Developed by Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.
Dept. of History, Bethany Lutheran College, Spring 2007
Research and Writing
A. Selection of Sources:
- Does the essay draw from at least five* distinct primary sources? (Multiple primary documents reprinted within a single anthology may each count separately toward the required minimum number of primary sources.) [*In special cases, this requirement may be reduced.]
- Does the essay draw from at least ten credible secondary sources written by scholars within an appropriate discipline—at least five books and at least five journal articles?
- Does the essay draw from a total of at least twenty sources (i.e., five additional primary or secondary sources beyond the required minimum of five primary and ten secondary sources)?
- Does the student’s selection of secondary sources demonstrate an awareness of the most recent scholarship on the topic (even if the student nonetheless decides to revive an earlier interpretation of the primary sources)?
B. Analysis of Sources:
- Does the paper directly reference at least five primary sources?
- Has the student analyzed—not merely quoted—the most significant portions of the primary sources employed, and kept block quotations to a minimum (both as to frequency and length)?
- Has the student integrated multiple sources within the same section of the research paper, rather than basing a substantial portion of the research paper on just one source?
- Has the student placed the sources and their subject matter in their respective contexts (historical, literary, philosophical, theological, etc.), using discipline-appropriate methods?
- Has the student demonstrated an awareness of the range of credibility among the claims stated in the sources and exercised an appropriate degree of acceptance or rejection of those claims?
- Has the student intelligently arbitrated among disagreements, whether of fact or of opinion, among various sources?
- Has the student offered original and convincing insights?
C. Thesis Presentation:
- Has the student supported the thesis with compelling reasons that are backed up by credible evidence?
- Has the student fair-mindedly acknowledged competing claims and responded in a manner that adequately defends the thesis?
- Has the student admitted to any background assumptions without which the argument(s) supporting the thesis would be unwarranted?
- Has the student indicated the broader implications that follow from an acceptance of the thesis, particularly in relation to the Christian faith (insofar as it may be relevant)?
D. Clarity of Organization:
- Does the introduction state the thesis clearly (or pose a clear thesis question) and suggest how the thesis will be argued (or explored) in the body?
- Does the body develop the stated thesis in distinct parts that are connected by clear transitions?
- Does the conclusion tie together the main ideas from the body and restate the thesis from the introduction?
E. Quality of Writing:
- Has the student avoided spelling mistakes? If not, are the mistakes attributable to minor oversights, or do they indicate more severe deficiencies in the student’s academic skills?
- Has the student avoided grammatical errors? If not, are the mistakes attributable to minor oversights, or do they indicate more severe deficiencies in the student’s academic skills?
- Has the student composed compelling sentences, avoided clichés, and employed action verbs in the active voice?
- Has the student organized sentences into paragraphs, each of which emphasizes a singular, clear theme?
- Has the student presented the topic in a manner that is relevant and understandable to a broad, college-educated audience?
- Has the student employed quotation marks and citations properly to give credit for all borrowed phrasing? If not, is the degree of plagiarism apparently a minor oversight or a more severe deficiency in the student’s academic responsibility (meriting a failing grade)?
- Has the student employed citations properly to give credit for all borrowed ideas and arguments, and specialized knowledge? If not, is the degree of plagiarism apparently a minor oversight or a more severe deficiency in the student’s academic responsibility?
- Is the essay a product of substantially new research and writing, not borrowing from the student’s previous coursework except in incidental ways (e.g., considerably expanding upon a small portion of a prior paper, revisiting a previously explored topic with a significantly different methodology, or pursuing a thesis that was explored in a preliminary fashion in HI 490: Introduction to Historical Research and Writing)?
- Did the student personally perform all steps involved in the research and writing processes, relying upon others only for advice, peer-evaluation, proofreading assistance, and other forms of routine assistance that promote, rather than compromise, the student’s own efforts?
G. General Specifications:
- Is the essay printed in a 12-point, double-spaced font, on plain white 8.5x11-inch paper, with 1-inch margins, and stapled in the upper left-hand corner?
- Is the essay 20 pages long (in the case of in-text citations) or 25 pages long (in the case of footnotes), excluding the table of contents, bibliography, illustrations, and appendices?
- Does the essay include a title page, table of contents, and bibliography?
- Does the essay fully and accurately document all research sources by conforming to the MLA (for EN 495) or Chicago (for HI 495/LA 495) style manual?
Oral Presentation and Defense
A. General Specifications:
- Has the student distributed a one-page handout to the audience (it can be single-spaced)?
- Is the handout free of errors in spelling and grammar, and does it communicate in a clear format?
- Does the presenter dress professionally, stand with good posture, project his or her voice confidently, while speaking extemporaneously and making regular and sustained eye contact with the audience?
- Does the presenter complete his or her presentation in about 30 minutes (not including audience questions)?
- Does the presenter use visual aids (if appropriate) effectively? 6. Does the presenter proceed at a comfortable pace, with a clear beginning, middle, and end?
B. Presentation of Thesis:
- Do both the handout and the oral presentation state the thesis of the research paper with clarity and precision?
- Does the oral presentation (and possibly the handout) summarize the kinds of sources that were consulted, explain why those sources were selected, and how they were analyzed?
- Do both the handout and the oral presentation identify evidence in favor of the thesis?
- Does the oral presentation (and possibly the handout) fair-mindedly acknowledge competing claims and respond in a manner that adequately defends the thesis?
- Does the oral presentation (and possibly the handout) address broader implications of the student’s project, in relation to his or her undergraduate education and other areas of life?
C. Defense of Thesis (Question/Answer Session):
- Does the presenter demonstrate a clear understanding of his or her thesis when answering questions from the faculty committee and general campus audience?
- Does the presenter appropriately defend or qualify his or her thesis when challenged by questions?