History Research Paper Proposal Examples



Remember, this is just a sample--don't treat it as a template or as a model that you must follow blow by blow.

The important point is that it has the 5 elements that must be in your proposal:

1. The precise question you will address in your research

2. How your question relates to issues raised/discussed by other historians who have worked on similar/related topics (what do the secondary sources say?)

3. Why this question is worth answering (from an historian's viewpoint)

4. What primary sources you will use to answer this question

5. What methods of analysis will you use to draw answers out of the primary sources.


This sample proposal does not have a bibliography--your proposal must include a bibliography (see the instructions in the syllabus!).  Also, I have formatted this so that it reads more easily on line; YOUR paper must follow the formatting guidelines in the syllabus.

This is a research proposal


Memory, Paper Trails, and the Strength of a Good Story:  How Smolensk Got Its “October”

Michael C. Hickey  

            Telling the story of Russia's October 1917 Revolution was an important instrument in the legitimation of Soviet power.  As early as the Revolution's first anniversary, a highly politicized process of myth-making had emerged.  Central to this process were the recollections of participants in the Revolution, whose stories emphasized the Communist Party's "heroic" leadership of the working class.  The importance of memoirs to revolutionary mythology has begun to draw historians' attention.  I propose to look into how a "master narrative," or put another way, an "official historical memory" of the October Revolution emerged from memoir literature in one Russian city, Smolensk.

            Published memoir sources on the 1917 Revolution in Smolensk paint a starkly different picture than that depicted in archival and contemporary press materials.  Based upon my own archival research, for instance, it is clear that soldiers loyal to the Smolensk Soviet battled troops loyal to the municipal council for control over the city on 30-31 October 1917, that the fighting ended in a draw, and that the two sides formed a coalition that ruled Smolensk through December.  Yet in memoir literature--and as a consequence in Soviet era historical writing--the events of 30-31 October 1917 became transformed.  Already by 1921, recollections of Communist functionaries had morphed this indecisive clash into a heroic victory of the proletariat over the forces of counter-revolution, which resulted in the immediate consolidation of Soviet power locally.  In 1922 the local Communist Party Historical Commission (Ispart) began collecting and disseminating such remembrances.  In 1926 Istpart drew up a program for the compilation of memoirs in preparation for the Revolution's 10th anniversary; the task of collecting participants' accounts continued through the 1930s.  From these efforts emerged a dominant master narrative--a way that the story was supposed to be told--one function of which was to legitimize Soviet rule.  This master narrative had such power that even today it structures accounts of local historians who, having rejected Communism, seek to discredit Smolensk's October as the birth of totalitarianism.

            This project addresses three issues:  the function of memoirs and official historical memory in the legitimation of Soviet power, the importance of local contexts in shaping master narratives, and the malleability of historical memory.  Only one other study has addressed the function of revolutionary memoirs in legitimizing Communist rule, Fred Corney's 1997 Columbia University dissertation.  But Corney does not investigate the role of official historical memory in asserting Soviet authority in the Russian provinces, where the Party's hold was often quite shaky.  Moreover, studies of Soviet historiography have focused almost exclusively on how national politics and official ideology influenced historical writing and have ignored local contexts.  Local issues, though, often were critical in shaping the myth history of the October Revolution in the provinces.  To understand how the story of Smolensk's October came into being, I am looking at local contests over the legitimacy of memory and personal authority and at gaps in the documentation available to local historians.  Finally, this research fits into broader discussions of the nature and malleability of historical memory.

