Your final history project allows you to demonstrate your critical thinking skills, analytical reasoning and your interest in American media history. You will be doing an outline for a scholarly paper, but not the actual paper itself. You will be developing an idea for a paper and undertaking basic research.
It’s important in research that you pick a topic that you really want to learn something about. If you were truly undertaking every aspect of the research, you’d spend a lot of time reading articles, using primary sources, etc.
First, you are to pick a form of mass media: newspapers, magazines, film, radio, television, motion pictures, advertising, public relations, music or internet.
Second, you are to pick an ISSUE that is historic and VERY NARROW:
Examples (these are only examples, not what you have to choose):
1. How and when advertising developed the concept of sex appeal.
2. How and why the U.S. Forest Service developed the iconic character of Smokey the Bear.
3. How and why World War II advertising posters encouraged women to get jobs in war production factories.
4. How abolitionist speech was stopped by legal and extra-legal means during the antebellum era. Or, you could examine ONE specific example of violence toward abolitionists.
5. The technological race to develop a workable television set.
6. How Hispanic newspapers in the Southwest lobbied for equal education for children.
7. How American newspapers covered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Once you have discovered an ISSUE that is VERY NARROW that interests you and a form of mass media, you then will get online with the America: History and Life database at the NMSU library to see if anyone has written about the topic. Just because someone has looked at a topic does not mean that there isn’t a different angle you can take on the subject. Historians always have to do this background research to see what books and scholarly articles have been produced on a topic already.
To do so, go to the main NMSU library page. Click on databases. Go to America: History and Life. This is the main database for American history. You then are to perform a keyword search for your topic: i.e., newspaper coverage Hiroshima or Oscar Micheaux and Black film. NOTE: You may have to use several different keywords to find your topic or to locate all that has been written.
You are then to literally make a list of the scholarly journal articles on the topic. You are to produce a one-paragraph explanation of what each article is about. There is a blurb (i.e., abstract) about each article if you click on the link. You can rewrite this as a short paragraph. So, provide the author’s name, full title of article, what journal it appeared in, volume number, issue number, date and pages. Then, space down a space and provide the abstract. Then go down a space and begin again with the second article.
Provide up to 10 scholarly journal article sources. There may not be ten. Or, there may be dozens. If there are a lot, pick the most relevant.
You then are to go to Amazon.com to see what BOOKS have been written about your topic. Again, use a keyword search of different terms.
You then are to do the same: list up to 10 books on the topic (or closely related area for background research) and a one paragraph abstract of what the book is about.
Remember, you also will need to do research on related areas: i. e., if you are examining something with media during the civil rights era, you also will need to cite the most relevant books and journal articles on civil rights to provide background on the topic.
The next step: You may actually want to make this your first step–Are the primary sources available: newspapers, photographs, the actual tv shows or radio shows, trial records and court cases for legal history, advertisements, letters, diaries and other primary sources. The Library of Congress has many of these records as do other university libraries and private research libraries throughout the nation.
Your final two steps: Write two to four solid, detailed paragraphs explaining what your research is to be about. Imagine that you are actually going to write this paper. Discuss why it is important. What contribution will your research make to our knowledge of the subject? Although you won’t know what your findings will be unless you undertake the actual research (and you could find some surprising things), you should give a list of up to four questions that you wish to study and that you believe you can answer by examining both your primary and secondary sources.
Create subheads for each section of this “paper proposal.”
Again, you must proofread everything and have proper grammar, spelling and punctuation throughout. Write formally.
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