Think Narrow: Your thesis/topic must be very narrow. A paper on America as a Garden of Eden isn’t narrow enough, nor is a paper on a Thomas Cole’s landscapes, or on how Americans used paintings to show their love of nature. But a paper the reasons why Thomas Cole used Hebraic writing on the hillside in the Ox Bow would be nicely narrow. Your goal for this paper is not to give a general report, but to dig deep into a specific concept or argument. Argumentative is Good: The best thesis statements are those that prove a point. The purpose of this paper is for you to critically analyze your topic, and even to develop your own theories based on the research you’ve gathered.
To do this, think about the content of your paper as proving a specific point. You might not find a slew of articles directly addressing your topic, but you can glean enough pieces from the research you conduct to support your argument. Be Original: Please do not simply regurgitate your class notes; originality is a strong part of any academic paper. This does not mean you need to tour New England to conduct original research or track down living artists to interrogate. But this does mean that your paper should develop themes we didn’t exhaust in class. This means you need to look ahead in the slide list before selecting a topic. WARNING: Please do not simply submit your History of Photo paper. Photo-based topics, like all other topics, must be sufficiently narrow and original. Recounting the history of photography in America is NOT sufficiently narrow. But, focusing on a specific approach, subject matter, or contribution could be narrow enough (depending on what you do with the topic). Basic Requirements: 1” margins, double-spaced, 10 or 12 point Times New Roman font 6 – 8 pages of original text (not including cover page, footnotes/endnotes, or images)