Assignment: Historical Empathy and Historical Imagination


Paper Guidelines       ACST 1000.2B    Making Sense of Atlantic Canada    Dr. K. Henderson, PhD
Paper copy due Thursday, March 12    Worth 25%


Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both. C. Wright Mills, American sociologist (1916-1962)

Mills claimed we are “seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of [our] own lives and the course of world history.” Mills, 1959, pp. 3-4




Choose one of the following research questions to help make sense of Atlantic Canada


– How/Were the Indigenous people considered in Confederation?

– How did Canada help free the Netherlands?

– What explains the strong presence of Jamaicans in Atlantic Canadian history?

– Why is a Newfoundland accent often ridiculed?

– Why is American Dorothea Dix called the Apostle of the Insane?

– How has the Anne Murray Centre affected the Springhill, NS, economy?

– What social role do the Men of the Deeps play?


– How has the Underground Railway affected Atlantic Canada’s history?

-What were the causes and outcomes of the Halifax Riots?

– How did the Ocean Ranger disaster affect communities?

– How does the Irving company influence New Brunswick’s print media?

– Why are there competing ideas as to where the game of hockey originated?

– How did Chinese immigrants in the 1800s use Halifax as a port of entry to Canadian citizenship?

– What explains the internationalization of Atlantic Canadian universities?



Goals, in addition to practicing writing and researching for academic papers with a beginner’s mind,

  1. Further develop your historical empathy for people studied, for researchers, and the fluidity of knowledge
  2. Further develop your historical imagination
  3. To write academic papers that best ring true with the lived experiences of those involved


Required sources: NO Wiki or canadianencyclopedia sources permitted

4 Scholarly sources (journals, textbooks)
4 Pop culture sources (newspapers, chat rooms/websites, magazines)


30%     Scholarly writing: academic tone, grammar, spelling, punctuation, use of terms
15%     Formatting, including citations and references list; following these paper guidelines
20%     Abstract, Keywords, Introduction, Background to the Topic, Brainstorming Lists
35%     Findings and Discussion, Conclusion
100%   then converted to mark out of 25%


General layout

Cover page      None. Write the title of the paper, your name, A number, then start writing
Length             4 single-spaced pages of writing, PLUS one references page; font no larger than this
References      on separate page at the end of the paper in official format of your choice
Format             follow official formatting (APA, ASA, MLA, …); write that on back of paper
EXCEPT:        do not use a cover page, or plastic or paper covers or folders
do not double-space (except between sections of the paper)
you may use the word I sparingly in the paper


Required Sections and Titles, in this order:


Abstract: You will write this after your research is complete, but write a practice one when you start
In one paragraph under 7 sentences long, state the research question, the setting(s) and time span of your topic, a few of its related social outcomes or events over time, and your main finding(s) that sum up your research.


Along with historical empathy and historical imagination, list the 4 or 5 main words that stand out in your paper; no need to list every term; e.g., if studying the Anne Murray Centre, keywords could include: Anne Murray Centre, economy, tourism, pop star.

(about 4 paragraphs): This holds the paper together and will change until you finish writing – that’s OK.
State the research question or statement to clarify your topic
Identify any related social outcomes, events throughout the timeline of its history

Briefly justify why you will examine the issue; in other words, Who cares?
Briefly identify whose lived experiences you will examine and why you care about them

Map out the paper in a couple of sentences outlining the main points of the sections that will follow

Background to the Topic
(about 4 paragraphs)

  • sketch out the main individuals, groups and social institutions related to the topic
  • a brief history of the situation or person; you may include statistics
  • suggest how the spirit of that situation or person or is somehow represented in society today


Brainstorming Lists (half of one page)

Form two lists under the titles: Historical Empathy, and Historical Imagination

Under each, list 5 to 10 things in your own words that reflect your historical empathy or your historical imagination. This will help focus, guide, and limit your research and will better ring true.

You’ll likely make these most meaningful if you write things down as you go through your sources

For example, if studying the Underground Railway, you might start the list like this:

Historical Empathy                                         Historical Imagination

– what it must have felt like to be freed          – local Nova Scotians and Americans helped

– fear must have been with them every           build a network to house and transport the

day and night; how did they comfort                        people along the way; was this done at night?

their children?                                                 – is that similar to how allies hid Jewish people

from the Nazi regime?


Findings and Discussion (about 6 paragraphs)
Begin this section of about one page with: It is beyond the scope of the paper to explore everything about this topic. Therefore, the focus will be on …

Take a couple of paragraphs for each main context to reiterate the research focus and unpack who was involved, when, why, how, and what outcomes evolved – and may still be evolving today.


Conclusion (about 2 – 3 paragraphs)
Re-state your research question as a comment, such as, “This paper set out to examine…”
Briefly reflect on how well you helped make sense of Atlantic Canada; re-state your findings
Suggest any limitations in the paper (e.g., irrelevant theories and concepts, scope of paper, little    historical data on the topic, one-sided sources, no budget to conduct interviews)
Suggest future research in the area and propose one new research question on the topic

Avoid claiming that you’ve “proven” this or that


References (or Works Cited, or Bibliography – according to format style)
List all sources according to official formatting of your choice
Check that all of your listed sources are cited in the body of the paper using in-text citation

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