“Slaves Tell Their Own Story”

Book: William Wheeler and Lorri Glover, Discovering the American Past: A Look at the Evidence,
vol. 2, 8th ed.  (2017) (referred to as DAP)


How to write DAP essays
The goal of these papers is for you to think and act like a historian. Historians try to answer a historical question by finding evidence, analyzing it, and offering their argument (thesis) based on that evidence. This is what you will do in the DAP essays.

The most important thing you can do to write a strong essay is to read.  You need to immerse yourself in all the sources offered you, take notes, and start thinking about the topic before you begin to write. If you try to write without reading carefully, your essay will likely be disjointed, shallow, lacking in analysis – or all three.  The first element in the quest for a successful essay, then, is to read all the evidence Wheeler and Glover offer you.


To write these essays:
1. Find the question/problem posed at the beginning of each DAP chapter in “The Problem” section. Your answer to this question(s) will become the thesis of your essay.

2. Understand that “The Problem” and “The Background” sections are secondary source material that gives you some context for the question/problem that you are analyzing.  They were written by Wheeler and Glover in the 21st century.

3. “The Evidence” section gives you primary sources. These sources were written in 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries, and they are always the most important part of every chapter.  Read them carefully, keeping the problem/question in mind as you are seeking evidence to answer it.

  1. Think about the primary source evidence. Your job is to use the primary source evidence to develop an answer to the question/problem. That answer becomes your argument, your thesis.
  2. Write a brief introductory paragraph in which you establish context – where, what, who, when, and state your thesis.
    6. The rest of your essay should, in clear, clean, and concise prose, support your thesis with evidence (from the primary sources) and analysis.

    7.  Remember: you do not need to consult any outside sources. DAP has compiled the sources for you. No further research is necessary. Also remember: you are making and supporting an argument; you are not writing a summary of the evidence or a summary of the material in “The Background” section.

8. When you quote, cite the source in a footnote.   Historians use Chicago-style citations; that is what you should use.  Microsoft Word will do much of the work for you (see Notes on Footnotes below).  A bibliography is not required.

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