Social Justice Issues in American History

Part 1: Research Paper

Purpose: The purpose of this portion of the project is for students to complete a research project which combines historical research about a social justice issue in American history with knowledge of its current ramifications.

Knowledge: Students will learn about the historical basis of a social justice issue that exists in the present day.


Through the completion of this project, students will acquire the following skills:

1. Identifying an academic vs. a non-academic source.

2. Locating information contained within academic sources.

3. Composing an original thesis as the basis of your writing assignment.

4. Formatting an essay according to APA format.

5. Writing a research paper to support your thesis.


1. Identify the social justice issue you would like to research.

2. Conduct background research on your issue. This is where you gather more information about your movement, narrow down your focus and choose the sources that you will use for your research. You must use a minimum of 5 academic sources. Examples of academic sources include the following: books, academic journal articles, websites (reputable websites typical end in .org or .edu), newspaper articles, magazine articles, documentary films, and interviews. AS the purpose of this project is to gain experience on college-level academic research, encyclopedia articles should be avoided. Under no circumstances should wiki sources be used (these are not peer reviewed)! If you have questions about whether or not you have chosen an academic source, please consult with the professor.

3. Compose a thesis statement. Make an argument about the social movement you are researching (this should address why the movement is still relevant today).

4. Create an outline for your essay (this does not need to be handed in—it is just a step in the writing process). The outline should begin with an introduction (where you will present your thesis statement). The first section of your essay will discuss the historical background of the social movement you have chosen (3-4 pages). The second section of your essay will discuss current issues related to the social movement (2-3 pages). For the final section of this project, students will write a conclusion reflecting on how their historical research enriched or affected their perspective on the movement they researched and/or discuss any contributions they may have been inspired to make to the address the present issue (1-1 ½ pages).

5. Write your essay. Your essay must have an introduction, a thesis statement and include all three required sections. It must be no fewer than 6 pages in length, with the first section having a minimum length of three pages (including introduction), the second section having a minimum length of two pages, and the final section having a minimum length of one full page. It must also follow APA format and include a cover page and a works cited page (abstract is not necessary and will not be counted as part of the length requirement if included).

Project Resources:

1. Project Rubric







Paper   presents a clear thesis statement in the form of a specific argument;   contains clearly-stated points or arguments supported by evidence; direct   quotations are placed within quotation marks and sources are cited fully;   student consulted a minimum of 5 academic sources

Paper   presents a thesis, but it is general and does not make a specific argument;   supporting evidence is general; sources are cited but paper uses fewer   sources than required (3-4).

Paper does   not have a central thesis; paper uses only one source in the first and second   sections; sources are not cited fully


Grammar and Organization

Paper is   well-organized with an introduction, body and conclusion; paragraphs focus on   a main point expressed in the topic sentence; clearly-stated thesis in the   introductory paragraph;

well-structured   sentences with very few or no grammatical, mechanical or spelling errors

Paper is   generally well-organized although it may be missing a thorough introduction   or conclusion; paragraphs may not relate fully to what is expressed in the   topic sentence; thesis is general or not stated clearly; some grammatical   errors, mechanical or spelling errors.

Paper is   poorly-organized and difficult to follow with no clear introduction or   conclusion; no thesis; many grammatical errors, mechanical and/or spelling   errors.



Paper meets   the full-length requirement; it is double-spaced and formatted with one-inch   margins; uses standard 12pt font; consistently follows APA format.

Paper is ½ to   1 page shorter than length requirement; margins and spacing are slightly   larger than required (for example 12.5 or 13-point font); does not follow APA   format consistently.

Paper is more   than 1 page shorter than the length requirement; does not meet margin nor   spacing specifications (larger margins and/or spacing between sentences); no   specific format followed.

2.  Learning Resources at the MDC library (library databases; research and writing support):

3. Purdue OWL website (APA) page (online format and citation style guides and examples):

4. Instructors office hours: please come see me if you have questions.