Research Essay Project

Final Project

Research Essay Project

Introduction

Instead of a final exam, you will complete a major research essay project. The research essay project is a mandatory component of the course; you must pass the research essay project to be eligible to pass the course.

The research essay will be based on the following broad topic:

  • The role of energy in North American history

Within this broad topic, you will select your own historical case-study subject that addresses the role of energy in North American history. The research essay should be based on both primary and secondary source research. In consultation with your Open Learning Faculty Member, you will choose a case-study subject and submit a proposal for your research essay project.

  • Proposal: 5% of final grade
  • Research essay: 35% of final grade

Instructions

It will be helpful for you to read through this full set of instructions for the research essay project at the beginning of the course to familiarize yourself with the expectations. Also, it’s not too early to start thinking about a particular subject area of interest that you might want to work on for this project. Be sure to consult with your Open Learning Faculty Member.

Introductory reading

Begin by reading the first chapter of Richard White’s 1995 book, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. In this book, White analyzes the history of the Columbia River as a system of energy flows between the river, salmon, and the human inhabitants of the Columbia watershed.

This first chapter will provide you with a methodology for framing your own case study on the role of energy in North American history.

As you read this chapter, make notes and answer the following questions:

  1. How does White define energy?
  2. How widely or narrowly will you define energy in your own essay?

You may also want to share your thoughts and ideas about this reading with your peers through the course’s online “Discussions.”

White, Richard. The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York: Hill & Wang, 1995. Chapter One “Knowing Nature through Labor: Energy, Salmon Society on the Columbia” pgs. 3–29.

Choose a historical case-study subject

Because this assignment will be based, in part, on primary source research, you are encouraged to begin by searching for a primary source or set of primary sources on a specific historical case-study subject that addresses the topic of the role of energy in North American history.

Seek out specific case-studies that relate to a particular subject area of interest. For instance, if you are interested in oil and gas development, you might want to write a research essay on an aspect of the history of tar sands mining in northern Alberta. If you are interested in urban environments, you might want to write about nineteenth-century scavengers in a particular city.

Remember to select a case study that explores the environmental history of a given subject. Be sure to consult with your Open Learning Faculty Member about your preliminary ideas when you are selecting a case study.

Additional ideas for subject areas of research

The following list provides further ideas for subject areas of research that you might explore for the role of energy in North American history:

  • Hydro-electric development
  • Oil and gas consumption
  • Cities
  • Agriculture
  • Rivers
  • Forestry
  • Nuclear power
  • Colonization and resettlement
  • Fisheries
  • Irrigation
  • Transportation
  • Conservation
  • Government policy
  • Environmental activism

Planning and Developing the Research Essay

The research essay should be between 14 and 15 pages in length, formatted using standard (Times New Roman) 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.

As you work on this project, be sure to remember that you need to develop a clear thesis or argument for this essay. The essay should be argument driven rather than be a descriptive summary. Keep a consistent set of notes as you read through your sources and other course material to help generate ideas.

Once you have selected a historical case-study subject for your research essay, begin secondary source research to learn more about your subject. Secondary sources, including books and journal articles, will provide you with historical context and give you a sense of what other historians have written about your subject.

Based on your initial primary and secondary source research, consolidate your ideas into a proposal for the research essay.

Write a Proposal

Prepare a 1-page written proposal with a bibliography. The bibliography should include a minimum of 1 primary source and 5 secondary sources.

Write your proposal using clear and unified paragraphs. Provide proper footnote citations and a properly formatted bibliography (Chicago/Turabian Style footnotes preferred).

Note

Include the following components in your proposal:

  • A working title
  • A working thesis statement
  • Information about your historical case-study subject
  • A brief plan for future research for completion of the essay

Criteria for Evaluating the Research Essay

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the research essay project.

Proposal

The proposal is marked out of 10 marks and is worth 5% of your final grade in the course.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the proposal portion of the project.

Substance (7 marks)

  • The proposal provides a clear working thesis.
  • The proposal clearly outlines a manageable historical case-study subject.
  • The bibliography identifies a minimum of 1 primary source and 5 secondary sources.

Writing Style and Format (3 marks)

  • Paragraphs are unified, developed, and coherent, with transitions between ideas.
  • Sentences are grammatically correct; words are chosen for accuracy and impact.
  • The writing follows the conventions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Format follows proper footnote citations and provides a properly formatted bibliography (Chicago Style footnotes preferred).
  • Writing about historical places, persons, and events is in the past tense.

Research Essay

The final research essay is marked out of 100 marks and is worth 35% of your final grade in the course.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the final research essay:

Substance (75 marks)

  • The essay provides evidence of critical thinking and analysis as well as synthesis of researched information throughout and presents a logical and persuasive argument.
  • Research sources are relevant and credible and are clearly documented in the paper.
  • The essay provides evidence of one or more primary sources.
  • The essay provides evidence of adequate secondary source research (uses 10 or more secondary sources, including books and journal articles).
  • The introduction offers a sense of direction for the paper and presents a clear thesis statement to the reader.
  • The body develops the necessary aspects of the main idea and provides examples, support, or illustration for each aspect of the main idea.
  • The conclusion summarizes the main points and ties them to the thesis; it also presents an impact statement and/or suggests direction for future research.

Writing Style and Format (25 marks)

  • Paragraphs are unified, developed, and coherent, with transitions between ideas.
  • Sentences are grammatically correct; words are chosen for accuracy and impact.
  • The writing follows the conventions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Format follows proper footnote citations and provides a properly formatted bibliography (Chicago Style footnotes preferred).
  • Writing about historical places, persons, and events is in the past tense.

80% and above:

A first-class essay (A+/A/A–) exhibits excellence in style, demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the material, and provides evidence of critical thinking and analysis as well as synthesis of well-researched information throughout. It shows originality and insightfulness, and is written in clear, fluent, and technically correct prose. References are properly and consistently cited and recorded using Chicago (Turabian) Style.

70–79%:

A second-class paper (B+/B/B–) represents solid, above-average competence and achievement. In an essay of this quality, the ideas are sound, convincingly substantiated, and show some originality; in an otherwise strong discussion, expression might be inconsistent, incomplete in the use of evidence, or display minor weaknesses in style.

60–69%:

A paper at this level (C+/C/C–) is of average competence and demonstrates a satisfactory but incomplete grasp of the research material; ideas might not be fully developed or might tend toward vagueness, or the argument might exhibit problems in expression, organization, style, or mechanics.

50–59%:

A paper at this level (D range) indicates a weak or barely adequate understanding and use of the research material; organization and substantiation of argument might be deficient, or the discussion might be flawed by basic writing errors or problems in expression. A grade at this level warns that more energy and effort are needed.

Below 50%:

A grade at this level is a fail and indicates that the essay is unsatisfactory either in content or expression (or both) and that it does not demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of the material.

 

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