University of Texas at El Paso

8th New York militia Engineers
Civil War Battlefields Minimize    

 ----------------CURRENT STUDENTS: Please consult the Blackboard site for current syllabus and assignments.--------------

Course Description 

In this seminar, students will learn how to identify and handle evidence, consider and craft historical arguments, and organize, write, and edit a 15-to-20-page original research paper. Papers may address: How are the cause, course, and consequences of the Civil War reflected on Civil War battlefields and other locales around the United States? How were battlefields created, and when and why were they preserved? Which wider lessons of the war are best presented at which battlefields, and how could historians and preservations do more to tell the full story of the Civil War Era? 

Students will be encouraged to choose a specific Civil War battlefield to orient their research—and to expand their understanding of Civil War battlefields to consider the places and issues within social, cultural, gender, and political history, rather than in mere military terms. In preparation for their papers, students will read and discuss several exemplary books and articles, a guide to research practices, and news coverage of preparations for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015).

Required Books: 

Richard A. Marius & Melvin E. Page, A Short Guide to Writing About History ANY edition; page numbers here for 7th edition (New York: Longman, 2006). [ISBN#0205673708]

Christopher J. Olsen, The American Civil War: A Hands-on History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007). [ISBN#0809016400]

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Knopf; Vintage, 2008). [ISBN#0375703837]

The Civil War in West Texas & New Mexico: The Lost Letterbook of Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley John P. Wilson and Jerry Thompson, eds. (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 2001). [ISBN# 0874042836] (can order directly from press, in basement of the Library or at 

Additional Required Essays, Video, and Book Chapters:

These items will be available through the UTEP library website or the course Blackboard website.

Angel Alvarez, “Civil War Blockade Running: Analyzing the Real Level of Risk,” HIST 4325 research paper, UTEP, December 2010.

Kelley M. Akins, “A Disorder Before Its Time: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Civil War Participants,” HIST 4325 research paper, May 2009.                                                        

Adam Arenson, The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011), Chapter 7.

David W. Blight, “‘For Something beyond the Battlefield’: Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 75, No. 4 (March 1989), pp. 1156-1178. (JSTOR)

Judkin Browning, “‘I Am Not So Patriotic as I Was Once’: The Effects of Military Occupation on the Occupying Union Soldiers during the Civil War,” Civil War History Vol. 55, No. 2 (June 2009): 217-243. (Project MUSE)

Ken Burns, The Civil War [video series], 1990, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” episode.

Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), Chapter 6.

Jim Weeks, Gettysburg: Memory, Market, and an American Shrine (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), Introduction and Chapter 7.

A great guide for researching and writing, which we will refer to often, is 

Course Policies 

• Come to class prepared, having done the readings and advanced your research.

• Please arrive on time. If you foresee chronic lateness, contact me immediately.

• Students with special needs should contact me within the first two weeks of class.

• Student athletes or others engaged in university-sanctioned activities should contact me immediately.

• Many of you have families and/or work 40 hours a week—please do not fall behind in your coursework. If you are dealing with family issues, please contact me.

• It is official UTEP policy that all suspected cases or acts of alleged scholastic dishonesty must be referred to the Dean of Students for investigation and appropriate disposition. Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts. Any student who commits an act of scholastic dishonesty is subject to discipline. You are responsible for abiding by the full policy, available at

• Every assignment should be submitted via Blackboard in Word or PDF format and, when required, printed for submission. Late assignments will be penalized 10% per day, with the weekends counting as two full days. Computer and printer problems are not excuses—plan ahead.

• Please treat all the opinions and views expressed here with respect.

If you have or suspect a disability and need accommodations, you should contact The Disabled Student Services Office (DSSO) at 747-5148. You can also email the office at or go by the Union Building East, Room 106. For additional information, visit the DSSO website at

Explanation of Participant Requirements

What do historians do? The craft of history is generally misunderstood. Historians are storytellers, but they do more than that. In the process of telling a story, historians try to make an argument about the causes, course, and consequences of specific events in the past. Historians investigate changes over time, analyze trends and patterns, and seek to make connections between the past and present. In order to convince the public, other historians, and themselves, historians must make arguments and use evidence, tell stories, and seek a deeper understanding of how the world and its people interact.

