The range of possible topics is enourmous. What I don't want to see is a recitation of the current information from a recent human rights report. I can read those myself. Your challenge is to develop a historical analysis of some important question or topic on human rights, which can take any number of forms. You might focus on the history of U.S. human rights policy during a particular era (the 1970s), toward a particular country (Chile, China) or toward a particular issue or institution(labor rights, UN Convention on the rights of the Child). You might explore the history of a human rights institution (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN Human Rights Commission) or organization (Amnesty International). You could also examine the history of particular debates over human rights (right to health care, gender rights, human rights in an Islamic context; female genital mutilation). The trick is to get thinking early. Spend a few hours wading through some of the websites on this page or through back issues of some of the human rights journals listed below.
Final Paper Guidelines:
Papers should be 25-35 pages in length with 12-point fonts and 1-inch margins all the way around. Papers must offer an original argument, on a question of your choosing that you develop in consultation with the instructor through a careful but creative examination of primary and secondary sources. The best such arguments are those written in dialogue with other scholars who have examined similar or related subjects and questions, so be sure to address other interpretations you encountered in the course of your research. All superior historical essays should include the following elements:
1. A clear, concise, and original thesis that drives the entire paper.
2. Careful organization whereby evidence is presented to substantiate your thesis in logical progression.
3. Interesting and insightful evidence that demonstrates and supports your thesis and enhances your analysis.
4. Fair but critical engagement with other historical interpretations of your given question in order to demonstrate the persuasiveness of your analysis.
5. A clear, concise conclusion that both summarizes your argument and explains its importance to the history of your chosen question.
6. Footnotes documenting the source of all evidence, claims, and ideas taken from primary and/or secondary sources.
All Papers must have clear and careful documentation of all words, ideas, claims or evidence that are not your own. You need to provide such references regardless of whether you are paraphrasing or directly quoting someone else’s ideas. Be particularly careful never to paraphrase another author too closely—the replication of another’s language and ideas is plagiarism even if you footnote it—when in doubt quote directly, using quotation marks and footnotes. See the UMBC History Department Style Sheet for details. Plagiarism is a serious breach of UMBC academic policy that could result in expulsion. If you are still uncertain what plagiarism is, check out the webpage for the Indiana University Writing Center.
You should also read the useful recent article Reflections on Plagiarism in the American Historical Association magazine Perspectives.
When it comes to historical research, almost anything can be used as a source, though certain sources substantiate certain arguments better than others. I encourage you to think hard about what sources best suit your topic, how to best use your sources, and how those sources will influence your interpretation. One way to learn to do this is to pay attention to the way sources are used in the assigned readings and in your secondary sources to develop a sense of how other historians and researchers have compiled evidence to make arguments and whether or not you approve of their selection and use of source material—this requires reading footnotes!
Below is a short list of some standard places to look for historical sources to help get you started. But please don’t feel confined to these suggestions! Be creative in finding and using your sources—so long as you’re careful not to misuse or abuse them. And please consult with me or, better yet, a reference librarian or archivist if you’re having difficulty finding research materials—we’re here to help!
Archival Materials Available through or at Princeton
Seeley Mudd Library – Freedom House Papers (Seely Mudd has dozens of collections that touch on human rights -we'll check some out)
Declassified Documents Reference Service (available through digital databases)
Archives Unbound (available through digital databases)
Congressional Record - Available in Government Documents, Online
Nixon national Security Files - Microform - Firestone
Proquest Historical Newspapers - online through Firestone
In the New York/Philadelphia Area:
(the New York Public Library has 416 archival collections which reference Human Rights, including many personal papers and organizational collections).
Ad Hoc Committee on the Human Rights and Genocide Treaties - Tamiment Library, NYU
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Journals (available through the research port or e-journals):
The Journal of Genocide Research; Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal; Asia-Pacific journal on human rights and the law; Australian journal of human rights; BMC international health and human rights; Columbia human rights law review; Constituting Human Rights : Global Civil Society and the Society of Democratic States; Country reports on human rights practices; Harvard Human Rights Journal; Human rights; Human rights quarterly; Human rights review; Human rights solidarity; Human Rights Watch world report; The international journal of human rights; Journal of human rights; Muslim world journal of human rights; Northwestern University journal of international human rights; Sur - International Journal on Human Rights
Some places to go to look for class project ideas:
Human and Constitutional Rights - National Links has links to countries and the treaties they have signed as well as to human rights groups working on those countries, truth commissions, lots of stuff. A great resource!
Derechos Human Rights Links - Articles on Human Rights lots of great issue articles and country specific articles as well
Human Rights Education Association: Study Guides: The Study Guides offer introductions to various human rights topics. The guides present definitions, key rights at stake, human rights instruments, and protection and assistance agencies. They guides also offer links to the full text of international treaties relevant for the topic, and other useful resources on the HREA and University of Minnesota Human Rights Library web sites.
Other major human rights related websites:
- Human Rights Working Papers: www.du.edu/humanrights/workingpapers
- Human Rights Dialogue:http:www.cceia.org/lib_hri.html
- United Nations: www.un.org
- Amnesty International: www.amnesty.org
- Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org
- US State Dept.: www.state.gov/www/global/swci/index.html
- and: www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/index.html
Key Human Rights Information Sources:
- Aboriginal Law and Legislation: www.bloorstreet.com/300block/ablawleg.htm
- Bosnia Link: http://www.dtic.dla.mil/bosnia/
- European Commission on Human Rights: www.dhcommhr.coe.fr
- European Court for Human Rights: www.dhcour.coe.fr/default.hcm
- Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org
- Int'l Court of Justice: www.law.cornell.edu/icj or: www.icj-cij.org
- Int'l Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia: www.un.org/icty
- Int'l Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: http://persubveb.francenet.fr/~intermed/
- Int'l Indian Treaty Council: www.aloha.net/nation/iitc/
- Int'l Law and Policy Institute: www.vcilip.org/vcilp/vip
- International Organization: http://WEB.bu.edu/anajam/ir595.html
- National Coalition on Haitian Rights: www.nchr.org
- Rwanda and Bosnia list: TWATCH-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU
- US Campaign to Ban Land Mines (c/o Vietnam Vets): www.vvaf.org
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: firstname.lastname@example.org (includes the 25 Human Rights Fact Sheets)
- UN Library Home Page: www.un.org/Depts/dhl/unique
- UN Office in Geneva: www.unog.ch
- UN Resolutions from the Current (52nd) Session can be found at: http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/res52.htm
- UN Security Council agenda matters, actions, statements, etc: http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resguide/scact.htm
- UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities 1996 Resolution on Protection of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu4/subres/9637.htm. Also under; UN Doc: E/CN.4/Sub.2/RES/1996/37; Subcommission Summer 1997 Working Group on Indigenous Populations: UN Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1997
- War Criminal Watch: www.wcw.org/wcw/
University based Human Rights Centers
Human Rights Center: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley