The list of paper topics below is divided into those raising issues of historiography and those asking for critical reading and interpretation of primary sources and texts. This divide is in some measure arbitrary, but is intended to highlight two key dimensions of historical study: critical reading of the documentary record and critical analysis of competing interpretations.
The document-based paper topics direct students to primary sources from the periods in question, and ask them to analyze these documents, asking questions such as who produced the document? Why? For what audience was it produced? What can we learn from the document about its producer and its intended or imagined audience? What might limit our ability to draw conclusions from the text? What elements are omitted and of what significance is the omission?
The historiographic paper topics ask students to examine works by multiple historians on the same or related topics and compare their views. If opinions differ, why might that be? Are the differences ideological? generational?; are they perhaps related to the national origin or cultural identity of the writers? Do they stem from differences in the sources used or the methodology and assumptions brought to the task of analysis? Even though students are assessing the arguments of professional historians, they should be able to assess the logic and persuasiveness of any given argument, especially as they compare one argument to another.