Research and Writing reading exercise   Keith, “The Politics of Southern Draft Resistance”


There are four basic “modes” of historical writing:  narrative, description, explication, and argument.  We will use Keith’s essay to examine how a historian defines a topic and questions, sets them into the context of historiography, discusses sources, and then constructs a coherent argument from evidence using a mix of different modes of writing.  These all are things you must do in your research papers.

INTRO of essay:

Where does Keith define her topic?  Where does she define her main questions?

Where does Keith explain how her topic/questions relate to the historiography?

Where does Keith discuss the nature of her sources?

Where does Keith lay out the organizational structure of the essay?

Where does Keith introduce her thesis?

BODY of the essay:

            How is the body organized?  Is it thematic, chronological, or both?  Does it move from the “macro” to the “micro”?  Micro to macro? Both?

            For example, how are the discussion of national and regional debates about conscription and resistance to conscription organized?

            Is Keith’s essay only narrative, only descriptive (etc)?  Were does she mixes or moves back and forth between different “modes” of writing.

            Are there places in the body of the essay where Keith discusses historiography?  Where?

            Are there places in the essay where Keith discusses the limits of the evidence?  Where?

            Are there places where Keith sums up the argument that she has made “so far” before moving on to the next section of the essay?  Where?

            How does Keith use the footnotes?  Only to identify sources? Or is there something else  going on in the notes as well?


CONCLUSION of essay:

            How is the conclusion organized?  Does Keith sum up every single fact, or focus on summing up her main points (theses)?

            Where is the thesis actually stated in this essay?  Is it all in one paragraph?

            What is the thesis of the essay?

            How does Keith connect that thesis to “bigger” issues in US history?


THINK about this:

1)      How did you “know” what the thesis was?

2)      Does the author depend on inference or supposition?  Or does she explain how specific evidence proves each of her thesis points?

3)      What would you put in your notes so that you have a full citation on this essay?

4)      How would you take/organize your notes on this essay in order to:  discuss it in your historiography; refer to specific facts and evidence in your own paper; use it to find other primary and secondary sources?