Weird Beliefs
January 15, 2021
While teachers are always expected to be professional and uphold professional standards of practice, they also have to make decisions that sometimes do not have a clear response. In these situations,
January 15, 2021
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Apply the following notes to the uploaded assignment. Also requesting a overall grammar review.

1.  Do not include an abstract, table of contents, or section headings. 

You should introduce your paper with a paragraph no longer than a page that clearly communicates your position on the general question and summarizes the evidence and arguments that you will offer in support of that position. 

In the next 6-8 pages you will present your findings and analysis.  As I stated in the initial description of the project, the general question of your paper will be whether the policies implemented by the Soviet government in the 1930s made the country stronger or weaker, but I want you to focus in on a particular line of argument.  For example, you could center your paper on one of the four topics we addressed in the project sections.  Or, you might identify a different unifying theme, such as the role or state of the military.  I am not looking for a particular answer in your papers, but let me advise that you avoid wasting too many words analyzing Stalin’s psyche or moral failings.  To the extent you discuss Stalin personally, your emphasis should be on the details of the policies his government implemented and the effects of these policies, as can be verified by reliable sources.  A paper that consists primarily of calling Stalin paranoid or brutal, and little more, will not be very successful.

Your exposition should be composed in well organized, logically sequenced paragraphs.  Shifts to a new sub-topic, source base, or line of argument should be clearly denoted with transitional phrases.  One of the reasons that I assigned journal articles was for you to see how scholars balance analysis and evidence in their writing.

You should end your paper with a conclusion of no longer than a page that restates your general position and summarizes the analysis that you have presented, perhaps signaling what you consider to be the strongest evidence for your position.

In the short papers I asked you to read and analyze articles from peer reviewed journals.  Perhaps you have found these sources challenging and think that I have been too critical in my comments but I want you to realize that these are sophisticated sources befitting an advanced level history class.

I hope that in reading them you were able to distinguish them from the general sources and encyclopedic entries that you encounter.  It is not as if these general sources are without value, but the peer review process gives scholarly articles a degree of rigor missing in lesser sources.  Before publication, each article is reviewed anonymously by (usually) three subject matter experts who validate that the author does not misrepresent the historical record and sufficiently documents his/her assertions, even if they disagree with the author’s conclusions.  In discussions and in papers I have sometimes taken you to task about statements like, “most historians agree,” which we encounter often in general sources.  When you see a statement like that in a scholarly article, you can be pretty sure that this is a reliable representation of the state of the field, as opposed to a general source, where a history buff might be trying to hide the fact that s/he has no evidence to support a particular assertion.

In your final paper you should cite your sources using endnotes as well as attaching a bibliography of all sources you consulted for the paper, whether or not you cite them in the paper.  Both should be formatted using Chicago Style Citations.  Of particular note, your endnotes should indicate the specific page(s) in the source that you are citing.

In your papers, I want you to be comprehensive in sourcing your information.  This is especially important in studying Soviet history because a lot of fundamental facts are contested.  With regard to citing your sources, please compare the following to examples.

  • By 1939, Stalin had eliminated all potential rivals from the Central Committee.1
  • “By 1939, Stalin had eliminated all potential rivals from the Central Committee.”1

These two hypothetical citations do not indicate the same thing.  In the first example, you are signaling to the reader that you are presenting an idea or assertion found in the cited source that you have rendered it into your own words.  In the second example, you are telling the reader that this is a verbatim quotation from the cited source.  Do not confuse these.  Punctuate and annotate quotations properly.

I have asked you to write a paper 8-10 pages in length.  This is not particularly long for a capstone work in an upper level history class.  I will be interested in your ability to read, analyze, and synthesize your sources, not to reproduce them.  I am not going to set an arbitrary limit on the number of quotations you can insert or the percentage of the total words that can be quoted, but let me suggest that if your paper includes a lot of quoted text that your total page length should be closer to 10 pages than to 8. 


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