History of philadelphia research paper




As we have discussed in class, your two paper assignments this semester will focus on an urban/city neighborhood of your choice—preferably in Philadelphia (or another urban/city neighborhood nearby that you will be able to visit easily and frequently over the semester), and one that is small enough to write about with some analysis.  Your first paper will be an early history of this neighborhood (from its settlement to a time when a perceived sense of decline begins around WWII), and your second paper will be an ethnography and recent history of the same neighborhood (from around WWII to the present—see second paper assignment).


For the first half of your paper assignment, you will write a history of your chosen neighborhood by doing archival research and relating your study to relevant historical context.  Part of your research will involve gathering enough sources, but you will also need to explore the particular history of the neighborhood and seek to explain how this relates to the current status of the community.  In the course of your research you may be struck by a number of questions about the neighborhood today—write these down, as you will seek to answer one or more of these questions in the second half of your paper.


For your second half of your paper assignment, you will build on the neighborhood history you wrote for the first half of your paper by doing ethnographic fieldwork and continuing the story into the post-World War II era (1945-present).  You will need to identify a question that your project seeks to answer (for Anderson, it was the problem of youth violence in inner-city black neighborhoods).  Ethnographic research should be based on our limited class discussions of fieldwork and ethnographic method, which, for this assignment, requires minimal training and only needs to involve some observation, fieldnotes, and perhaps a few short interviews/oral histories of neighborhood residents.


You are already armed with a large amount of material on cities and city life, and you will also need to spend time relating your research to certain texts.  Ideally, you will build on what you already have read and learned this semester by making connections with what you are reading and writing about now—in other words, as you write, ask yourself how can you link your paper to material in your textbook and any relevant material on the syllabus that we covered in class?




At the top of your 6-8 page paper, please type your name and the title of your paper (a cover sheet is fine but unnecessary).  Papers must be typed in 12 point font and double spaced (except in block quotations, which should be indented .5 inch, 10 point font, and single spaced).


A successful paper will include:


• An introduction that establishes the context for your paper (which neighborhood, where/what are the boundaries, what time period will you be exploring, etc) and includes a clear and focused thesis statement (an argument) that seeks to answer a research question which you should also state in the intro

• Body paragraphs with strong topic sentences supported by evidence and scholarship drawn from your own ethnographic fieldwork, course texts, other secondary sources, news articles, and suggested online sources to help describe the neighborhood profile, population, recent history, statistics, etc

• Chicago or Modern Language Association (MLA)-style citations for all evidence used in the paper

• A thoughtful conclusion

• A Works Cited page at the end if you use MLA or Bibliography for Chicago.


For help with a draft of your paper, you may wish to work with a tutor in the Writing Center.

Visit http://drexel.edu/coas/academics/departments-centers/english-philosophy/university-writing-program/drexel-writing-center/ to make an appointment.




Your main points must be supported with evidence drawn from your research and textual sources.  As you incorporate evidence into your paper, remember the following tips:


• Any ideas drawn from another source must be cited.

• If you use facts that are common knowledge (e.g., “The period from 1945-1974 was marked by an increase in white suburbanization and the isolation of black inner-city residents”), you do not need to include a citation.

• If you use someone’s words or ideas from another source (including interviews), you must place those words inside quotation marks and/or cite them.  You must also introduce the quotation.  For example: According to Anderson, “The code of the street emerges where the influence of the police ends and personal responsibility for one’s safety is felt to begin, resulting in a kind of ‘people’s law,’ based on ‘street justice’” (10).

• When possible, try to paraphrase and put certain quotations into your own words.  Although you would still cite the source, paraphrases help break up the monotony of quotations and demonstrate your understanding of the material.




In addition to historical context in the course material we’ve read and your own neighborhood research, you may also wish to consult the following websites and look for websites of local historical societies:


Resource guide from UPenn about researching Philadelphia—Current Information:



Resource guide from UPenn about researching Philadelphia History:



Philadelphia Neighborhood Profiles:



Census and Demographic Maps and Reports from 1790-2009:



databases from library homepage:

Proquest, Wilsonweb, Lexis-Nexis, Newsbank – by far the most important: Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News


The Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Branch*

1901 Vine Street                       hours:    Monday – Wednesday 9am-9pm

Philadelphia, PA 19103                          Thursday – Saturday 9am-5pm

(212) 686-5322                               Sunday 1-5pm

directions: http://libwww.library.phila.gov/research/direct.taf?_function=list&ThreeLetCode=cen


*relevant areas of the Free Library: Social Science and History department, Newspapers and Microfilm,

and Print and Picture Collection (this last department is only open Monday-Friday 9-5 pm)




History Matters: http://www.historymatters.gmu.edu


Facts on File: http://www.factsonfile.com


Note: when using online sources, be sure to follow the proper citation format


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