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Competing Viewpoints Paper Guidelines

As historians, we are constantly engaged in an ongoing intellectual conversation stretching back generations. The purpose of this assignment is for you to enter this conversation by reading, analyzing, and critiquing the arguments presented by historians with differing positions on an important topic or theme. Each chapter in Major Problems in the Early Repubilc contains such essays, and each student is to select one SET of essays listed in the syllabus and write a short paper summarizing, analyzing, and evaluating their arguments. For some tips on reading historical scholarship and writing analytical reviews, see the relevant handouts posted in the Writing Resources folder on our class Blackboard site.

Task: In a well-organized, thesis-driven paper of 4-6 pages, students will:

  • briefly summarize the central argument of each piece
  • discuss the methods or sources used by the authors
  • explain how the pieces relate to each other and to other shared readings from the course
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each piece
  • Do you agree or disagree strongly with one author? Why?


  • All papers should have an introduction and conclusion that clearly state the paper’s central ARGUMENT – in other words, you should explain here what YOU are saying about the essays, their arguments, and their significance. Summarizing their arguments or the topics they cover is not sufficient. YOU need make a claim about the scholarship, and support that claim with evidence from the texts.
  • Papers should have a single-spaced heading that includes the student’s name, course number, and date, followed by the paper title. A separate title page is not necessary. All pages should be numbered.
  • Standard formatting rules apply – 12 pt. font, Times New Roman or other standard font, 1” margins, double-spaced.
  • All sources MUST be cited with Chicago Style footnotes (see Chicago Style Citation handout on Blackboard)


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