HIST 389: Arab Gulf Cities
Research Paper Guidelines
Due Date: WEDNESDAY, 16 JANUARY 2012
Papers handed in late will automatically drop one full letter grade (e.g. from a B to a C) for each calendar day that it is late. Those more than a week late will not be accepted and will receive an automatic F.
Word Count: 8-12 pages (2,500-3,500 words)
To demonstrate your ability to develop a clear and focused argument/thesis, to conduct in-depth research, and to think critically and write analytically about one of the topics discussed in this class.
Your paper should address the ways in which Gulf cities have evolved over time, by focusing on one particular topic that we have covered in this course. Your analysis should deal with changes to the physical form of the city as well as the social and political dynamics that have shaped, and have been shaped by, the urban landscape. Your essays should relate to multiple Gulf cities rather than simply using examples from one city.
Sample topics include: the transformation of women’s experiences in relation to the city; the changing dynamics of immigration and integration in Gulf cities before and after oil; neighbourhood life before and after oil; etc. The aim is to see that you are thinking about the different themes we have discussed in class from a historical perspective: identifying areas of change as well as signs of continuity between past and present.
Your topic will be decided upon based on individual discussions with me, but you will be expected to formulate your own specific thesis. This is a thesis-driven research paper. This is not a report assignment. You must present a thesis or main argument that pertains to your general topic. The subject of a paper may be very general, but your thesis should be very specific, so make sure you choose a topic that will allow you to formulate and prove a well-arguable thesis. More information on developing a thesis will be provided below.
This is a research-based paper, and you should therefore choose a topic that will permit you to utilize an array of research materials to support your thesis (i.e. books, journal articles, etc.). The use of primary sources is not required for this paper. Your paper should be based on a minimum of five relevant sources.
Your first point of reference for sources should be this course’s bibliography. However, you will be expected to supplement these with additional sources that are specifically relevant to your topic. You should use the AUK library to find materials. You should definitely explore online journal databases such as JSTOR and Ebsco as these hold many articles on the Gulf that may be of use to you. To get to the available online resources available at AUK, visit the library section of the AUK website and click on the “Online Resources” link under the “Catalog and Resources” option.
Introduction: In your introduction you must present your main topic and thesis. A thesis is an argument about a particular subject that you will then defend and prove in the body of your paper through an analysis of your sources. A thesis must be arguable—that is, it must be a claim that can either be defended or refuted. A thesis statement should not simply be a reiteration of a known fact or event. Rather, a thesis should stem from a general research question that your paper seeks to address.
For example, the main subject of your paper might be on neighbourhood life before and after oil. Your research question might be “To what extent did neighbourhood life in the Gulf change as a result of oil?” You must then formulate a thesis that can analytically address this question. The following sentence is not a thesis statement: “People before oil lived in small firjan of courtyard houses, whereas after oil they moved to large villas in new suburban neighborhoods.” Such a statement is indisputable, and is not an arguable claim. It is a fact. What would follow such a statement would be nothing more than a narrative report.
In contrast, both of the following statements could be presented as possible theses about this same subject. 1) “The urban layout of the pre-oil firjan was more conducive to the formation of community relations than the new villas of the oil era.” 2) “Whereas the layout of pre-oil neighborhoods reflect the dynamics of ‘autonomous’ growth in the Gulf before oil, the new suburbs created after 1950 were completely alien to the social needs and desires of the cities’ inhabitants.”
Both of these statements are examples of a thesis that can be argued based on the available evidence. There is no “right” or “wrong” thesis statement, as long as you can organize your arguments convincingly and back up your claim with strong evidence from your sources.
Your paper should be based on arguments backed up with evidence, NOT on your own personal opinions. Leave yourself, your beliefs, and value judgements out of your discussion.
Body: In the body of your paper you will formulate an analysis of your sources and organize your arguments for the purposes of establishing or supporting your thesis claim. Your thesis can only be established through the use of relevant evidence and well-organized, logical arguments.
Since this is a thesis-driven paper and not simply a report, you must present your main points as arguments based on the evidence supported by your sources. The body of your paper should not simply be a narrative describing something. Rather, you must present “facts”—different pieces of historical evidence obtained from your sources—and then make inferences or conclusions from those facts that help support your thesis. If you are familiar with the arguments of other writers that either corroborate or refute your thesis claim, you should acknowledge and discuss them in your paper. Authors of academic papers must show their readers that they are familiar with the different works that have been published on the same topic, even those that might disagree with the arguments currently being made.
Organize your arguments logically and coherently to support or defend your thesis. Each main thought or point should be written out in a separate topic paragraph. Your ideas/arguments should build on one another as you make your case, and should be concise, clear, and carefully arranged. You should also make use of effective transitions between paragraphs and between main ideas.
