Research Paper Overview

American Identity and Rights Research Paper
7th Grade Humanities 2013
As the new nation developed, Americans faced many challenges, problems
and opportunities. The formation of a dynamic American identity was the result of
the decisions that leaders and ordinary people made as they dealt with new
situations. In this research paper we will learn more about the foundation of that
American identity and the developing nation by studying historical events through
the lens of human rights. In addition, we will analyze those events, keeping in
mind the impact of power and prejudice on the actors in the event(s).
You will choose an event, movement, or historical figure to research and
then analyze to come to a conclusion about the importance of your topic in
American history. These key questions will guide your research, note taking, and
writing: Did the people involved act responsibly? Did they take into account
human rights? Did they follow the ideals set forth in the Declaration of
Independence? How did the event contribute to the developing identity of the
American nation? In terms of the legacy it left for the future? Did the event(s)
negatively or positively affect certain groups of people? Who were the “winners”
and “losers” in the event? (You may choose to focus on ONE of these questions as
you research and write.)
One of the most important research skills you will learn during this process
is how to narrow a topic. The purpose of writing a research paper is to conduct an
in-depth study and analysis of a topic. If your topic is too broad, you will not be
able to ask and thoroughly answer appropriate and significant questions about one
key aspect of your subject. Also, you will probably discover that there is a lot of
information to read, and you may become overwhelmed by the number of sources
you need to sort through. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow you may
not be able to find enough information. You could become frustrated with your
efforts to uncover a variety of viewpoints and to produce enough to say about your
The key focus of this paper is your position and argument. This means that
you have to gather evidence that will support your points. In gathering evidence,
you might find contradicting opinions. You will have to evaluate the opinions,
consider the point of view of the author, and come to your own judgment.
Whenever possible, you should try to use primary sources that you can interpret
Once you have your research topic, you should spend some time conducting
general research to learn basic facts about the people and events involved. As you
conduct this background research, keep an eye out for how your event helped
shape the factors involved in American identity and arguments you might like to
make about that connection. You can use the various texts from class this year,
Facts on File, online encyclopedias, and the resources of the middle school library
(especially in the reference section!) to begin finding information about your topic.
If you are having trouble narrowing your topic, see your teacher for help.
Writing a research paper is a valuable process that will help you to bring
together all of the different skills that we have worked on this year. Do not be
afraid to ask questions and to put in the time and effort to make your paper
Good Luck!