Research Paper on a Contemporary Issue in Latin America

By March 24, 2018Academic Papers

Research Paper on a Contemporary Issue in Latin America

You will write a research paper on a contemporary issue in Latin America. This essay should be about 2,500 words in length. Footnotes and bibliography entries should conform to the style mandated in The History Student’s Handbook. The final essay’s bibliography should include at least six to eight substantial sources (both academic books and academic articles) as well as at least three to four articles from newspapers or other media. This is a minimum and the best essays always have substantially longer bibliographies. There are two parts to this assignment:

Proposal Due: 9-16 March: On or before these dates, you should submit your proposal. It should include your preliminary bibliography and a set of questions, the answer(s) to which will constitute your thesis. The following example may give you some ideas on how to approach this part of the research paper proposal: What are the terms of Mexico’s opening of its oil industry to foreign investment? Why has Mexico decided to do this? Who is in favor of this? Why? Who is opposed? Why? What will this change mean for the Mexican economy? Who will benefit from this?

If your grade on the research paper is higher than the grade on your proposal, I will raise the latter to the same grade as the research paper.

Proposals received after 16 March will be penalized a full letter grade and will not be eligible to be raised to the same grade as the research paper.

Research Paper Due Dates: Given the size of this class, there are now two due dates for the research paper:

29 March (with an automatic one-day extension): Research papers submitted by this due date will be graded and returned on or before the last day of classes. 6 April: Research papers submitted by this due date will be graded and returned before the end of the examination period (26 April).

The final research paper should be submitted in Word format to the D2L dropbox by 11:59 pm of the respective due dates. Late research papers will be penalized one-third of a letter grade per day.

The Topic: The research paper may be on any contemporary issue in Latin America. See below for suggestions.

Format and Style: In all matters of style, including footnoting, your research paper must conform to The History Student’s Handbook, available on the course D2L site. Improperly footnoted essays will be penalized one-third of a letter grade.

To assist you with the basics, the following are the most common types of footnotes that you will do. For more complicated footnote forms, refer to The History Student’s Handbook. In the following examples, note carefully the correct punctuation, indentation, and italicization.


LAST 311 Winter 2018

Sample Footnotes:

1Phillip Berryman, Latin America at 200: A New Introduction (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016), 201.

2Ibid., 253.

3Claudia Mora, “Racialisation of Immigrants at Work: Labour Mobility and Segmentation of Peruvian Migrants in Chile,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 32:3 (2013): 301.

4Berryman, Latin America, 157.
5Stephanie Nolen, “The Illusion of Brazil’s Income Equality,” Globe and Mail, 9 Jan. 2018. 6Mora, “Racialisation,” 296.
7Nolen, “Illusion.”

Sample Bibliography Entries:

Berryman, Phllip. Latin America at 200: A New Introduction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016.

Mora, Claudia. “Racialisation of Immigrants at Work: Labour Mobility and Segmentation of Peruvian Migrants in Chile.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 32:3 (2013): 294-310.

Nolen, Stephanie. “The Illusion of Brazil’s Income Equality.” Globe and Mail (Toronto), 9 Jan. 2018.

Selecting a Research Paper Topic and Finding Sources:

Selecting a research paper topic and finding sources for it go hand in hand. You should use several research aids for finding library sources. Useful research aids include:

1. Bibliographies and footnotes to books and articles. The lists of additional readings at the end of each chapter in Berrryman, Latin America, may be a good place to start.

2. The Library Catalogue.
3. Especially Useful Library Databases to Find Academic Articles:

HAPI: Hispanic American Periodicals Index

( Academic Search Complete

Depending on the topic of your research paper, other thematic library databases

may be more relevant. See the subject list of databases on the library’s

database home page (
4. For finding newspaper articles, you can follow the instructions posted for the first

News Article Analysis Essay. However, feel free to consult other news sources available on the internet and elsewhere. If you read Spanish or Portuguese, be sure to use some news sources in that language.


