Tips and Guidelines for Term Papers in History Source: Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing Abou

Tips and Guidelines for Term Papers in
History

Source: Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing About History,
New York: Harper Collins, 1995

A.
General Observations

1.
The historical essay has an
argument.
2.
The good historical essay has a
sharply focused and limited topic.
3.
Good papers use primary
sources.
4.
Get to the point quickly.
5.
Build the paper step by step on
evidence.
6.
Document all sources.
7.
Historical essays are written
dispassionately, from the perspective of a detached, objective observer.
8.
A good paper includes original
thoughts of the author.
9.
An honest argument takes
contrary evidence into account.
10. Use Standard English and observe the common conventions of writing.
11. First and last paragraphs should mirror each other.

B.
Argument

1.
State your argument quickly and
concisely, as early as possible in the paper.
2.
When making an assertion,
provide examples as evidence.
3.
Give fair treatment to points
of view different from your own.
4.
Admit weaknesses in your own
argument or acknowledge facts that potential opponents might use to dispute
your findings.
5.
Avoid too much detail,
otherwise your argument might become submerged.

C. Critical Use of Sources

1.
Identify crucial information to
answer the following questions:
1.1. Whoare the actors/heroes?
1.2. What exactly happened?
1.3. Whendid it happen?
1.4. Where did it happen?
1.5. Whydid it happen, and what is its significance?
1.5.1.
Distinguish between
precipitating and background causes.
1.5.2.
Remember that historical
causation is complex.
1.5.3.
Be cautious in your judgments.

2.
When using primary sources, be
sure to situate them in their historical context. Answer the following
questions:
2.1. Whowrote it?
2.2. Whenwas it written?
2.3. Wherewas it written?
2.4. For whom was it written?
2.5. What does it say?
2.6. Whatdoes it mean?
2.7. Whatcan we infer?

D. References

1.
Use footnotes whenever you
quote directly from a source.
2.
Acknowledge in a footnote any
paraphrase or summary of a source.
3.
Acknowledge in a footnote
important ideas that are not your own.
4.
Do not reference common
knowledge, expressions, or allusions.
5.
Footnotes include the essential
bibliographical information about of the source, i.e. author, title, place of
publication, publisher, year of publication, and the number of the page from
which the reference was made. Sample:

William F.
Nimmo, Japan and Russia A Reevaluation in the Post-Soviet Era
(Greenwood, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 12

6.
When citing a book or article
the second time, it is sufficient to indicate the author’s last name (and a
short version of the title, if you using several books by the same author) and
the page number. E.g.: Nimmo, 134
7.
When quoting from the same
source more than once in a row, you may use “ibid.†instead of the above. Note
that “ibid.†refers only to the note immediately preceding the current one,
therefore you must use the author/short title formula when referring to works
other than the one indicated in the immediately preceding note.

E. Bibliography

Provide a bibliography listing all sources
you have used for your paper in alphabetical order. Note that the form of a
bibliographical entry is slightly different from that of a footnote.

Nimmo, William F. Japan and Russia. A Reevaluation in the Post-Soviet Era. Greenwod,
CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

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