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Teaching History Blog

History Research Paper Series--Thesis Statement

Following the brainstorming assignment for a 3-5 page history research paper, students will construct a thesis statement. However, even at the college level, I find many students do not know what a thesis statement is, how it differs from the topic they selected in brainstorming, or how to write one. Have you had a student propose a thesis statement that said, “I will write about Thomas Jefferson because he was a famous president” or something similar? I frequently have, and this assignment helps guide students to a well-constructed thesis.

Title: History Research Paper Series--Thesis Statement
Objective: Learner will construct an effective thesis statement for a 3 to 5 page historical research paper.
Assessment type: Formative
Assignment Details:
1. Student will visit the following Web sites to learn about writing a thesis statement.
2. In a discussion, students will reflect on at least three ideas they learned from these web sources about constructing a thesis statement. Students may also ask questions of each other and the instructor regarding the scope of the assignment and expectations that may be unclear.
3. Student will construct a strong thesis statement for their topic.
4. Student will post thesis statement for classmates to review and provide each other thoughtful feedback.
5. Student will submit final version for approval to the instructor.

Rubric: Assignment based on 100 points
Student participated in thesis statement discussion with at least three items, learned and responded to instructor and at least 2 classmates. 0-20 points

Student posted thesis statement in discussion 0-10 points

Respond thoughtfully in a supportive and constructive manner to at least two classmates' proposed thesis statements. 0-20 points

Student submitted a well crafted thesis statement to the instructor. 0-50 points

Though I didn’t include it in this rubric, I would like to pose the question to you about whether your students are graded on timeliness? Sometimes for assignments that are graduated like the ones I am outlining in this blog, I deduct points for not submitting the thesis statement to me on time. I have two reasons for this: 1. Students will be in the workplace and timeliness is an important skill. 2. In order to provide the student the most useful feedback during the ongoing project, the student must follow the expected due dates for the assignments. Imagine a student submitting the thesis statement along with the final essay. How would you handle this situation?
Additionally, I would like to ask how flexible you would be on students changing their thesis after submission. A strong brainstorming session might prevent this, but invariably you will be asked.

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