Research Paper Topics:

Research Papers in LAST 311 may deal with any issue in contemporary Latin America. This can include topics that were discussed in class or other topics on any country or countries in the region. The following broad suggestions may help you to define your topic (each will, of course, require considerable refinement as you do your research and begin writing your essay):

Political Questions: Elections in a country; nature of a government; quality of democracy; voting patterns; term-limits; gender representation; protest movements; political parties; social mobilizations of groups; security

Economic Questions: Economic policy of a government or in a country; impact of export commodities, mining, industry, etc.; trade agreements (NAFTA, Mercosul/Mercosur, etc.); foreign investment; foreign (including Canadian) investment in Latin America; multilatinas; energy industry; biofuels; green energy; labor relations; informal economy; land reform; agribusiness; drug trade

Environmental Questions: Natural disasters; climate change; environmental protection; ecotourism; environmental impact of an economic activity

Social Questions: Afro-Latin American society and politics; indigenous peoples’ issues; race; ethnicity; women (of a specific group or class); demographic change; social security systems; migration (immigration or emigration); urban issues; food security; poverty alleviation; inequality; religion; crime

International Relations: International organizations and Latin America; free trade agreements; relations between Latin American countries and outside powers (Canada, United States, China, etc.); trade patterns; drug trade


Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and I call your attention to its definition and the sanctions laid out in the University of Calgary Calendar and on the course outline. Plagiarism consists of presenting the work of others as your own; all cases of suspected plagiarism will be reported to the associate dean of students, who will rule on the case and apply the sanctions described in the Calendar.

Getting Help:

I strongly encourage you to see me once you have selected your topic and done some preliminary research. I may be able to point you in the direction of additional sources and I can certainly help you define your topic and clarify your thesis.

The Department of History’s Writing Support Program offers small-group and individual writing support for all students registered in History or Latin American Studies classes from some of our top graduate students. Drop-in office hours are available on Mondays (1:00-2:30 pm) and Fridays (10:30 am–12:00 pm). Appointments can be made by e-mail to

Simple Rules for Writing a Polished Research Paper:

1. Read the History Student’s Handbook’s sections on defining a thesis and structuring an essay; review the common writing mistakes that it describes and avoid making them.


  1. Turn on your spell-check and make sure that it is applied consistently across your research essay. It is not cheating, since everyone has access to it, and it does catch a lot of typos.

  2. Remember your spell-checker’s limitations: check foreign words and names carefully yourself and make sure that they include all of the required accents.

  3. When it comes to quotations, follow these rules:
    a) Less is more. A few carefully chose words are more effective than a long quotation. As a good rule of thumb, do not quote more than 100 words total from other sources in a 2500-word essay.
    b) Always introduce and analyze quotations by indicating who the author was and pointing to the context. The simplest way to do so is to make quotations grammatically part of your sentences. In other words, do not simply insert sentences from another source into your essays. Better yet, put the material in your own words with an appropriate footnote.

  4. Finally, review your essay against the following checklist:



Checklist for Revising and Proofreading a Research Paper

___ Does the paper have a strong thesis?
___ Are the main points relevant to the thesis?
___ Do the main points support the thesis?
___ Is the essential historical context (dates, names, places) indicated? ___ Are the examples from your sources relevant?
___ Are quotations (if any) short and appropriate?
___ Are you convinced by your argument?

Organization: ___ Does the essay have a clear structure with the following: ___ An introduction?

___ Clearly-defined paragraphs developing supporting evidence?

___ A conclusion?
___ Does the introduction clearly state the essay’s thesis?
___ Does each of the middle paragraphs address a distinct topic? ___ Does each paragraph have a topic sentence, one that states the

thesis of the paragraph? Highlight it. Add a topic sentence if the

paragraph lacks one.
___ Does the conclusion restate the thesis?

Writing, Spelling, and Format:
___ Is spelling, including proper names and foreign words, correct?
___ Are all sentences complete? Turn all sentence fragments into complete sentences. ___ Is the sentence structure varied? Avoid too many long or too many short sentences. ___ Are words or phrases repeated? Use synonyms.
___ Are there unnecessary words or phrases? Omit needless words.
___ Are all the passive voice verbs changed to active ones?
___ Are all the weak verbs (such as
to be and to seem) replaced with strong ones?
___ Are grammar and punctuation correct?
___ Are all references to events that took place in the past written in past tense?

Change improper usage of present tense to past tense.
___ Is the essay written in third person? Rewrite to eliminate “I,” “we,” and “you.”
___ Is the essay too long? Edit to make it more concise.
___ Is the essay double-spaced and in a 12 point or 10 characters-per-inch font?
___ Are all of the direct quotations and references to facts and authors’ arguments cited

with footnotes according to The History Student’s Handbook?
Tip: Reading your paper aloud is a good way to detect grammar mistakes, unnecessary and

repetitious words or phrases, and rough writing style.

Notes: A FINAL PAPER requires careful typing and proofreading; every mistake is a mistake and you are the one responsible.