond, or an opportunity is present and a leader wants to take advantage of it. Other times, motivations are in the personal history of a leader – something shaped this person’s early life, or the leader holds life-long values which guide decisions. Perhaps a leader might not even be fully aware of motivations – the cultural or societal forces which guided the person seem almost automatic or too powerful to go against.
Review what we have learned together thus far in our studies. Look for a decision that deserves to be explained more. Your job is to inform us about a decision-maker at a particular point in history and the motivations which were brought to bear on that leader at that time. Tell us what happened, but more importantly, tell us why.
Topic – Option #2
Connect your local history or your family history to larger events we have looked at in this class. Sometimes we emphasize the overall impact of an important person, world event, or revolutionary change, but we don’t take the time to connect those huge events to our local histories. Tell us about those connections.
For example, a local place of worship may have been built in a style from medieval times. Or, perhaps a local government building was built with classical architectural features. You may have access to an art museum which features some works from eras we have studied thus far. Or, maybe there is a theater group which has put on a work this term from one of the from eras we have studied. Maybe your family tree goes back far enough to include times we have studied. Maybe your ancestral home was ravaged by war or glorified by sudden prosperity. In any case, tell us your story.
The important thing is to connect the personal or local story with larger trends. It might be an interesting story to you or the people of that town, but what makes it interesting to students of history? Make that connection as you tell your story.
Topic – Option #3
Revisionists like to take a second, more critical look at people and events in history. Has opinion about the significance of the person or event changed over time? Did we perhaps rush to judgment at the time and now we need to step back and take another look? Or, revisionists like to look at a forgotten or ignored person or event in history or group of people and explain that we missed something important.
Review what we have studied thus far in our course with a critical eye. Tell us about a particular person or group of people who perhaps were overlooked at the time and deserve another look. Or, tell us about an event which at the time was interesting and perhaps even compelling and we should know about it.
For Your Information
Grading Criteria for Essay
|Deadlines||Student asked necessary questions ahead of time and then submitted assignment in plenty of time for any potential problems to be corrected.||Student carefully met submission deadline for the assignment.||Student had last-second questions and problems; work was late, missing, or incomplete.|
|Writing||Paper is easy to read; audience is guided smoothly from point to point; headings clearly identify content; any outside sources are referenced in APA format; paper is a unified whole.||Audience can follow the author, but writing style could be smoother in spots; main points are clear but sometimes need to be connected to each other a bit better; a few grammar and/or spelling errors detract from the paper; APA references needs some tweaking.||Paper seems to be a first draft; mistakes are noticeable; style prevents audience from appreciating the content; APA format for any additional sources seems to be a mystery to the student; tone of paper is not appropriate for a college classroom.|
|Content||Information is summarized accurately; interesting details are highlighted; specific aspects are investigated more deeply; examples reinforce the main points; topics are discussed in a way which makes reader want to continue reading.||Essay seems accurate but perhaps missed a few of the important points; investigation is adequate but not compelling; reader is informed but probably not motivated to pursue more.||It is not exactly clear what is being summarized; interesting details are absent; examples seem disconnected or absent; ideas seem thrown together; reader realizes that this effort is not adequate for the topics being presented.|
|Length||Length of paper is appropriate for its content and purpose; essay is clear and concise without being too abrupt; reader feels satisfied that all important points were addressed.||Paper seems to be either a bit too compressed or stretched in order to fit the requirements for this assignment.||The paper either rambles for too long or stops abruptly; reader realizes that there is more to be told.|
|Originality||The author used own words; it is clear that the author feels confident. Sources of information were cited and references listed in APA format.||Student relied a bit too much on the words in the sources; author should trust own voice more. Sources were cited and references listed, although the APA format could use some tweaking.||Portions of paper were plagiarized. Sources not cited, references not listed.|
|Overall||This paper is ready to present to target audiences.||This paper could be presented to target audiences, but it would be received better with further editing.|