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HIST 2217: Britain and Empire Since 1800

Assignment Information

HI 217

Assignment Reminders

  • Completeness of your factual content.  Did you mine all of the readings for relevant data? 
  • Coherency of your explanations.   Do you make logical CONNECTIONS between the facts you present, whether they are part of a cause-effect chain or part of a comparison?  Do all of the facts you include actually help to answer the assignment question, or are you including irrelevant information? 
  • Paper organization.   Do you state your theme (conclusions) up front in the opening paragraph?   Do you keep your theme in view throughout the paper by reminding us often of what it is you are trying to prove with your facts?  Is each of your paragraphs orgnized around a single theme or topic, with an introduction and conclusion?  
  • Clarity of your writing.  Is your writing free of incorrect diction, unclear phrasing, misspellings, and grammar errors? See the error sheet (class handout). Whenever you use information from a published source, do you CITE that source? 

Class Assignment

HI 217 Library Research Project

1. Find FOUR sources that deal in some detail (at least two pages of text) with your topic. 

  • At least one of your sources must be a periodical article;
  • the other three may be either books or periodical articles.
  • Sources may be primary or secondary.
  • No Wikipedia or other encyclopedia articles will be accepted.

2. Photocopy the relevant pages from the articles and books that you have found.  Also photocopy the title pages, prefaces, and any other information about the author. 

3. Compare the four xeroxes with each other and explain in an essay:

  • How the sources differ in what they INCLUDE and LEAVE OUT.  Show us, in other words, the basic facts and ideas that each source shares with the other sources, and facts and ideas (if any) that are unique to each source or that it shares with only one or two of the others.
  • How the sources differ (if they do) in their WRITING STYLE (choice of words, use of language).  Can you detect a perspective in the tone of the writing?
  • Whether there are any distinct perspectives or biases shown in any of the sources, conveyed through the abovementioned inclusion patterns and writing styles.
  • Possible differences of perspective (culture, nationality, sex, and race of author, the time period in which the author was/is writing, or the author's fields of academic interest) that might account for each of these perspectives or biases.



1. Be creative with your keyword searches!     

As you research, remember that your topic can be included under many different subject headings and titles.  DO NOT EXPECT TO FIND FOUR SOURCES WHOSE TITLES PRECISELY DESCRIBE YOUR TOPIC!  Look, for example, at the titles of your course texts; Red, White, and Black does not tell you much about the specific topics with which that book deals.  Look at the INDEXES, TABLES OF CONTENTS, BIBLIOGRAPHIES, and REFERENCE NOTES of any book or article whose title is even remotely related to your topic.   If, for example, your topic is the trial of Anne Hutchinson in 1637, you might find information not simply in a political history of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony, but in a women’s history text or an anthology of American women’s writings, or in biographies of the key players in this case such as Governor John Winthrop, the minister John Cotton, or Anne Hutchinson herself.   

2. Try multiple sources to find author information.

In seeking information on the authors and their backgrounds, look at the beginning of the book or article for prefaces, introductions, and so on.  If there is no information on the author there, look on the Web, and for hardcopy reference works on modern scholars, such as the Dictionary of American Scholars.  Also check the Web and library catalogues (the British Library Catalogue is excellent) to see what other books the author has published, besides the one you are using.  This will help you to discover the author’s area(s) of expertise and interest.

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