            Ispart materials in the Center for Documentation of the Recent History of the Smolensk Region (TsDNISO) make it possible to explore these three issues.  In summer 1998 I worked with local Ispart materials at TsDNISO, as part of my large project on the 1917 Revolution.  I found more than 50 files containing manuscript drafts of memoirs, as well as correspondence detailing ongoing conflicts over collecting and editing memoirs.  But I had time to read only half of these.  I intend to complete work in these files on a research trip to Smolensk in July 1999, during which I will also order microfilm copies of several memoirs for later review.  This research will involve close reading of manuscript drafts and published versions of memoirs to determine what sorts of editorial changes were made, when, and by whom.  It will also involve analyzing Ispart correspondence to determine how directives from above influenced the collection and publication of historical memoirs, and scrutinizing internal Ispart correspondence to determine how issues such as the personality and personal authority of memoirists shaped this process.  In particular, I will address the following questions:  What guidelines for the collection and editing of memoirs did Communist Party officials provide to Smolensk Ispart, and what editorial guidelines were determined locally?  What kinds of editorial changes did Ispart make to manuscript drafts of memoirs and why?  To what extent did issues of personality and the political authority of various memoirists influence the Ispart committee's editorial decisions?  How did published memoirs differ from their manuscript versions and what changes appeared in the course of republication in other venues at other times?  And finally, how did the Smolensk Ispart committee address problems created by "blank spots" in documentation?

            This project involves two components:  research in Ispart archival records, and writing up the results.  I will conduct research in Smolensk during a single week in July 1999.  As I have already worked in local Ispart materials and have the relevant file (delo) numbers for TsDNISO fond 7 (the Ispart record group), I can begin work on the project immediately upon arriving in Smolensk.  Given the close reading that I am proposing, I will need to have microfilm copies made of several longer handwritten memoir manuscripts.  Microfilm (about 50 cents per page) is far more cost effective than photocopying at the archive (a minimum of $2 per page).  I have good relations with local archivists, and access to materials and provision of microfilm copies is assured.  The archive will deliver microfilms to me via the International Research and Exchanges Board in Washington DC, as it has routinely over the past five years.  I will begin writing in September 1999, and I am scheduled to deliver a version of this paper at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies conference in November 1999.  I will then revise the paper for submission to the journal Revolutionary Russia in January 2000.

REMEMBER that you must include a bibliography that follows the guidelines in the syllabus and the follows the bibliography format in the Rampolla book!







What follows is a short proposal for a paper on the rapid growth of convenience store chains in America. Note how admirably the proposal takes advantage of the stylistic tips noted in the list on the previous page. Also note that because the proposal author took the initiative to go to a convenience store chain’s business office, she found out that the chain had an historian, who provided her with abundant and excellent data, such as that generated by exit polls, to supplement her library research. This proposal was submitted by an earth science student and received enthusiastic approval and concrete feedback from the professor.

Click here to open a sample proposal within this page.

Sample Proposal

"The Burgeoning of Convenience Stores Across the American Landscape"
by Janet Lerner

In a little over two decades we have witnessed the emergence of a new concept in retail buying for the American consumer—the convenience store. The United States government defines convenience stores as "food retailer(s) of limited lines in a freestanding sales area of 3,000 square feet, concentrating on selected fast-moving products" (Directory of Supermarkets, Grocery, and Convenience Store Chains, 1990). To this definition I would add that typically the products on the shelves of convenience stores are priced higher than those carried by their competitors.

While spreading across the country like politicians on a campaign trail, convenience stores appear to have maintained a fairly distinctive regional character. Uni-Mart and Sheetz are common names for these stores in central Pennsylvania, but in Iowa we find Casey’s, in Massachusetts Cumberland Farms, and hundreds of other names specific to a state or region. I am intrigued by the rapid growth of convenience stores, which, from my early research, seem to retain a local flavor for such a widespread national phenomenon.

Through my library research, I will examine the burgeoning of convenience stores by exploring the answers to questions such as the following:

—How does the rapid growth of convenience stores reflect demographic trends?
—What determines the location of convenience stores? (macro-geography?)
—How have the unrelated markets of food retail and gasoline sales evolved into a common store?

I also plan to interview several key executives at Uni-Mart, including Charles R. Markham, who is the executive vice-president.

Directory of Supermarkets, Grocery, and Convenience Store Chains. CGS, 1990. This is a comprehensive guide to all major and many minor stores and their data (number of stores, size, brief history, top personnel). It also includes maps that illustrate regional concentrations of stores, and provides an overview of the industry today.

Curtis, C.E. "Mobil Wants To Be Your Milkman." Forbes. February 13, 1984, pp. 44-45. This article provides a concise but informative discussion of the combining of the food retail and gas industries.

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