Writing Resources - How to Write a Good History Essay - Hamilton College (2023)

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  • The top ten reasons for negative comments on history articles
  • Make sure your history paper has substance
  • Common marginal notes on style, clarity, grammar and syntaxNotes on style and clarityNotes on grammar and syntax
  • Problems using words and phrases.
  • Analysis of a historical document
  • Write a book review
  • Write a thesis or thesis

The top ten reasons for negative comments on history articles

(From a survey byhistory department)
10. They get involved in cheap things,Anachronistic moralizing.
9. You are careless with himChronology.
8. MiscellaneoustoÖexcessive.
7. You wrote a sloppy draft.(See review and review)
6. They are vague or empty,unsupported generalizations.
5. You write a lot in the passive voice.
4. You use inappropriatelyfuentes.
3. You useproofuncritical
2. you aredetailed.
1. You are not clearTheseand little analysis.

Make sure your history paper has substance

Starts well.

Avoid pretentious and tasteless beginnings. For example, if you're writing an article about British reactions to the Indian rebellion of 1857, don't start with a statement like this: "Throughout human history, people from every culture of the world have engaged in many enduring actions." contradictory events in numerous aspects of government policy and diplomatic issues that have interested historians and have generated historical theories in many fields. This is pure nonsense, it bores the reader and is a sure sign that you have nothing substantial to say. Get straight to the point. Here's a better place to start: "The rebellion of 1857 forced the British to reconsider their colonial administration in India." This sentence tells the reader what your article is really about and opens the way for you to state your thesis in the rest of the introductory paragraph. For example, it could be argued that heightened British sensitivity to Indian customs was hypocritical.

Express a clear thesis.

Regardless of whether you are writing an examination paper or a thesis, you must have a thesis. Don't just repeat homework or start writing down everything you know on the subject. Ask yourself, "What exactly am I trying to prove?" Your thesis is your opinion on the subject, your perspective, your explanation, i.e. the case you are going to defend. "Ireland was struck by a famine in the 1840s" is a true statement, but not a theory. "The English were responsible for the famine in Ireland in the 1840s" is one thesis (whether it is tenable or not is another question). A good thesis answers an important research question about how or why something happened. ("Who was responsible for the famine in Ireland in the 1840s?") When you hand in your thesis, don't forget it. Develop your thesis logically from paragraph to paragraph. Your reader should always know where your argument came from, where it is now, and where it is going.

Be sure to stop by.

Students are often confused when their teachers criticize them for summarizing or just narrating instead of analyzing. What does analyze mean? Strictly speaking, analyzing means breaking it up into parts and examining the interrelationships of those parts. If you analyze water, you break it down into hydrogen and oxygen. More broadly, historical analysis explains the origin and meaning of events. Historical analysis digs beneath the surface to identify relationships or differences that are not immediately obvious. Historical analysis is crucial; evaluates sources, assigns importance to causes, and weighs competing explanations. Don't take the distinction too far, but you can think of the summary and analysis like this:who what whenmiWothey are the stuff of the CV; how, why and with what effect are the analysis materials. Many students find that they have to do a long summary (to show the teacher they know the facts) before they get to their analysis. Instead, try to start reviewing as early as possible, sometimes without abstracts. The facts will “shine through” through a good analysis. You can't do analysis if you don't know the facts, but you can summarize the facts without being able to do analysis. Summarizing is simpler and less sophisticated than analysis, which is why summarizing alone never gets an "A".

Use evidence critically.

Like good detectives, historians critique their sources and test their reliability. You wouldn't think highly of a detective who would trust a suspect's nemesis just to check an alibi. Likewise, I would not think highly of a historian who relies solely on the French to explain the origins of WWI. Consider the following two statements about the origins of World War I: 1) "The Germans are responsible for the 1914 disaster. Only a professional liar would deny it..." 2)"That's not trueGermany is to blame for causing this war. Neither the people, nor the government, nor the emperor wanted war..." Neither can be true, so you have to do a bit of detective work. As always, the best approach is to ask: Who wrote the Scriptures? There? When? Under which circumstances? For whom? The first claim comes from a book written by the French politician Georges Clemenceau in 1929, towards the end of his life. In 1871, Clemenceau swore vengeance on Germany for France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. As Prime Minister of France from 1917 to 1920, he represented France at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Obviously he was not a disinterested observer. The second statement comes from a manifesto published in the fall of 1914 by 93 leading German intellectuals. They defended Germany against accusations of aggression and brutality. Apparently they weren't disinterested observers either. Well, one rarely finds such extreme prejudices and passionate differences of opinion, but the principle of criticism and source examination always applies. In general, the more sources you can use and the more diverse they are, the more likely you are to make informed historical judgments, especially when it comes to personal interests and passions. As a historian you don't have to be cynical (selfishness doesn't explain everything), but you have to be critical and skeptical. Competent historians may offer different interpretations of the same evidence or choose to emphasize different evidence. You won't find a single historical truth with a capital "V" on an important topic. However, you can learn to distinguish between conflicting interpretations that are not all the same. (See also:Analysis of a historical document)

If necessary.

