I.H.S. History of the Americas Independent Investigation / IB Historiography -- Spring, 2010

The Topic:

For this investigation, you may select a topic which deals with any aspect of history in the Americas. After preliminary research, you will need to narrow your focus for study. Consult your textbook, the Internet, encyclopedias, or other materials for possible topics. There are many aspects of History of the Americas that we will not be covering in depth in class this year, so you may want to choose an area or topic that interests you but won't be covered in this class (e.g. music, sports, art, prohibition, fashion, immigration policy, literature, films, Dust Bowl, Cold War, McCarthyism, the Cuban Revolution, the 1960s, Nixon, US intervention in Central America, the Zapatista movement, etc.). Note: IB students should consider selecting a topic that will be on the IB exam, and should check with me before finalizing your topic.

The Assignment:

After selecting his/her focus for research, the student must create a topic question that calls for historical analysis. In addition to a standard historical inquiry based on primary and secondary documents, this can include a cross-curricular exercise (for example, a work of art or literature examined in an historical context), an oral history survey or exercise (including personal interviews), or an historiographical exercise (the examination of different interpretations of historical events). Here are some additional examples:

A historical topic or theme using written sources

A historical topic based on fieldwork; for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, churches, etc.

A historical problem using documents

A local history project

A history project based on oral interviews

A historical investigation based on interpreting a novel, film, or piece of art

Please note: The format of the independent investigations is not a traditional "essay". Instead, you will need to divide your paper into the following components, with a separate heading for each (you will be able to see some sample papers with the proper format).

(100-150 words) 1. Investigation Plan. The plan should include the subject of the investigation, which may be formulated as a question, and the methods to be used in the investigation.


(500-650 words) 2. Summary of evidence. The summary of evidence should indicate what you have discovered from the sources you use. It can be in the form of either a list or continuous prose. Any illustrations, documents, or other relevant evidence should be included in an appendix and will not be included in the word count. This is not your thinking/ideas, but rather a collection of facts and evidence about your topic. Be sure to cite your sources and use parenthetical referencing as appropriate.


(250-400 words) 3. Evaluation of sources. This section of the written account should be a critical evaluation of two important, quality sources that are central to the investigation and should refer to their origin, purpose, value, and limitation.


4. Annotated list of sources. An MLA-style annotated list of works consulted must be included (although this will not form part of the word count). You will need to follow the MLA style guide for proper format, including citations, parenthetical referencing, and the Works Cited page.


**Note for IB students: This project is the basis for the senior "internal assessment" component of the History IB requirements. All IB candidates should check with me before proceeding with your topic.***

Assessment Criteria:

All studies must have a historical question that will allow for a thesis that can be developed and supported. The summary of evidence must demonstrate that you have done extensive historical research, and you need to use a variety of scholarly sources. Particular attention should be given to the evaluation of your sources (focusing thoroughly on two good sources). Referencing should be made properly -- see below.


All projects will include a written bibliography of print, non-print and Internet sources for all information used in your investigation. Sources not directly referred to in the paper should not be included. You must cite a minimum of five (5) sources, including at least 2 print sources (note: IB candidates should have 7 - 10 sources). You will need to include appropriate parenthetical referencing, used consistently, according to standard MLA format.

The annotated Works Cited section must follow appropriate MLA guidelines.

*The direct use of another scholar's words or ideas, either written or oral, must be acknowledged. If you do not comply with this requirement, this will be viewed as plagiarism and will therefore warrant a failure on the project.

Papers, or any parts of papers, that are downloaded from the internet or taken from other students will also warrant a failure on this assignment.

Note: All papers will be submitted electronically to Turnitin.com. The contents of your paper will be analyzed, and any instances of plagiarism will be indicated.

Here are some examples of possible formats for your investigation:

Example #1. An investigation of an event represented in newspaper reports: How did newspaper reports on the death of John F. Kennedy vary, and how reliable were they?

--Plan of investigation. To show how the reports of Kennedy's assassination reflected the impact of the event on America. To demonstrate how reporting changed with the passage of time.

--Summary of evidence. Sections on Kennedy and on assassination. Immediate reactions of the press. Subsequent press reports.

--Evaluation of sources. Evaluation of major newspapers, such as in the Washington Post and The Times (London). Either compare contemporary accounts or show how treatment of Kennedy's assassination changed over time in one newspaper.

Example #2. An investigation comparing a film and a written account of a historical event: How and why did the accounts of Emiliano Zapata differ in the 1952 Elia Kazan film Viva Zapata!, and in the book, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, by John Womack?

--Plan of the investigation. To study the film Viva Zapata and compare it with a historical study of Zapata.

--Summary of evidence. Film footage: year and director, symbols used. Discuss details of evidence, discussion of significance.

--Evaluation of sources. Film: functions as creating a revolutionary myth. Historical focus of book.

Example #3. An investigation into local history: How, when and why was the Timberline Lodge built and what can be learned from it about the area in the 1930s?

--Plan of the investigation. To establish how, when, and why the Lodge was built, its contributions to the area, and what can be learned from it about the life of the workers.

--Summary of evidence. Building methods, style, architecture, chronology, origin and changes, motives, demographics, social implications.

--Evaluation of sources. Building and artifacts, characteristics. Written sources, eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, local records.

Due Dates:

**February 18 / 19 (20 points)

Word-Processed Plan of the Investigation. This should be a complete paragraph between 100 - 150 words in length, and should be in the same format as the sample Investigation Plans. You should include the following:

a. Area and focus of the study (the subject of the


b. The specific question to be answered (write this in the form

of a question)

c. Resources and methods that you intend to use. You need to

include the two specific sources that you have located and

plan to use for the evaluation of sources section.


** April 1 / 2 (80 points)

Final Investigation Work. Word-processed papers are due, and all papers must be submitted to Turnitin.com before they are turned in.

** This assignment will count as 10% of your semester grade**


(late work reduced 20% per day)