Research Paper – Process and Final Product 

This class is structured around the process of writing an original piece of scholarship. There are no exams, no book reviews, and no regurgitating class material.

However, your grade is based on writing a successful piece of original research – and the completion of the steps required in the research process. Though this class will function as a workshop to support you in this process, writing a research paper demands discipline.

Instead of studying and reading on a weekly basis, you must be finding a research topic and formulating research questions, doing research in primary and secondary sources, taking notes, outlining and structuring arguments, providing self-evaluations of your progress, and writing and revising your paper.

These skills that will aid you in any future research you may do, whether in history or any other field. 

Participation and Attendance, Peer Reviews and Presentation Responses

Historical research is not a solitary process: look at the introduction or acknowledgment page in any monograph and you will see numerous people thanked by the author. These people read and made comments, talked with the author, and generally helped to improve the research.

In that spirit, you will work as class and in small groups to review the work that you submit in the process of writing the paper. This is called the “Peer Review Process,” and it mirrors the same system that professors used to judge the quality of their work. The idea is that writing is a collaborative endeavor and that your peers can help you come up with research topics and questions, give you advice on methods and concepts, sharpen your writing, and clarify your thoughts. Your peers will be your best critics and supporters. 

Participation in class discussions and in the Peer Review process is crucial for the success of this course, and by extension, your paper. Everyone needs to participate in the open discussions during class by asking questions, contributing comments, and sharing your experiences about the research you are conducting. In order to function as a whole, we need every student to attend every class. You are allowed only ONE EXCUSED ABSENCE during the semester. Any absences beyond that will bring your final course grade down.

Warm-Up Research Exercises

In order to hone your research skills, we will use the books in the course to practice the generation of research questions; the analysis of primary sources; and we will determine the research questions, sources, and structure of a historical argument in This Republic of Suffering.

Class Participation and Peer Group Comments (four times)  12.5%

Primary Source Questions                                                                  2.5%

Possible Research Topics                                                                        5%

Primary Source Analysis                                                                      10%

Research Question(twice)                                                                    10%

Proposed Outline                                                                                   10%

Second Draft                                                                                          10%

Bibliography (three times)                                                                   5%

Self-Evaluation(three times)                                                                5%

Research Presentation                                                                         10%

Final Research Paper and Bibliography                                           20%


General Submission Guidelines 

All graded assignments in this class should be turned into Blackboard by the deadline.

Please name all files: LastName AssignmentName.DOCX This will aid my keeping track of them. At the top of the first page, include a title, your name, the course number, professor’s name, and date; no need for a separate title page.

Comments will be returned through “Track Changes” in Word. Please ask if you have trouble seeing these comments.

Files should have one-inch margins, a standard (Times, Times New Roman, Book Antiqua, etc.) font, and double spacing. Please use endnotes (not in-line citations), which should be single-spaced using the Chicago Style.  A quick guide is in Marius and Page, or at: (use N for notes, B for bibliography) For more advice, see “Hints for Writing Well” on the course Blackboard website.

Course Schedule

Week One (Jan 18)                                      Introductions: Researching Civil War Battlefields

                                                                                ● Personal Introductions

● Overview of Syllabus

● Simple Keys to Success

Research Paper Boot Camp

● Defining the Civil War and its Battlefields

                                                                               ● Primary Source Exploration – Library Ambush

Week Two (Jan 25)                           The American Civil War: An Overview

                                                                               ● Read: Olsen, all “Related Documents” at end of each

chapter, read Chapters 6-16, skim the rest

                                                                                ● Due Mon Jan 24: Five Primary Source Questions

                                                                                ● Civil War History Discussion

● Questions and Topics Review

Week Three (Feb 1)                                     Civil War Research at UTEP and Beyond

● Read: Arenson, Akins, Alvarez (all on Blackboard); AND Browning (Project MUSE)

● How Does a Research Paper Work?