Vague statements and hollow generalizations indicate that you have not taken the time to learn the material. Consider these two sentences: “During the French Revolution, the people overthrew the government. The revolution is important because it shows that people need freedom.” Which people? Landless peasants? City commuters? Rich lawyers? Which government? When? What? Who exactly needed freedom and what did they mean by freedom? Here is a more detailed statement of the French Revolution: “In 1793, rising prices and food shortages threatened the people of Parisno pantiespressured the Convention to introduce price controls. This statement is more limited than the grandiose generalizations about the revolution, but unlike these it can open the door to a real analysis of the revolution. Be careful when using large abstractions likepeople, society, liberty and government,especially if you move further from the concrete by using these words as apparent precursors of the pronouns they and that. Always pay attention to cause and effect. Abstractions cause and need nothing; certain people or certain groups of people cause or need things. Avoid grandiose transhistorical generalizations that you cannot bear.When in doubt about appropriate accuracy or detail, add "too much" precision and detail.

Observe chronologically.

Anchor your thesis in a clear chronological structure and don't jump around in a confusing manner. Be careful to avoid anachronisms and inaccuracies in dates. When you write, "Napoleon left his Grand Army in Russia and encountered the Red Eye in Paris," the problem is obvious. When you write, "Despite the Watergate scandal, Nixon was easily reelected in 1972," the problem is more subtle, but still serious. (The scandal only became public after the election.) If you write, "The revolution in China finally succeeded in the 20th century," your teacher may suspect that you didn't study. What revolution? When in the 20th century? Remember that chronology is the backbone of history. What would you think of a biographer who wrote that he graduated from Hamilton in the 1950s?

Please cite sources carefully.

Your professor may allow parenthetical citations in a short one- or two-source paper, but you should use footnotes for any history research paper. Bracketed quotes are unsightly; they mark the text and interrupt the flow of reading. Worse, they are simply insufficient to capture the richness of historical sources. Historians are rightly proud of the immense diversity of their sources. Bracketed citations such as (Jones 1994) may be appropriate for most social sciences and humanities, where the source base is generally limited to recent English-language books and articles. However, historians need the flexibility of the full footnote. Try imagining this typical footnote (taken at random from a classic work of German history) squeezed between parentheses in the body of the text:DZA Potsdam, RdI, Peace 5, Longwy-Briey Business, vol. yo, no 19305, memorandum printed for OHL and Reichsleitung, December 1917, and in RWA, Peace France no. 1883.The abbreviations are already in this footnote; Your details cannot be further reduced. For footnotes and bibliography, historians often use the Chicago style. (The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.) The Writing Center website has a helpful summary of Chicago citation style, prepared by Elizabeth Rabe, a former history student.footnotes🇧🇷 RefWorks (on the library's website) converts your Chicago-style citations. Feel free to ask one of the reference librarians for help if you have trouble getting started with RefWorks.

Use primary sources.

Use as many primary sources as possible in your article. A primary source is a source created by a participant or witness to the events you are writing about. A primary source allows the historian to see the past through the eyes of the direct participants. Some common primary sources include letters, journals, memoirs, speeches, parish registers, newspaper articles, and government documents of all kinds. The broad genre of "government records" is probably the historian's richest treasure trove, and includes everything from criminal court records, tax lists, census data, parliamentary debates, and international treaties; in fact all records made by governments. When writing about culture, primary sources can be artworks or literature, as well as philosophical or scientific treatises—anything that falls under the broad heading of culture. Not all primary sources are written. Buildings, monuments, clothing, furnishings, photographs, religious relics, musical recordings, or oral memories can all be primary sources when you use them as historical clues. The interests of historians are so broad that virtually anything can be a primary source. (See also:Analysis of a historical document)

Use secondary academic sources.

A secondary source is one written by a later historian who has no part in what he is writing about. (On the rare occasions when the historian was involved in the events, the work, or at least part of it, is a primary source.) Historians read secondary sources to learn how scholars have interpreted the past. Just as you must criticize primary sources, you must also criticize secondary sources. Be especially careful to distinguish between academic and non-academic secondary sources. Unlike nuclear physics, for example, the story appeals to many fans. Books and articles about war, tall people and everyday material life dominate popular history. Some professional historians disparage popular history and may even discourage their peers from attempting to do so. You don't have to share your snobbery; a bit of folk history is excellent. But, and this is a big but, in general you should avoid popular papers in your research because they are generally not academic. The popular story tries to inform and entertain a wide audience. In popular history, dramatic narrative often prevails over analysis, style over substance, simplicity over complexity, and broad generalization over careful limitation. Popular history is often based largely or entirely on secondary sources. Strictly speaking, the most popular stories could be considered tertiary sources, not secondary. The history of science, on the other hand, attempts to discover new knowledge or to reinterpret existing knowledge. Good academics want to write clearly and simply, can tell a compelling story, but do not shy away from depth, analysis, complexity or skill. The history of science is based on as many primary sources as possible.

Well, your goal as a student is to get as close as possible to the academic ideal, so you need to develop a knack for distinguishing the academic from the non-academic. Here are some questions to ask your secondary sources (note that the distinction between popular and scholarly is not absolute, and some scholarly work may be flawed).

Who is the author?Most scholarly articles are written by professional historians (usually professors) who have advanced training in the field they are writing about. Be careful if the author is a journalist or someone with no particular historical background.

Who publishes the work?Academic books come from academic presses and a handful of commercial publishers (eg, Norton, Routledge, Palgrave, Penguin, Rowman & Littlefield, Knopf, and HarperCollins).

