Professor Fleming's Brief Guides:  Writing Papers for History Class

         Writing a paper for your history class is not always fun.  There are books to read, journals to track down, maybe even a day spent piecing together parts of old newspaper articles - and all of it done while you try to take copious (and accurate) notes.  It can be frustrating, but it can also be rewarding.  Not only is your chance of receiving a good grade bettered, but the skills you develop doing writing for your college professors will also benefit you in your future employment endeavors.

         To that end, I have prepared a short and by no means comprehensive guide to writing a paper for your history class.  That is, for MY history class.  I have presented citation and bibliography examples, writing style examples, and a list of grammar and punctuation "do nots".  It is with this last item that you begin your journey to writing better papers for college.

subject restrictions - formatting guidelines - bibliography examples - in-line citations - grammar & punctuation do-nots

General Guidelines

SUBJECT RESTRICTIONS

subject restrictions - formatting guidelines - bibliography examples - in-line citations - grammar & punctuation do-nots

 

FORMATTING GUIDELINES

subject restrictions - formatting guidelines - bibliography examples - in-line citations - grammar & punctuation do-nots

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY EXAMPLES

Complete guide to a proper MLA style bibliography.

IN-LINE CITATIONS

         The determination for using an in-line (or in-text) citation is simple.  If what you write is wholly your idea and entirely your words, it does not need a citation.  Common knowledge facts do not need citations (such as the dates of someone's death or that Kissinger traveled to China).  If you take the words directly from another work, a citation is necessary every single time.

         It is a bit harder to determine when to use a citation if you paraphrase.  Paraphrasing is taking a larger chunk of material from somebody else's work and restating it in your paper using your own words.  The problem here is that you have used your words, put your spin on the material, but the IDEA was not yours to start with.  Technically, you must cite the idea.

         The formats for in-line citations are simple:

subject restrictions - formatting guidelines - bibliography examples - in-line citations - grammar & punctuation do-nots

 

GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION DO-NOTS

  • Do not - ever - write exactly as you speak.  People use vastly different vocabulary sets and pace differently in writing than they do when speaking.  Reading your work aloud can often clue you in to pacing problems, so do not neglect this important tool in your editing process - but remember not to let it govern your writing.
  • Never start a sentence with And, But, or Or.  If you feel the need to do so, review the previous sentence's structure and determine if a subordinate clause would be more appropriate.  Otherwise, just start a new sentence.
  • Do not use contractions.  Apostrophes used for possessives do not indicate contractions.
  • Do not ask rhetorical questions, even if you plan on answering them.  Do you know what I mean?
  • Do not use the first person.  You are writing about historical events and unless you were actually in attendance, there is no need to involve yourself with I, me, my, or mine.  Since there is no need to involve yourself, there is subsequently no need to involve the reader.  To help avoid first person writing, investigate the proper uses of the word "one", as in "One must study hard to pass a college history class."
  • Learn the difference between the following word sets:  their, they're, there; too, to, two; its, it's - and many, many more.
  • Avoid passive voice and write actively.  For instance, do not write "It is believed to have been the most destructive battle ever"; write "it was the most destructive battle ever." Of course, a statement of this kind would need an in-line citation (if somebody else wrote or said it) or proof to support it.
  • USE THE SPELL CHECK FUNCTION OF YOUR WORD PROCESSOR.  In this modern age there is no excuse for turning in a paper with misspelled words - ever.  Keep in mind that your spell check will not inform you if you are using "two" when you should be using "too".

subject restrictions - formatting guidelines - bibliography examples - in-line citations - grammar & punctuation do-nots