Your paper should not simply be written as a historical narrative but should rather be based in critical analysis in defense of your thesis. However, you will at times need to briefly summarize certain events or trends that are necessary to mention in support of one of your arguments or ideas. Do not spend too much time describing such events in detail if they are well known. Remember, you are using these historical moments and events as evidence to back up an argument, not simply to tell your reader what happened in detail. You should be concise during the descriptive parts of your paper to leave more room for your analysis (which is where your main points will be earned).
Conclusion: Your conclusion should offer a summation of your original thesis and the ways in which your paper established and demonstrated the thesis. It should also evaluate the importance of the case you have made.
All papers should be typed, double-spaced, and in average font size (Times New Roman 12). Margins should be approximately one inch all around. You should also include page numbers according to the style guide that you are following (see Citation Style section below).
You will be graded on your writing style and so you must make sure that you put a considerable amount of effort into the actual writing of your paper, as well as editing. A good research paper is grammatically correct and stylistically complex. Your thoughts should be organized coherently and logically, and should then be articulated clearly and effectively. The following are a few writing guidelines that you should adhere to:
- You must use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation marks.
- Write in complete sentences, and do not use run-on sentences.
- You must avoid the use of slang words or phrases, as well as abbreviations.
- Use the active, as opposed to the passive, voice.
- Make logical and effective transitions between paragraphs.
- Do not make any references to yourself or speak in the first person (i.e. “Based on what I read in Slot’s biography of Mubarak, I think that…”).
- Remember that you are not expressing your own opinion in this paper, but are formulating and defending an academic argument that can be backed up by historical evidence.
- Avoid being overly verbose when the same argument or statement can be made in a clear and concise manner.
- Your language and writing style should be complex and sophisticated, but avoid the use of overly flowery prose that might detract from the point that you are trying to make.
- For citations, you must follow the guidelines of one specific citation style (see below).
You should give yourself plenty of time after writing your paper to thoroughly edit the final draft. You should read your entire paper back over, from start to finish, once you are finished writing. Hearing how it sounds yourself will allow you to edit the paper more effectively.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
Please see the handout entitled “When to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize” for more information on how you should effectively integrate source material into your paper.
This is an academic research paper, and you therefore must adhere to a particular style guide for the citing of your sources as well as your overall writing technique. Most historians use the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes). However, if you are more familiar and comfortable with another style guide, such as the MLA, you may use that instead. The key issue is to be consistent with whichever style you choose.
The use of proper citations is not optional. Whenever you quote or paraphrase an idea from a source, you must cite it (either in a footnote, endnote, or parenthetical citation, depending on the style you are following). Failure to accurately cite sources will be regarded as plagiarism (see below). Your paper must be followed by a bibliography of all the works cited as well as referenced in the writing of your paper (even if you did not specifically cite anything from the source in the body of your paper).
Papers that do not totally adhere to one particular style will lose points. If you are unfamiliar with how to cite sources according to one of these style guides, please visit the Writing Center for assistance.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarism involves stealing the exact words and/or the ideas of other writers (published or not, from texts or the internet) and claiming them as your own without citation. Plagiarism also entails having someone else write your paper for you. Plagiarism is a form of cheating and is treated very seriously. If you plagiarize on this paper you will fail the assignment as well as the entire course. If you are unsure of what exactly constitutes plagiarism please see me before you submit this paper.
The ideas you present in this paper should be your own. If you are building upon an argument or idea presented by someone else, you must acknowledge that person and cite the source from which you got the idea. You can use an argument or idea of another writer to back up or defend your own argument or claim as long as you cite the author accurately and completely. Trying to mask another writer’s arguments or ideas as your own, however, is considered plagiarism. Even if you are paraphrasing rather than quoting from a source directly, you must cite it; failure to do so will be considered plagiarism.
If you are providing an example of a known historical event and need to briefly summarize what took place (i.e. you are presenting a brief historical narrative rather than an idea or argument), you should still cite the source from which you obtained the information.
When in doubt, cite it.
This research paper will constitute 15% of your final grade in this course. The grade that you receive on this paper will be based on the following criteria:
20% – Topic and Thesis: You will be graded on your ability to come up with an interesting research topic/question and an arguable thesis statement. Simply coming up with a topic without formulating a thesis will not be sufficient.
35% – Paper Content: The content of your paper will be assessed on the basis of your overall ability to think and write critically about the topic. Specifically, you will be graded on your ability to formulate arguments in defence of the thesis, and support those arguments with evidence and analysis; and your ability to organize your main ideas and arguments logically and clearly.
15% – Choice and use of sources: You must demonstrate an ability to conduct in-depth historical research in support of your thesis through the identification and selection of relevant sources, be they primary or secondary. You must also use these sources effectively in the defence of your thesis claim.
15% – Writing style: The quality of your writing style will be judged based on your ability to write in a sophisticated and stylistically complex manner, and your ability to articulate yourself coherently and lucidly. You will also be graded on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
15% – Citations: You will be graded on the accuracy and consistency of your citations.