If it is an article, where does it appear?It is in a journal subscribed to by our library, listed inJSTOR, or published by the university press? Does the editorial board consist of professors? Interestingly, the word journal in the title is often a sign that it is an academic journal.

What are the notes and bibliography like?If they are thin or absent, be careful. Be careful when dealing with secondary sources. If the article relates to a non-English speaking area and all sources are in English, it is almost by definition non-academic.

Can you find book reviews in the Academic Search Premier database?If the book was published in the last few decades and it's not there, that's a bad sign. With practice, you can develop confidence in your judgment and be well on your way to becoming a historian. If you are unsure whether a paper qualifies as academically qualified, ask your professor. (See also:Write a book review)

Avoid abusing your sources.

Many potentially valuable resources are easy to abuse. Pay special attention to these five abuses:

web abuse.The web is a wonderful and expansive resource for indexes and catalogs. But as a source of primary and secondary material to the historian, the web is of limited value. Anyone with the right software can publish something on the web without the need for trained editors, proofreaders, or librarians. The result is a lot of junk on the web. If you use a main web source, make sure that the website is backed by a respected intellectual institution. Be especially wary of secondary articles on the web unless they appear in electronic versions of established print journals (eg.Das Journal of Asian Studiesin JSTOR). Many articles on the web are little more than third-rate encyclopedia entries. If in doubt, consult your teacher. With rare exceptions, you will not find any scholarly monographs on history (even the most recent) on the web. You may have heard about Google's plans to digitize all the collections of some of the world's leading libraries and make those collections available on the web. Don't hold your breath. Your days in Hamilton will end when the project is complete. Also, your background as a historian should give you a healthy skepticism about the dizzying claims made by techies. Most of the time and effort in writing history is spent reading, taking notes, thinking, and writing. Finding a book chapter on the web (as opposed to acquiring the physical book through interlibrary loan) may be convenient, but it doesn't change the basics for the historian. In addition, digitized old books have a subtle but serious drawback: they disrupt the historian's sensory connection with the past. And, of course, virtually none of the literally trillions of pages of archival material on the Internet is available. The library and archive will remain the natural habitat of the historian for the foreseeable future.

Misuse of the thesaurus.How tempting it is to ask your computer's thesaurus to suggest an academic-sounding word for the common word you've thought of! Resist the temptation. Consider this example (admittedly clumsy, but you get the point): You're writing about EPA programs to clean up unclean water supplies.uncleanIt seems like a very simple and boring word, so open your thesaurus, which has everything from incontinent to whore. "How about whore water?" do you think "That will impress the professor." The problem is you don't know exactly whatoutmeans, so you don't notice thatoutit's totally inappropriate in this context and makes you look silly and immature. Use only the words that come naturally to you. Don't try to write beyond your vocabulary. Don't try to impress with big words. Use a thesaurusonly for the pesky quibble issues (you know the word and will recognize it the moment you see it, but just can't think of it right now).

Schedule abuse.This is similar to thesaurus abuse. Suppose you're writing an article on Alexander Hamilton's banking policy and want to get going quickly, which makes you look like an effortless scholar. How about a bill? You click on the indexBartletts Familienzitate, and before you know it, you'll have started your work with As Samuel Butler Wrote inHudibras, 'What's the use / But how much money will it bring?' "Be honest, you're faking it. You don't know who Samuel Butler is, and you've probably never heard of him.Hudibras, the more you read it. Your teacher is not wrong. They sound like an unsafe table speaker. Forget Bartlett unless you confirm the gist of a quote that pops into your head and relates to your article.

Misuse of encyclopedias.General encyclopedias likeBritishThey are useful for fact checking ("Wait a second, am I right about which countries sent troops to crush the Boxer Rebellion in China? Better check"). But when you comment on encyclopedias in your articles, you're not doing college-level research.

Dictionary abuse.The dictionary is your friend. Keep it by your side as you write, but don't abuse it by starting articles with a definition. You might be more tempted to start this way if you're writing about a complex, controversial, or elusive topic. ("In accordance withdie Webster collegial dictionary, Liberalism is defined as..."). In fact, the dictionary doesn't help in these cases, leaving you looking like a conscientious but boring high school student. Except on the rare occasion that they're competing dictionaries trades definitions, keep dictionary quotes out of your article.

quote sparingly

Avoid quoting asecondarySource and then simply repeat or summarize the quote, either above or below the quote. It is seldom necessary to cite secondary sources extensively unless your essay focuses on a critical analysis of the author's argument. (See also:Write a book review) Your professor wants to see your ability to analyze and understand secondary sources. Do not cite unless the citation clarifies or enriches your analysis. When in doubt, do not quote; Instead, incorporate the author's reasoning into your own (although you should acknowledge your sources' ideas, even if you paraphrase them). If you use a lot of citations from secondary sources, you're probably writing a bad article. An analysis by AprimaryThe source, such as a political treatise or philosophical essay, may require extensive citations, often in block format. In such cases, it may be necessary to briefly repeat important points or passages to present the author's ideas, but your analysis and interpretation of the meaning of the text should remain the primary goal. (See also: usageprimary sourcesAnd useSecondary Scientific Sources.)

