Writing Papers for
History- Tips on Proper Style
You must follow
the following guidelines for all papers for this class. Your
failure to do so will result in a lower grade, so please read this
12 point size Times New Roman font with standard size
margins, headers, and footers. Make sure that your
numbered. You should also include a bibliography page
lists the bibliographic information for the book, as well as
sources you have consulted.
Your paper should provide a clear, concise (usually one sentence long) thesis
statement which introduces
your argument(s) in the first paragraph. The thesis
also should be
(not necessarily verbatim) in the concluding paragraph as
Obviously, your paper must answer the questions posed by the
assignment, but you should still have an over-arching thesis
unifies your entire paper.
- Make your
thesis statement as specific as possible. Do not
say that the evidence reveals something important about the
Rather, tell the reader specifically
what the evidence reveals. Simply repeating the
questions posed by the assignment is not the same thing as
making an actual argument.
- Your paper should be
written using correct essay form. That means
that it should have a clear introduction and conclusion,
paragraphs that provide evidence to support your thesis.
your material should be relevant to your paper's argument.
A paper is NOT a "book report," so you should not
simply summarize the book or document. Instead,
you should use evidence
from it in order to support your analysis.
- In supporting your thesis
argument, you should refer to evidence from the document or
question. Any time you refer to or quote a specific
part of the
book, you MUST provide a formal citation to back up your
The required method for citing
sources in this class is the Chigago
Manual of Style
format, which is the standard for the discipline of
According to this format, at the end
any sentence or paragraph drawn from a specific part of a
insert a footnote at the bottom of the page with the
bibliographic information. Consult the
web link for more detailed information on citations in this
You may of course quote your source in order to support your
arguments, but make sure not to use too many quotations.
the time in your paper you should be using your own words.
include frequent, lengthy quotations, I'll assume that you
using those quotes as filler to extend your papers length.
Common Grammar and
now a few common grammatica and stylistic problems that oftern
appear in student writing; as you
proofread your paper make sure to avoid the following common
grammatical or stylistic errors:
Use the past
tense when writing about the past. This is a history
course, which means you are writing about the past and must
appropriate verb tense. In some of your English or
classes you might have been told to use the "literary present"
when writing about a book or story in order to give your
immediacy. For a HISTORICAL ANALYSIS of a piece of
you should always use verbs in the past tense.
not use contractions in formal writing (didn't, couldn't,
etc.). Contractions are fine for informal speaking or
but an essay or paper for a college class is formal writing.
3. Do not use slang or
profanity in formal writing. Again, an essay or paper for a college
class is formal writing.
4. Do not confuse there/their/they're
your/you're. Those words all mean different things and
5. Do not use first person pronouns
in scholarly writing (I, me,
etc.). The focus of your paper should be on the document
or topic in question, rather than
on your own reaction to it.
not use second person pronouns in scholarly writing (you,
your, etc.) either. In informal spoken English, "you" is
sometimes used as
a general third person pronoun (for example, "You don't want
to let down your
guard around a zombie.") In formal written English,
should use an actual noun or third person pronoun (for
example, "One should not
let down one's guard around a zombie").
correctly to designate possession. Do not use an
apostrophe to designate a plural (for example, the
plural of Nazi is
"Nazis" not "Nazi's").
and antecedents should always agree. "They" is a plural
and should not be used as a singular pronoun-- instead use he
appropriate (recently, some have proposed the use of "they" as
neutral singular pronoun. Such usage, however, is not yet
accepted, and is not really appropriate in the first place for
scholarly discussions of the past when people were identified
either males or females).
9. Subjects and verbs
in your paper should always agree.
Avoid indefinite pronoun reference. Your writing should always
absolutely clear to what your pronouns refer. For example,
"This is a
bad idea" makes use of indefinite pronoun reference-- the
tell to what "this" refers. Instead your sentence might read
unclear use of pronouns is a bad idea," which is far easier
reader to understand.
Avoid excessive use of the passive voice, which can make your
weak and unclear. For example, "This zombie was killed by
makes use of passive voice. "She killed the zombie" is
stronger and more clear.
Do not use the verb "feel" when you really mean "think" or
A person feels emotions. Ideas or opinions are thought or
awkwardly phrased sentences. Sometimes there is not
grammatically wrong with a sentence, yet it still can be an
convoluted mess. One way to avoid awkward sentence structure
to proofread your paper by reading it out loud.
sentence which seems fine on the page is revealed to be a
refer to an author or historical figure by his or her last
name. Using first names
is only appropriate with people you know, and even then, only
15. Use complete
sentences, rather than sentence fragments.
your footnotes correctly. See the links on the course
under the heading "citations" for more information on footnote
Include a separate bibliography page listing all of your
always should provide formal citations for all of your sources
18. You should include
a thesis statement which sets out your main arguments as
clearly and specifically as possible.