Five-page Paper Guidelines

Research question

  • Briefly explain your research question, what your project sought to explore or to answer.
  • This may, but need not, include an explanation of why you chose your topic.

Research Trajectory and Approach

  • Where did your research take you? Did it lead to more questions? Did it lead you to narrow or broaden your topic? Explain how your thinking developed over the course of the project.
  • How did you approach the subject? What theories were helpful? What ideas did you use to understand your material?


  • What specific obstacles or challenges did this research present?
  • This could be access to or availability of sources, or difficulty managing large amounts of information, or difficulty in formulating a sufficiently narrow question, etc.


  • What kinds of sources did you use?
  • Did they require special sorts of treatment (i.e., archives, films, literature, etc.)?
  • Explain how you approached and dealt with the sources—how you extracted information, what you wanted sources to tell you, etc.

Findings and Conclusions

  • What were your principle conclusions or findings, i.e., what did you discover?
  • Did you answer your question(s)?
  • Did you end up asking new questions?
  • Did you develop any theories or templates or models from your analysis that could be applied more generally? 
  • What were the lessons learned?

Moving On

  • If you were to continue to pursue this project, what would you do?
  • This could be about expanding the topic, looking at more sources, reshaping the topic, adding comparisons, etc.

We are looking for you to discuss your work and its relevance. This is not the same as providing an abstract of your work. Do not simply retell it in shortened form; instead explain what your project was about, fundamentally, what was important about it, what was valuable about your findings, and how they might speak to other larger questions. This paper should read as if you were talking to a potential editor about why your work should be considered for publication. Please provide both footnotes/endnotes as needed and a bibliography. (This can be the same bibliography that was part of the original paper; the bibliography is in addition to the five pages of the paper itself.)

Guidelines for the Ten-Minute Oral Presentation

You can assume that all members of the seminar, including other students and the faculty in attendance, have read your five-page paper; in all likelihood none will have read the longer, original research paper. Therefore, you should focus the presentation on a brief discussion of your major findings, and perhaps also highlight some of the most intriguing or startling evidence and conclusions that you developed. Then provide a brief statement of how you might improve the longer research paper if you were to continue working on it now.

It is not necessary to prepare a Powerpoint for the presentation unless you have some visual aids that will enhance the understanding of the topic. If you have pictures, maps, charts, graphs, etc., these would justify a Powerpoint. As a general rule, however, you should not use a Powerpoint just to provide lists of talking points. As part of the presentation, you might also incorporate other audio-visual materials, such as music or video clips, if they are appropriate for your topic and were part of the original paper. If you intend to include video or audio clips, remember that these will count as part of the ten minutes allotted to the presentation, and you need to give yourself sufficient time to develop the context and analysis.

At the end of the ten-minute presentations, students and faculty will have an opportunity to ask questions about the projects. You should be prepared both to answer questions about your own project, and also to ask about the presentations of other students in the seminar.

Finally, please practice your presentation in advance and make sure that you can deliver it in ten minutes.  Depending on the number of students in the seminar, it may not be possible to allow you extra time to finish a presentation that goes over the ten-minute time limit.