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Learning Objectives:

1. Learn how to write a 750-1,500 word essay based on primary and secondary sources

2. Learn how to make an argument and support it with evidence

3. Learn how to organize and clearly state an argument and the evidence supporting it

4. Learn how to explain the causes and effects of historical events


1. Pick one of the following two essay options (a or b)

a. In what ways did American foreign policy change from the Spanish American War, to World War I, to World War II? To what degree did these overseas wars affect social relations and politics on the home front in the United States?

b. What were the experiences of Americans during the Great Depression? Compare the policy responses of the Hoover Administration and the Roosevelt Administration to the Great Depression.

2. Write an argument-driven essay supported by primary and secondary source evidence, with citations, that responds to and fully answers your essay prompt.

3. Your essay must be able to be understood by a reader unfamiliar with American history.

4. Your essay must be written in complete sentences and organized into paragraphs. Remember: paragraphs require a minimum of three sentences.

5. Your essay must be between 750 words and 1,500 words, excluding the works cited section (see below). These word limits will be strictly enforced.

6. Your opening paragraph must briefly state your topic, your sources, and your main argument (thesis) in the paper.

7. The rest of your paper needs to include specific examples, with citations, that support your main argument, and must be organized into paragraphs devoted to particular themes.

8. You must cite nine different sources from the syllabus in your paper:

a. three different pre-recorded lectures – e.g. (Lecture 15, Slide 6) or (Lecture 15, Minute 10).

b. three different eTextbook chapters – e.g. (eTextbook, Chapter 25, p.508) or (eTextbook, Chapter 21, p.508-510).

c. three different primary sources from discussion section – e.g. (Reader, Chapter 5, Source 1, p.137). These three different primary sources may be from the same assigned chapter.

9. Do not use footnotes or endnotes. Instead use internal parenthetical citations (at least nine different ones as specified above, using the format above). Here is an example of how to do so: …In her published work, United States Atrocities (1892), Ida B. Wells argued that “There is little difference between the Ante-bellum South and the New South” (Reader, Chapter 1, Source 1, p.15).

10. Your paper must include a Works cited section at the end, where you list the full citation for the sources you cited. Copy and paste the citations below into your Work Cited section:

eTextbook: James West Davidson et al, U.S.: A Narrative History, Vol. 2: since 1865, 8th ed. (McGraw Hill, 2018)

Lecture: James A. Schafer, Jr., HIST 1379-20, “The United States Since 1877,” University of Houston, Fall 2020 semester.

Reader: William Bruce Wheeler and Lorri Glover, Discovering the American Past: A Look at the Evidence, Vol. 2: since 1865, 8th ed. (Wadsworth Cengage, 2016)

11. Your paper needs a concluding paragraph in which you restate the findings of your paper.


When grading your paper, your teaching assistant will evaluate whether you followed the instructions 1-11 listed above. There is not a formula (rubric) for assigning value to each instruction. Papers that follow the instructions and do a good job in meeting the requirements outlined in the instructions above will receive better grades. Those that do not will receive lower grades. Poor performance in some instruction requirements may eclipse good performance in other instruction requirements. For example, if a paper is poorly-written (3, 4), poorly-organized (4, 6, 7, 11), poorly-argued (2, 6, 7), and poorly-supported by evidence (7, 8, 9), it won’t matter that much whether the works cited section is included and formatted properly (10). In addition to comments in the margins of your papers, your teaching assistant will include a brief summary comment at the end of the paper, directing your attention to particular numbered instruction requirements above that need more improvement for your next paper.

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