● Primary Source Analysis Preview

● The Motivations for History

● The Scholarly Research Question and Introduction

● Library Computer Lab, 204b

● Sources Orientation: The Scholarly Internet

● Citations – Practicing the Chicago Style (Marius and Page, pp. 150-170, in class, and )

Week Four (Feb 8)                            Practicing Primary Source Analysis

● Read: Sibley (Wilson-Thompson), all; AND

● DUE Mon Feb 7: Primary Source Analysis

● Peer Groups: Finding Meaning in Sibley’s Letters

● Evaluating Sources and Claims

● Creating Context

● Visit to Military History and UTEP Special Collections

● Researching Possible Topics

● Librarians Available

● Primary Source Exploration and Individual Meetings

Week Five (Feb 15)                           Identifying Topics and Forming Questions

                                                            ● Read: Marius and Page, pp. 1-104 AND Faust, Preface


● Judging Sources

● Recognizing and Preventing Plagiarism; Turnitin

● Due Mon Feb 14: Possible Research Topics

● Peer Groups: Topic Review

Week Six (Feb 22)                            Understanding the Structure of Historical Writing

                                                            ● Read: Faust, Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4

Due in class: Key Idea for each Faust Chapter

Peer Groups: Topic, Question, and Sources in Faust

● Research Question Preview

Week Seven (Mar 1)                        Using Questions to Drive Research

● Read:

Due MON Feb 28: Research Question

AND Draft Bibliography

Peer Groups: Research Questions

Research and Note-Taking Methods

● Primary Source Exploration and Individual Meetings

Week Eight (Mar 8)                          From Research to Arguments

                                                            ● Read: Marius and Page, pp. 105-110; AND

Faust, Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8

Due in class: Key Idea for each Faust Chapter

Peer Groups: Faust’s Question, Sources, and Argument Faust’s Outline

Constructing Your Outline

● Writing a Scholarly Introduction

Week Nine (March 14-18)                                       NO CLASS: Spring Break

Week Ten (Mar 22)                          Reflecting on Research: Outlines, Context and Memory

● Read: Faust, Epilogue; AND Blight (JSTOR);



Memory and Significance

Positioning Your Argument

Due Mon Mar 21 and in class:

Revised Research Question

AND Detailed Outline (5 copies)

AND Self-Evaluation

● Peer Groups: Proposed Outlines, Evaluated by Rubric

Week Eleven (Mar 29)                     Unusual Sources and Contemporary Questions

                                                            ● Read: Savage and Weeks (electronic reserves);


● The Contemporary and the Historical

● Watch in class: Ken Burns, The Civil War finale

● Writing and the Cinematic Style

● Crafting and Arguing Conclusions

● Individual Meetings

● Library Exploration of Images and News

Week Twelve (Apr 5)            The Craft of Writing to the End

● Read: Marius and Page, pp. 119-149; AND       (cont.)

                                                            ● Habits of Successful Writers

● Styles of Writing History: the analytical narrative

● Significance -- Finding Wider Implications

● Due in class: Page from Essay-in-Progress (5 copies)

● Grammar and Technically Perfect Writing

● Peer Groups: Writing Original History

● Roundtable on Writing Challenges

● Due THU Apr 7: Current Draft (online to Blackboard

AND Turnitin AND peer group)

AND Bibliography

AND Self-Evaluation

Week Thirteen (Apr 12)                  Draft Workshop

                                                            ● Read: Drafts for Workshop          

● Due in class and online: Peer Group Comments

● Peer Groups: Discussion of Drafts

● Historical Thinking and Refining Writing

● Preparing for Further Revisions


Week Fourteen (Apr 19)                  NO CLASS: Extra Time to Work on your Papers

