The goal for this paper is twofold:
for you to use and further develop your primary research skills
for you to learn something about the United States in the interwar years that you have not learned from any of the assigned materials in this class
The focus of the project is largely up to you, as long as you are researching the United States in the interwar years and are using primary sources to do so. I ask that you submit a formal proposal for your research project so that I can make sure that the project satisfies both the above requirements, so that I can help you think about the connection between your project and the course as a whole, so that I can help you find useful repositories for relevant sources (digital archives, published collections, etc.), and so that I can make sure your project is as specific and focused as it will need to be for you to write a successful paper.
The steps you will take to design a project will likely look like this
1. Think of an aspect of life in interwar America about which you would like to know more perhaps something in which youre interested in everyday life today as it was manifested in the 1920s
2. Think about what kind of documents or artifacts from the period would likely leave interpretable traces relevant to the thing you plan to study
3. Look around in the UT librarys website, in the library itself, or on other credible (.org, .edu, or .gov) websites to find some documents and artifacts that will help you investigate the question (if youre prepared to spend a little money, you can also look in antique and collectible stores or on eBay); you can also consult with me to talk about places to look
4. Once youre sure that you will be able to find enough material to write a good paper, write your proposal
5. Get your proposal back and do as much research as you can with your primary sources
6. Write your paper
If theres no one aspect of life that you feel drawn to, you can instead choose a particular artifact or document (as long as its sufficiently complex) and write about how it brings together multiple cultural and historical currents. For instance, a travel guide or cookbook from the 1920s, a single issue of a fashion magazine, or a conduct guide. Many fascinating things are available on eBay for relatively little money, and some can be borrowed from (or examined in) the library for free.
Focus on Sources, not Subjects
You can focus on whatever aspect of life in interwar America interests you, but you should not think of your project merely as focusing on a particular aspect of life; rather, think of it as focusing on the reflection on that part of life in a particular medium or type of document. This means that you should not propose a project in which you will research organized crime in the 1920s but a project in which you will research how organized crime in the 1920s is represented in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune.
So think of your project as one that says I am focusing on the nature of (or attitudes toward) ____________________ as represented in in _______________________. Fill in the blanks however you want: automobiles / magazine advertisements, moonshine / Tennessee newspapers, marriage / cookbooks, music / record reviews, hairstyles / high-school yearbooks. Just be sure that the project you have in mind is one that has some specific idea of how to fill in both blanks. The second one is just as important as the first.
Your proposal should be 200-300 words, and is due on April 12. It should tell me what issue or artifact you plan to focus on, and should convince me that you have ready access to enough material to make the project a success. If you want to focus on gangsters in Chicago, on instance, you do not need to have read any articles about them, but you do need to know the names of the Chicago newspapers published during prohibition to which the UT librarys website will give you access. In other words, you need to have done some presearch. You need to be able to say Even though I havent read the stuff yet, I know there is plenty of stuff there to read, and here are the names of the specific publications I plan to use.