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HIST 3160 U.S. Environment (Drake, special collections): Assignment Description and Details


 For this assignment you will write a 12-page (15 pages for honors-option students) paper based on original research into primary sources. Specifically, you’ll be looking into historic environmental legislation and exploring how that legislation played out in Georgia. In other words, you will write a paper about “what Georgians thought” about a given environmental policy, statute, or piece of legislation, such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, Superfund, the Wilderness Act, and so on.

Here is a  handy list of federal environmental statutes  

Needless to say, the answers to the question of “what Georgians thought” will be varied, complex and nuanced, and sometimes radically opposed. Finding those “thoughts” will require you to dig deep into different kinds of primary historical sources – newspapers, magazines, letters to politicians, and so on – not only online but in person as well. We will provide you with details about finding sources during our visits to the Russell Library in September.


Your paper will consist of 12 (or 15 for honors) pages of main text, double-spaced, with 12pt font and 1" margins. You will need a bibliography, as well, which will not count as a part of the page requirement. Chicago/Turabian-style footnotes are required, as well (see below).

Placing your primary sources in context is vitally important. So, in addition to ten (10) “primary sources,” you must also utilize two (2) “outside secondary” readings (e.g. readings not on the 3061 syllabus) – academic articles, books, etc. related to the topic which you choose to write on - which will serve as supporting literature.  These will go in your bibliography. You can find many academic articles by keyword-searching UGA Library databases such JSTOR, America: History and Life, HistoryCooperative, and ProjectMuse (note: you must use a UGA computer or log onto the Library system to access articles for free – otherwise, you have to pay for them. Don’t pay…your tuition has already done so!).

On Footnotes: (thanks to Dr. Shane Hamilton for most of the following section)

There are two purposes of a footnote: to document the facts presented in your essay and to democratize the process of doing history. As to the first purpose, you do not have to footnote every single statement of fact in your essay. Certain well-known or easily discovered facts do not need to be footnoted (i.e., Lyndon Johnson became president upon the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963; Abbie Hoffman tried to levitate the Pentagon in 1967). Nonetheless, you should always footnote direct quotations. You should also cite any important and non-obvious information that is critical to your argument. As to the second purpose of a footnote, you should cite anything that you think the reader might want to know more about upon reading your essay. This allows the reader to check your facts, contest or verify your interpretation, and / or find out more about the topic at hand. Thus, any statement that is surprising, particularly interesting, or potentially open to dispute should be footnoted.

Example Footnotes: All footnotes should indicate the author (where known), title, date of publication, and page numbers.


  1. Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (New York: Broadway Books, 1998), 23.
  2. Brian Drake, “Groovy: A History of Sixties Pop Music on Vinyl,” Journal of Rock and Roll 17 (November 2010): 1-15.

Archival Document

5. Herman E. Talmadge to Lyndon B. Johnson, Mar. 15, 1967, Richard B. Russell Library, Athens, GA, Box 12, Folder 2, p. 3.

Oral History

18. Dean Rusk, oral history interview by Dennis Farney and David Ignatius, Oct. 3, 1971.

For more examples see Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

Tips for Doing Well

  1. Context, context, context: In the process of “recovering voices,” your paper should make explicit connections to the themes and ideas we’ve discussed in class. Give us some background for the letters - ideally, what you’ll find in the archives are examples of the real-world “playing out” of things we’ve seen more abstractly in books, readings, films and lectures.  Keep an eye out, therefore, for items in the archives that resonate and link up with what you have learned in class.   Your “secondary readings” will offer you context, as well, and a good paper will also “link up” the letters with the outside articles/books. Finally, “Georgians” describes a very large group of people – it is a very good idea to ask “which Georgians?” Be keenly aware of race, class, gender, political ideology, and so forth, as you read the primary sources. Think deeply about their points of view; what agendas do they have? What do they emphasize? What do they leave out?
  2. Organize, organize, organize: You don’t need to stick relentlessly to the classic “intro, body, conclusion” structure, but all good papers are ORGANIZED from top to bottom.  They begin with a clear statement of the topic or question they are going to address, and then they address it directly and precisely.  Each paragraph leads logically to the next as the argument unfolds; the paper doesn’t meander, go off on tangents, or repeat itself over and over.
  3. Edit, edit, edit:  Clear thinking is inseparable from clear writing - if your grammar is bad, your sentence structure sloppy, your choice of words inappropriate, or your spelling atrocious, it gives the reader the impression that you are not sure what you are talking about.  Do your paragraphs bounce from point to point, non sequitur style, without transition? Do they run on forever?  Are your phrases vague, muddled, or cliché? All of this suggests that you are struggling with the material and are having trouble organizing it in your mind.  So use that spell-checker and thesaurus, as READ your paper over, especially out loud to someone else! If it doesn’t make obvious sense, rewrite until it does.
  4. “Am I staying on topic?” This sounds like a dumb question, but often writers will stray from the issue at hand and waste time and space on things not relevant to it.  So always ask, for every sentence and every paragraph, “am I staying on track?  Does this sentence/paragraph help me do that?  Does it need to be here, on not?”  If not, edit until you can say yes – or cut it out and rewrite.
  5. Evidence, evidence, evidence:  Don’t just TELL the reader something - SHOW them! Your arguments will be far more convincing if you offer the reader direct evidence from your sources to back them up. Indeed, for this paper, with its focus on primary sources, we require it. Be sensitive – and be looking for – a diversity of opinions, and also of the nuances within the arguments of one “side” of the issue or another.