In my course HIST/ECON 2140, I ask students at the end of the semester to map a local site and put it into broader historical and economic context. Each map point contains an abstract based on the student’s research paper.

The paper prompt reads (in excerpt):

Your abstract/introduction will be drawn from a short research paper of 5-6 pages (double spaced, 12-point font) that provides an overview of your site and an analysis of how it fits into broader regional and/or national economic history, taking into consideration production, markets, transportation, labor and workforce, distribution, consumption, and the various subsets of these categories.

Your paper should contain the following:

  • An argument that explains the significance of your site and how it supports/reflects how historians explain economic transformations over time
  • An overview of the site itself, what happens there, its past use and present status, drawn from your creative use of sources (the physical structure and location of the site, architecture, newspaper sources, interviews, local histories, secondary sources).
  • Connections/comparisons between your site and arguments by historians about related economic activity. (For example, if your site is a former textile mill that is now abandoned, you should consult books about the decline of the textile industry in the northeastern United States and explain how this site connects to those arguments; you might also posit the nature of work that existed at that site in the past).

Your abstract will be the introduction to your paper which introduces the site, your argument, and its relevance to historical scholarship.