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Produce an approximately 750 word essay (the word count excludes the Notes and Bibliography) about your findings from researching a topic of your own creation.

The Topic

First, create a research question about a very narrow topic that falls within the parameters of the course.

One method of achieving analysis is to have the essay revolve around a single question. Devise a working topic using a helpful phrase like, “Why did…?” “What was the role of…?” “What was the effect of…?” “What caused…?” “For what reasons did…?” This question can also be an effective guide in the conduct of your research. The question should be clear and narrowly focused. Over the course of your research, it is possible that your question will be refined somewhat. This “new” version of your question can become the core of what your essay seeks to explore.

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Here are a very few examples of questions one might devise as essay topics, intended to give you some sense of the scope and focus I have in mind for a research question. No, you may not take these questions for yourself!:

Did women’s status change or remain unchanged as a result of Communist policy? What role did Lin Zexu play in the origins of the Opium War?
What impact did the May Fourth Movement have?
What did participants in the Tiananmen Square protest want?

Why was Shandong Province awarded to Japan by Versailles?
What role did Zhou Enlai play in the Cultural Revolution?
What was the impact of Republican economic policies in urban China?

Political, Social, Military, Cultural, Intellectual, Environmental, Gender, Technological, Biographical or Material History–to name a few–are all fair game!

An “Historiographical” topic is viable; here you would directly investigate the way(s) in which an historian or historians has/have interpreted the past.

The Schoppa text is a rich source of individual topics.

Think about what you genuinely want to know about this period. This can lead you into the position of truly being a “researcher”–one who is seeking to “find out.”


The Research

Then, consult a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 6 sources for your research. These sources are:

  • 2 or 3 relevant specialized, scholarly, secondary sources. If you’re unsure about what a

secondary source is, then you’ll have to look into that. Some books and journal articles, for example, will fill the bill. Some websites might be suitable, but they must have the hallmarks of scholarly, peer-reviewed work.

  • 2 or 3 primary sources (document or image). If you’re unsure about what a primary source is, then you’ll have to look into that.

None of the following are appropriate major sources for an academic essay: an encyclopedia, a course textbook, instructor’s lectures, (many) internet sites.

The Essay

Then, prepare an essay of approximately 750 words that presents your research findings/answers your question, and that includes citation of your source(s). Your short essay must be structured and written in such a way that you present a focused, coherent, logically organized, and evidence-based discussion. Your findings should also reflect the fact that most things in history are interpretive (on the basis of evidence) and highly debated. In other words, reporting that “Qing administrators were highly conservative” isn’t necessarily wrong, because many historians argue that. But others argue otherwise, so you’ll need to somehow suggest, in the limited time you have, that your statement is an interpretive one, not an absolute fact.

Your aim is for the essay to appear as a scholarly/academic undergraduate history essay. Some of the hallmarks of academic essays are described in the “Submission Criteria for the Essay,” found below. Perhaps these samples of academic history essays will also help:

History 240 Spring 2019 Course Work Instructions




  • (note that this example

does not contain the required title page or Bibliography)

Essay Documentation

Your essay must use Endnotes or Footnotes for any sources that you quote from, or that you draw from extensively in the form of paraphrasing.

Produce a Bibliography – a list of sources consulted in the research for your essay — that conforms to the standards of the Chicago Manual of Style Documentary-Note/Humanities style.

Documentation (the citation of your sources in the form of Footnotes or Endnotes, and a Bibliography) must follow The Chicago Manual of Style’s Notes and Bibliography System. See “Some Information about Documenting Sources” in the D2L Assignment Instructions Module.

Submission Criteria for the Essay: Read Carefully

  • Essay style must follow The Chicago Manual of Style’s Notes and Bibliography System (See “Some Information about Documenting Sources” in the D2L Assignment Instructions Module, or follow those same instructions above).
  • Do not include a Table of Contents or essay outline. Do not divide the essay with topic headings.
  • Think of an interesting, but informative, title.
  • Footnotes may appear at the bottom of each page, or as endnotes on a separate sheet(s) of

paper immediately following the body of the essay.

  • A “Bibliography” is required. This is a list of all works consulted.
  • A history essay should avoid use of the first person “I.”
  • A history essay is in most instances best written in the simple past tense.
  • Make a copy of your finished work (whether electronic, hard copy, or both), to insure against


  • The assignment is to be submitted to the relevant course D2L “Assignments” Submissions

Folder in .doc, .docx or .pdf format. See “How to Submit your Essay to the D2L Assignments

Folder” at the D2L course site, in “Assignments and Examination: Instructions”

  • All components of the Essay (title page, body, references) should be contained in a single


  • Written assignments are accepted before their due dates.
  • Do not submit work that is not paginated or is mis-paginated.

Grading Criteria for the Essay

presentation (neatness, correct format) documentation (bibliography and notes) style (grammar, spelling, organization…)
research quality
content (a coherent discussion relevant to the question you pose, effectively supported by credible, relevant and adequate evidence)

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