Know your listeners

Unless you're told otherwise, assume your audience is made up of educated and intelligent people, not experts. In fact, your professor will usually be your only reader, but if you write to him or her directly, he or she may get cryptic or sloppy (well, she'll know what I'm talking about). Explaining your ideas to someone who doesn't know what you mean forces you to be clear and complete. Now, it can certainly be difficult to find just the right amount of detail (how much should I give to the Edict of Nantes, the Embargo Act, or President Wilson's background?). If in doubt, add additional details. You will have some freedom here if you avoid extremes (my reader is ignorant/my reader knows everything).

Avoid cheap and anachronistic moralizing

Many of the people and institutions of the past seem unenlightened, ignorant, wrong, or fanatical about today's values. Resist the temptation to judge or justify yourself. ("Martin Luther was blind to the sexism and class prejudices of 16th-century German society.") Like you, the people of the past were creatures of their time; like you, they deserve to be judged by the standards of their time. If you judge the past by today's standards (a mistake historians call "presenteeism"), you'll never understand why people thought or acted the way they did. Yes, Hitler was a villain, but he was bad not only by today's standards, but also by the generally accepted standards of his own time. One day you will look very stupid and ignorant. (“Hamilton students of the early 21st century didn’t see the shocking Inderdosherism [yes, you don’t recognize the concept because it doesn’t exist yet] in their career plans.)

(Video) Virtually Hamilton: College Essay Tips (August)

have a strong conclusion

Of course, don't stop abruptly, as if you're running out of time or ideas. Your conclusion should complete something. Just briefly repeating what you said in your paper gives the impression that you are unsure of the meaning of what you have written. A weak conclusion leaves the reader dissatisfied and confused, wondering why your article is worth reading. A strong conclusion adds something to what you said in your introduction. A strong conclusion explains the importance and significance of what you have written. A strong conclusion leaves your reader concerned about what you said and pondering the broader implications of your thesis. Don't let your reader ask, "So what?"

check and check

Your teacher might discover a "miracle in an eraser," so don't try to finish your work at the last minute. Plan enough time for proofreading and correcting. Show your draft to a writing teacher or other good writer. It can also be helpful to read the draft aloud. Of course everyone makes mistakes, and some can go unnoticed no matter how meticulous you are. But beware of many mistakes. The lack of a careful review suggests that you spent too little time and effort on the task. Tip: Have your text proofread on screen and in print. The two see their eyes differently. Don't rely on your spell checker to catch all your misspellings. (If the sheep knows this sheep in every way, like a wooden nut from the computer, it will help the sheep to skin or roll well.)

General notes on style, clarity, grammar and syntax

Monitoring:The Writing Center suggests standard abbreviations for looking up some of these issues. You should be familiar with these abbreviations, but your teacher must not use them.

Notes on style and clarity.


Try correcting this sentence: "As these aspects of the question of personal survival have been raised by problematic conflicts of late, it is now critical that this person consider the ultimate psychological ending of suicide. 🇧🇷 If you boil it down to "To be or not to be, that is the question" then you did well. You may not measure up to Shakespeare, but you can learn to strip the fat out of his prose. Chances are the five pages you wrote for your history paper don't actually contain five pages of ideas.

Inappropriate use of the passive voice.

Write in the active voice. The passive encourages vagueness and monotony; weakens verbs; and hides the agency that is the essence of the story. You know all of this almost instinctively. What would you think of a lover who whispered in your ear: "My darling, I love you!"? At its worst, the passive voice, like its cousins ​​the bureaucratic language and slang, is a vehicle for the dishonesty and avoidance of responsibility that pervade contemporary American culture. ("Errors were made; I was given incorrect information." Now note the difference: "I was wrong; Smith and Jones lied to me; I neglected fact-checking.") In history articles, the passive often points to one less venomous voice to language version of the same unwillingness to take responsibility, compromise and be open about what is really going on and who is doing what to whom. Suppose you write: "Ethiopia was invaded in 1935." This sentence is a disaster. Who invaded? Your teacher will assume you don't know. Adding "for Italy" at the end of the sentence helps a little, but the sentence is still simple and misleading. Italia was an aggressive actor, and its passive construction hides this salient fact by placing the actor in the syntactically weakest place: at the end of the sentence as the object of a preposition. Notice how he gives strength and clarity to the sentence by rephrasing it in the active voice: "In 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia." mein some cases, may violate the non-passive rule. The passive voice may be preferred when the agent is obvious ("Kennedy was elected in 1960"), irrelevant ("Theodore Roosevelt became president when McKinley was assassinated"), or unknown ("King Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings"). . . Note that the passive voice in all three example sentences focuses the reader on the recipient of the action, not the perpetrator (on Kennedy, not American voters; on McKinley, not his assassin; on King Harold, not the Norman archer) . ). Unknown). Historians often want to focus on the agent, so stick with the voice unless you can make a convincing case for an exception.

To be abuso do verbo.

The verb to be is the most common and important verb in English, but many to be verbs suck the life out of your prose and lead to prose. Spice up your prose with as many action verbs as possible. 🇧🇷"In Brown v. Board of Educationwas the Supreme Court's opinion that the 'separate but equal' doctrine violated the Fourteenth Amendment"). Rewrite as "In Brown v. Board of EducationThe Supreme Court ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine violated the Fourteenth.

