How do I write a research paper on JFK?

A young person named K. asks Yahoo, How do I go about writing a research paper on the JFK assassination?

Here’s my answer:

Dear K.

I think you should review all the evidence you can and then decide which alternative you believe more: that one man alone and unaided killed President Kennedy or whether more people were involved.

Beware of people who say that there is a simple and obvious answer to this question.

Before deciding which paper you want to write, consult the best online sources on the subject.

Take look at the “Starting Points” on maryferrell.org. This site has the most comprehensive collection of JFK records on the Internet. This site is skeptical of the theory that Lee Oswald acted alone and has plenty of evidence to back it up.

Then take a look at the JFK Assassination Home Page. This site argues that Oswald did act alone.

How can you make sense of this debate and decide?

Take a look at whokilledJFK.org, a website created by history students at American University here in Washington. This site highlights the work of thoughtful college students who have addressed the same issue.

I am the moderator of a site called JFKFacts.org and would be glad to help you as you take on this challenging assignment.

Good luck

 

11 comments

  1. Bob McCoy says:

    There is one other approach one might take for a research paper. Examine the evidence with open objectivity, free of social or personal bias. Then, write a Thesis on notable evidence that was overlooked or undiscovered by researchers and investigators.

    Example: Some claim that the throat wound was the “exit” wound caused by the shot to JFK’s back. Dr. Lattimer claimed the “arms up” position, what he calls the “thornburn position” is the result of bullet from the back wound hitting near the spine, (this bullet then exiting through the throat).

    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/medical.htm

    The Problem: While JFK is sitting in the limo, arms already raised up in what Dr. Lattimer terms the “Thorburn position”, film footage taken that day shows JFK suddenly lurge forward, after the arms had been raised already for a short time. The head wound had not yet happened. There was absolutely no reason for this sudden forward lurch, other than being hit from behind, in the back by a bullet, a second bullet. The first bullet, to the throat caused JFK to raise his arms.

    A lot of little pieces of evidence like this have been missed over the years, but some very large pieces have been missed as well. Who knows, one might make some interesting new discoveries.

    Reply lol ol l o l o llo ol ll

  2. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    Jeff, sound advice (but just an FYI,the link to “whokilledJFK” doesn’t work).

    There is one other approach one might take for a research paper. Examine the evidence with open objectivity, free of social or personal bias. Then, write a Thesis on notable evidence that was overlooked or undiscovered by researchers and investigators.

    Example: Some claim that the throat wound was the “exit” wound caused by the shot to JFK’s back. Dr. Lattimer claimed the “arms up” position, what he calls the “thornburn position” is the result of bullet from the back wound hitting near the spine, (this bullet then exiting through the throat).

    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/medical.htm

    The Problem: While JFK is sitting in the limo, arms already raised up in what Dr. Lattimer terms the “Thorburn position”, film footage taken that day shows JFK suddenly lurge forward, after the arms had been raised already for a short time. The head wound had not yet happened. There was absolutely no reason for this sudden forward lurch, other than being hit from behind, in the back by a bullet, a second bullet. The first bullet, to the throat caused JFK to raise his arms.

    A lot of little pieces of evidence like this have been missed over the years, but some very large pieces have been missed as well. Who knows, one might make some interesting new discoveries.

  3. Eric Hollingsworth says:

    I think a good starting point would be to read Jesse Curry’s “JFK Assassination File.” It does a good job of setting the scene from the viewpoint of not only a Dallas resident but someone who was intimately involved in the assassination and its aftermath. It also doesn’t come down strongly on lone gunman or conspiracy.

    Two other good references would be “Accessories After the Fact” and the 26 volumes of evidence to cross-check the claims that the former made. There are a lot of still unanswered discrepancies between the Warren Commission Report and the evidence used to back it up.

    One thing that most people ignore is that according to the FBI, there must have been a conspiracy. The FBI concluded that the first of 3 shots hit JFK, the second hit Governor Connally, and the third hit JFK. The Warren Commission realized this chain of events would require at least 2 shooters and postulated the single bullet theory to explain the “problem” away. Gerald Posner, et al, have rationalized this discrepancy by taking liberties with the shot timing. However, if the FBI is correct and the shots occurred at the times made obvious by the Zapruder film, then Oswald could not have acted alone.

  4. Curt says:

    How about whether Oswald shot Officer Tippit? Would give you a specific focus.

  5. JSA says:

    From an academic perspective, I think the JFK assassination is way too broad a topic for one term paper, unless it’s a cursory outline of bare bones information. This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but from my experience in academia, my professors insisted on students choosing a more narrow topic for research, such as: Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Dallas leading up to the assassination; or, A comprehensive study of Trauma Room One at Parkland and what really happened, what the doctors and others handling Kennedy saw and reported; or, What the Warren Report Missed, a study of witness statements and other material that either got left out or got changed in the process of putting the report together. These are just a few examples. If an entire class of say, 40 students each researched a particular aspect of the event in depth, with ample footnotes and documentation, they (and we) might gain some important new insights.

    • Jonathan says:

      JSA,

      I agree, the topic is way too large for a research paper. The student is going to have focus narrowly. But I do believe a proper introduction would be an overview of the day of assassination.

      If it were me, given my biases, I’d start the overview with the limo turn from Main onto Houston. (For anyone in the sniper’s nest, a shot at JFK coming down Houston would have been much, much easier than a shot at JFK going away and down Elm.)

      I’d end the overview with a simple description of Jack Ruby’s shooting Oswald.

      The whole overview — just verifiable facts — no more than three or four pages.

      The overview would provide the context for the more narrow detailing you prescribe.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Dear K,

    Here’s what I’d do. First I’d try to get good a conceptual grasp of what happened, where it happened, and when it happened. What, where, and when are three of the five basic interrogatories. The other two are how and why; they’ll form part of the conclusion of the research paper.

    Second, from the conceptual threads, I’d pull one (e.g., what happened) and drill down for details. Facts first. Interpretation of facts second. Opinions third.

    Third, I’d write as an introduction an overview of the assassination. The body of the paper would be a detailed look at one matter (i.e., one conceptual thread, issue, whatever). The conclusion would be my opinion, based on the body of the paper.

    The internet is rich with information and opinions on the assassination, so you probably won’t have to invest in any books.

    Have fun.

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