Week Fifteen (Apr 26)                     Research Presentations Part One

● No readings

● Group One presents

● Group Two provides snacks and commentary

● Continue Revising

● Peer Discussion and Final Suggestions

Week Sixteen (May 3)                     Research Presentations Part Two

● No readings

● Group Two presents

● Group One provides snacks and commentary

● Continue Revising

● Peer Discussion and Final Suggestions

Week Seventeen **SPECIAL TIME** (Sat May 7)

Frances G. Harper Student History Conference

All four History 4325 sections will be presenting the research findings from their seminar papers, beginning at 9:00 a.m.  Presenters and the audience receive a light breakfast beginning at 8:15, and lunch at 12:10.

Conference is open to the public (bring family and friends!) and the best papers receive cash prizes.

Our three best presentations will represent the class.

Final Research Paper AND Bibliography AND Final Self-Evaluation due on Wed May 11.

Junior-Senior Seminar: Final Paper Rubric

Scoring Options:                                         2: needs more work                             

                                3: adequate    

                     4: good, solidly completed                  

5: very strong, excellent

Criteria                                                                         Score and Additional Comments

Title: Does the title give you a sense of what the paper is about?


Introduction and Plan: Does the introduction clearly describe the topic, thesis, parameters, and plan?


Argument: Is the argument clear? Is its significance explained? How does it change our understanding of the Civil War?


Defeating Alternatives: Are other explanations considered? Are their weaknesses explained, and the argument’s strength made obvious?

Sources: Have appropriate sources been selected? Are there enough sources? Are primary and secondary sources treated differently?


Evidence: Are claims backed up by enough primary-source evidence? How well is this evidence utilized?


Secondary literature: Is the student clear on what these sources are, and how the argument paper fits within the existing scholarship?


Analysis: Does the paper do more than describe the information gathered? How effective are the points made?


Organization and flow: Does the organization of the paper add or detract from the argument? Are there gaps, mistakes, or other distractions?


Conclusion: Does the conclusion pull things together and sum up the argument, without undue repetition?


Language conventions: How would you rate the paper’s clarity, grammar, and spelling?


Footnotes and Bibliography: Do notes follow the correct format? Are they complete? Does the bibliography follow the correct format? Is it complete?


Anonymous Student Reviews from the Course (Spring 2009) Minimize    

“I have never used the library so much, I like how you can find different things to help you that are more scholarly acceptable than the internet. I never got to know my resources as well.”

“It’s fun. Everyone seems awake in this class.”

“Evaluating the Faust book, helped put my own paper in perspective. It also aided me in putting the war in general in perspective, seeing the realities pushed me to think about my paper in new ways.”

“I like the independence & freedom we are given. This is my only class that allows for me to be trusted to go through the process with freedom but I am given help whenever I need it.”

“I really appreciated the detail to showing us the sources in the library, sources I had never had to use before. I also really feel the group discussions help us all understand our work better.”

“I like the discussions because I always hear something that I didn’t think of prior to coming to class….Breaking down the chapters of the Faust book was a real eye opener for what we have to do for our paper.”

“Everything we did here taught me something.”

“Above and beyond my expectations.”

“I never have done a paper this detailed or in depth before. Very helpful…. Learned a lot. Approachable, could laugh at self (prof.), good educator & professor.”

“Learned a ton. From writing structure to paying attention to detail.”

“He was extremely organized everyday….I learned a lot more than I intended to learn in this class. I feel much more confident about the topic but more importantly I had fun learning the material.”

“Faust. It was useful reading to see what the teacher was looking for.”

“Good experience for graduate work.”

“He recommended tons of technology and it was really helpful.”

“The course was very well organized and clear from the beginning.”

Sample Student Final Papers, Including Grades Minimize    

Students have given written permission for their graded papers to be posted. These permissions are on file with Dr. Arenson.
Images from the Class Minimize    

Sample images from the class whiteboard.
sample whiteboard

class whiteboard