Explain/what do you mean?/not clear/huh?

You may (or may not) know what you are talking about, but by the time you see these asides you have your reader confused. You may have entered onedoes not follow🇧🇷 got off topic; he lapsed into abstraction; he assumed something he did not tell the reader; You have not explained how the material relates to your argument; confused your syntax; or simply failed to correct carefully. If possible, have a good copywriter read your article and point out confusing parts. It can also be helpful to read your work out loud.

The paragraph goes nowhere/has no meaning or consistency.

Paragraphs are the building blocks of your article. If your heels are weak, your work cannot be strong. Try to underline the topic sentence of each paragraph. If your topic sentences are vague, they probably don't follow the power and precision that are hallmarks of good writing. Consider this thematic sentence (from an article on Ivan the Terrible): "From 1538 to 1547 there are many different arguments about the nature of what happened." The catastrophe is coming. The reader has no way of knowing when the discussion is taking place, who is arguing, or what the discussion is about. And how is the "nature of what happened" different from simply "what happened"? Perhaps the author would like to say the following: "The childhood of Ivan the Terrible caused controversy among scholars of Russian history." This is not immortal prose, but it guides the reader and holds the writer responsible for what follows in this section. Once you have a good topic sentence, make sure everything in the paragraph supports that sentence and that the overall support is compelling. Make sure each sentence logically follows the previous ones and add details in a consistent order. Move, delete or add material as needed. To avoid confusing the reader, limit each paragraph to a central idea. (If you have a series of pivots, starting with the first, you should follow with asecond third, etc.) A paragraph that takes up more than one printed page is probably too long. Err next to shorter paragraphs.

Inappropriate use of first person.

Most historians write in the third person, which keeps the reader focused on the topic. When you write in the first person singular, you shift the focus to yourself. You sound like you're about to interrupt and say, "Enough about the Haitian revolution [or whatever], now let's talk about me!" Also avoid the first person plural ("We believe..."). Suggest committees, editorial boards or royalties. None of them should have helped you in writing your work. And don't refer to yourself as "that author." Who else could write the article?

Temporal inconsistency.

Always stick to the past tense when writing about what happened in the past. ("Truman's victory over Dewey in 1948 surprised researchers.") Note that the context may require a past tense shift. ("Researchers [of the past perfect] failed to recognize that voters' opinions [of the past perfect] changed rapidly in the days leading up to the election.") Unfortunately, the issue of timing can get a little trickier. Most historians switch to the present tense when describing or discussing a book, document, or evidence that still exists and is in front of them (or in their minds) as they write. (“de Beauvoir published [past]the second sexin 1949. In the book, she [present tense] says that Mrs....") If you're confused, think of it this way: The story is about the past, so historians write in the past tense it is because, they are discussing the past Effects of the past that still exist and are therefore in the present When in doubt, use the past tense and be consistent.


This is a common problem, although not seen in the style books. If you're quoting someone, make sure the quote is grammatically correct for your sentence. Note carefully the discrepancy between the beginning of the following sentence and the following quote: "To understand the Vikings, writes Marc Bloch, it is necessary: ​​'Think of Viking expeditions as a religious war animated by the ardor of a relentless spirit - Pagan fanaticism - an explanation that has at least sometimes been suggested - is too contrary to what we know about spirits willing to respect magic of all kinds.' The transition to the Bloch quote looks good at first. The infinitive (to understand) fits. But then the reader gets to the verb (conflicts) in Bloch's sentence and things don't make sense anymore. The writer is basically saying, "These are necessary conflicts." The verbose entry and complex citation syntax misled the author and confused the reader. If you want to use the full sentence, paraphrase it like “Marc Bloch writesfeudal society, 'Conceive...'” Better yet, use your own words or just a portion of the quote in your sentence. Remember that good writers seldom quote, but when they must, they use carefully worded preambles that conform to the grammatical construction of the quote.

Free-floating offer.

Don't suddenly add quotations to your prose. ("The spirit of the progressive era is best understood if we remember that the United States is 'the only country in the world that began with perfection and strived for progress'"). You probably chose the quote because it's finely crafted and says exactly what it says. You want to decide. Está bien, pero primero molestas al lector, que debe ir a la nota al pie, to see where the quote comes fromThe Age of Reformationby the historian Richard Hofstadter. And then you confuse the reader. Did Hofstadter write the line about perfection and progress, or is he quoting someone from the progressive era? If, as you claim, it is to help the reader judge the "spirit of the progressive age," it needs to be clarified. Rewrite as "As the historian Richard Hofstadter writesthe age of reform, America is 'the only country in the world...'” Now the reader knows immediately that the line is from Hofstadter.

Who is speaking?/Your opinion?

Always make it clear whether you are expressing your opinion or that of the historical author or actor you are speaking about. Suppose your essay deals with the social views of Martin Luther. You write: "The German peasants who revolted in 1525 were brutes and deserved to be crushed without mercy." That's what Luther thought, but do you agree? You may know this, but your reader is not a mind reader. When in doubt, be too explicit.

Jargon/pretentious theory.

Historians value plain English. Academic jargon and pretentious theory make your prose bombastic, ridiculous, and downright irritating. Your teacher will suspect that you are trying to hide the fact that you have little to say. Of course, historians cannot do without theory; even those who claim to have no theories actually do have one: this is called naïve realism. And sometimes a technical term is needed, be it an ontological argument or an ecological fallacy. If you use theoretical or technical terms, make sure they are understandable and have real intellectual drive. Please no sentences like this: “Through a neo-Althusserian post-feminist hermeneutics, this essay will de/construct the logo/phallus/centrism embedded in the marginalizing gaze of post-colonial gender, thus augmenting the subjectivities that de/ Stabilizing the essentializing habitus of post-Fordist capitalism.


They don't have to be boring, but stick to formal English prose that will remain understandable for future generations. Columbus did itno"pushing the envelope into the Atlantic". Henry VIII wasno"searching for his inner child as he broke with the church". Prime Minister Cavour of Piedmontno"Trying to play in the big leagues on diplomatic terms." Wilson did itno"almost vegetative" at the end of his second term. President Hindenburg didnoNaming Hitler at a "greater point in time". Prime Minister Chamberlain didnoTell the Czechs to "relax" after the Munich conference and Gandhi didnoa "wonderful guy".


Try to keep your prose fresh. Avoid clichés. When reviewing, look for phrases like this: “Voltaire has always given 110% and thought outside the box. Herbottom linethose were the peoplefor the future, they would end up on the plate at the end of the dayand to realize that the Jesuits were scheming perverts.” Gross. Rewrite it as "Voltaire tried to convince people that the Jesuits were corrupt, took responsibility and realized that the Jesuits were conspiring perverts." Rough. Rewrite it as "Voltaire was trying to convince people that the Jesuits were scheming perverts."

Abuse/exaggeration of amps.

Avoid bloating your prose with untenable claims of greatness, importance, uniqueness, certainty, or intensity. Such statements mark you as an inexperienced writer trying to impress the reader. Your statement probably notRight🇧🇷 Your topic probably notSingle,the biggest, the best or the most important.Also, the adverb rarely reinforces your sentence. Hit him. (“President Truman wasa lot ofDetermined to prevent the spread of Communism in Greece"). Rewrite as "President Truman resolved to prevent the spread of Communism in Greece."

mixed picture.

After choosing an image, you should stick to the language supported by that image. In the following example, note that the chain, boil, and ignition do not match the cold, rolling, rising snowball image: "A snowball-shaped chain of events has overflowed and ignited the powder keg of war." in 1914". Well-chosen imagery can spice up your prose, but if you mix the images too much, you're probably trying to write beyond your ability. Draw. Be more literal.

uncomfortable transition.

If your reader skips or gets disoriented at the beginning of a new paragraph, your article may be lacking in consistency. In a good article, each paragraph flows seamlessly into the next. If you start your paragraphs with phrases like "Another aspect of this problem..." you're probably "stacking notes" rather than developing a thesis.

Unnecessary relative clause.

If you don't need to limit the meaning of the subject of your sentence, then don't. (“Napoleon was a man trying to conquer Europe.”) Here the relative clause adds nothing. Rewrite how “Napoleon tried to conquer Europe”. Unnecessary relative clauses are a classic form of verbosity.

Distancing or humiliation quotes.

If you think a commonly used word or phrase distorts historical reality, don't enclose it in derogatory, derogatory quotation marks to emphasize your point ("the communist "threat" to the "free" world during the Cold War"). Many readers find this practice arrogant, disgusting, and valuable, and can immediately dismiss their arguments. If you think the communist threat was wrong or exaggerated, or that the free world wasn't truly free, just explain what you mean.

Notes on grammar and syntax.


Ideally, your teacher will help you improve your writing by pinpointing what's wrong with a particular passage, but sometimes you'll find a simple onestrangeon the shore. This general negative comment usually indicates that the sentence is clumsy because it uses the wrong words or combines multiple mistakes.

Consider this sentence from a book review:

"However, there are many untruths in Goldhagen's claims and these are being investigated."

What does your suffering teacher have to do with this sentence? However, it does nothing; the sentenceuntruthsthe lie is an unintentional play on words that distracts the reader; the comma is missing between independent clauses; these have no clear antecedent (untruths? claim (is?🇧🇷 the second sentence is in the passive voice and contributes nothing; The entire movement is verbose and calls for last-minute hasty composition. Your teacher is scribbling in tired frustrationstrangeon the shore and beyond. Below the 12-word sentence is a three-word idea: "Goldhagen is often wrong." If you see awk, check out this list of common mistakes. If you don't understand what's going on, ask.

dark background.

All pronouns must clearly refer to antecedents and must agree with them in number. The reader generally assumes that the antecedent is the noun immediately preceding it. Don't confuse the reader with multiple possible backgrounds. Consider these two sentences:

“Pope Gregory VII forced Emperor Henry IV to wait three days in the snows of Canossa before granting him an audience. It was a symbolic act."

What are you talking about? Forcing the Emperor to wait? The wait itself? The audience's concession? The audience itself? the whole sentence above? You're more likely to have background problems if you start a paragraph withit isÖit is, vaguely referring to the general meaning of the previous paragraph.

When in doubt, try this test: circle the pronoun and antecedent and connect the two with a dash. Then ask yourself if your reader could immediately create the same diagram without your help. If the line is long, or if the circle around the antecedent is large and spans large amounts of text, the reader is likely to be confused. Write again. Repetition is better than ambiguity and confusion.

Bad concurrency.

You confuse your reader when you change the grammatical structure of one article to the next in the series. Consider this sentence:

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"King Frederick the Great wanted to expand Prussia, rationalize agriculture and promote state education."

The reader expects another infinitive, but stumbles over the oneit is🇧🇷 Rewrite the last sentence to "and to promote state-sponsored education".

Sentences that use neither/nor often have concurrency problems. Note the two parts of this sentence:

"After 1870, cavalry charge was not an effective tactic, nor was it widely used by armies."

The expression collides because thenonefollows a nounnofor a verb. Keep the parts parallel.

Rewriting as "After 1870 was the cavalry chargenoneEffectivenoOften used."

sentences witheven moreThey are another stumbling block for many students. ("Mussolini attackednot onlyliberalism, butHe alsoProponents of militarism"). Here the reader expects a noun in the second sentence, but encounters a verb. Make the parallel parts by putting the verbWholesaleafternot only.

Mod/Item is stuck in the wrong place.

Don't confuse the reader with a phrase or clause that illogically or absurdly relates to other words in the sentence. ("Summary on back cover of US paperback, publishers claim...") Publishers are not summarized on back cover. (“Many questions remain at the end of the book.”) Who finished the book? Questions cannot be read.

Avoid following an introductory participle clause with expletives.it isÖleaves🇧🇷 Swear words are, by definition, filler words; they cannot be agents. ("Having examined the origins of the Meiji Restoration in Japan, it is evident that..." Apparently for whom? The swear word was not enough. ("After the Long March, there was increased support for the communists in China." ) Who took part in the Long March?leavesHe did not take part in the Long March. Always pay attention to who is doing what in your prayers.

writ of execution.

Consecutive clauses incorrectly line up independent clauses. Consider these three sentences:

"Galileo specifically recanted his teaching that the earth moves, he held fast to his beliefs."
"Galileo recanted his teaching that the earth was moving, but privately he stuck to his beliefs."
"Galileo recanted his teaching that the earth was moving, but privately he stuck to his beliefs."

The first merges two independent clauses without a comma or coordinating conjunction; the second uses a comma but omits the coordinating conjunction; and the third also omits the coordinating conjunction (but is not a coordinating conjunction). To solve the problem, separate the two sentences with a comma and the associated conjunction but. You can also separate clauses with a semicolon or form separate sentences. Remember that there are only seven coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, therefore, not yet).


Write in sentences. A sentence must have a subject and a predicate. If you string together too many words, you can lose control of the syntax and end up with a fragmented sentence. Please note that the following is not a sentence:

"While railway construction progressed rapidly in Western Europe in the 19th century, it progressed less in Russia."

Here you have a long compound introductory sentence followed by no subject and no verb, so you have a fragment. You may have noticed exceptions to the no fragmentation rule. Experienced writers sometimes intentionally use a snippet to achieve a specific effect. Leave the breaking of the rules to the experts.

Confusion of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses.

Consider these two versions of the same sentence:

1. "The First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, killed millions of Europeans."
2. "The First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, killed millions of Europeans."

The first sentence contains a non-restrictive relative clause; Dates are included in parentheses almost as information. But something doesn't seem right with the second movement. It has a restrictive relative clause that restricts the subject (WWI) to WWI fought between 1914 and 1918, implying that there were other wars called WWI and that we must distinguish between them . Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the author of the second sentence seems stupid. Note carefully the distinction betweenit is(for use in restrictive clauses, without a comma) andwas(for use in non-restrictive clauses, with comma).

Confusion over who is doing what.

Remember: the story is about what people do, so you have to be aware of agency. Check your sentences carefully and ask yourself, "Did I say exactly who is doing or thinking what, or did I inadvertently attribute an action or belief to the wrong person or group?" Unfortunately, there are many ways to go wrong here, but incorrect punctuation is one of the most common. Here is a quote about Frantz Fanon, the great critic of European imperialism. Focus on punctuation and its effect on agency: "Instead of a class-based hierarchy, Fanon proposes that the imperialists build a race-based hierarchy." As mentioned, the sentence says something absurd: Fanon advises the imperialists on the right kind of Hierarchy to be established in the colonies. The author certainly meant that Fanon, in his analysis of imperialism, distinguishes between two types of hierarchy. A comma after it indicates that it fixes the immediate problem. Now look at the revised sentence. He still needs work. Better diction and syntax would sharpen it. Fanon does not propose (with connotations of hint and defense); says frankly. The comparison of the two hierarchy types is also blurred by too many intermediate words. Basically, the key point of the sentence is “instead of A, we have B”. Clarity requires that B follows A as closely as possible and that the two elements are grammatically parallel. But between points A and B the scribe adds Fanon (a proper noun), Proposes (a verb), Imperialists (a noun), and Establishes (a verb). Try the sentence like this: “Fanon says the imperialists are establishing a hierarchy based on race rather than class.” Now the agency is clear: we know what Fanon is doing and we know what the imperialists are doing. Remember that bugs and mishaps have a way of grouping. If you find a problem with one set, look for others.

Confusion about the objects of prepositions.

Here's another common problem that doesn't get the attention it deserves. Discipline your prepositional phrases; Make sure you know where they land. Note the confusion in this sentence: "Hitler accused the Jewish people of committing incest and claimed that Vienna was 'incest incarnate.'commit and confirmare objects of the preposition of. However, the author intends that only the first is the object of the preposition. Hitler accuses the Jewsnoivando, but not byassert🇧🇷 He doesassert🇧🇷 Rewrite as “Hitler accused Jews of incest; claimed that Vienna was the "personification of incest". Note that the length of the original encouraged syntactic confusion. Simplify. Cannot be repeated too often: Always pay attention to who is doing what in your sentences.

comparative abuse.

There are two common problems here. The first can be called "pending comparison". You use the comparative, but you don't say what you're comparing. ("Lincoln was more upset about the union's dissolution.") More upset than what? More annoying than who? The other problem, which is more common and takes many forms, is accidental (and sometimes hilarious) comparisons of different items.

Consider these attempts to compare President Clinton to President George HW Bush. Often the problem begins with a possessive pronoun:

"President Clinton's sexual appetite was more insatiable than President Bush's."

You want to compare appetite, but you forgot your possessive pronoun, so you're absurdly comparing an appetite to a man. Rewrite as "more voracious than President Bush's".

A variation of this problem is the unintended comparison that results from the omission of a verb:

"President Clinton liked women more than President Bush."
Rewrite as "more than President Bush".

Even an inappropriate modifier can cause problems of comparison: "Unlike the Bush administration, the sex scandal nearly destroyed the Clinton administration." Rewrite as "Unlike the Bush administration, the Clinton administration was nearly destroyed by a sex scandal." Here the passive voice is better than the inappropriate modifier, but you could rewrite it as "The Bush administration was free of sex scandals, which the Clinton administration almost destroyed".

misuse of apostrophes.

Take control of your apostrophes. Use the apostrophe to form singular or plural possessive pronouns (Washington Soldiers; Colonial Soldiers) or to form contractions (no; é). Do not use the apostrophe to form plural forms. ("The communists [not the communists] defeated the nationalists [not the nationalists] in China.")

But then eat.

This is a new mistake, probably a holdover from the common conversational habit of pausing dramatically afterwardEven though. ("Trotz, coffee consumption increased in 18th-century Europe, tea remained much more popular.) Delete the comma after itEven though🇧🇷 Keep that in mindEven thoughis not synonymous with the wordNevertheless, so you can't solve the problem in the sentence by putting a period after itEuropa🇧🇷 A sentence that starts withEven thoughit cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Comma between subject and verb.

This is a strange new bug. ("Hitler and Stalin made a pact in August 1939.") Delete the comma after Stalin.

Finally, two tips:If your word processor underlines something and suggests changes, be careful. When it comes to grammar and syntax, your computer is an idiot. It not only fails to recognize some fatal errors, but also incorrectly identifies some correct passages as errors. Don't relinquish control of your writing decisions to your computer. Only make suggested changes if you are sure they are correct.

If you're having trouble with your writing, try to keep it simple. Write short sentences and read them aloud to check for clarity. Start with the subject and quickly follow with an active verb. Limit the number of relative clauses, participant phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases. You won't win awards for eloquence, but at least it will be clear. Don't add complexity until you've learned how to handle it.

Problems using words and phrases.

A historian / a historian.

The consonant "H" is not silenthistoricalmihistorian, so the correct form of the indefinite article is "A".

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Avoid the usual sorcery of useFeelas a synonym for think, believe, say, affirm, affirm, deny, argue, conclude or write. ("MarxHe feltthat the bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat. Emmeline PankhurstHe feltthat British women should be able to vote"). The use ofFeelin these sentences he demeans the agents by suggesting an undisciplined sentiment rather than a carefully articulated conviction. Focus on what your historical actors said and did; they leave their feelings to speculative chapters in their biographies. As for your own feelings, keep them off your papers. ("MEFeelthat Lincoln should have freed the slaves sooner.) His master will be pleased that the material goes to his head as well as his heart, but his feelings cannot be judged. If you think Lincoln should have acted sooner, please explain, giving compelling historical reasons.

The fact that.

This is a clumsy and unnecessary build. 🇧🇷"The fact thatNixon resigned in disgrace, hurting the Republican Party"). Paraphrase as "Nixon resigned in disgrace, hurting the Republican Party." Never use the phrase terribleDue to the fact that.

With reference to.

This set is filler material. get rid of it (“Bismarck was a successwith reference toUnite Germany.) Rewrite it as “Bismarck successfully united Germany”.


Pay close attention to the placement of this limiting word. For example, consider these three sentences:

"Governmentonly Japanese Americans buried during World War II.
"Bury the governmentonly Japanese Americans during World War II.
“The government buried Japanese Americansonly During the Second World War".

The first limits the action to burying (as opposed to, say, killing); the second limits the buried group (i.e. non-Italian Americans); the third limits the length of stay (i.e. not during other wars).

So and therefore.

Most likely you didn't deserve these words and imply that you said more than you really did. Use them sparingly when you're closing a substantive argument with a meaningful conclusion.

Abuse once.

Instead ofis an adverb, not a conjunction. Consider this sentence: "Charles Beard argued that the drafters of the Constitution were not idealists,Instead ofThey promoted their economic interests. Read how “the drafters of the Constitution, argued Charles Beard, did not espouse ideals;Instead of, promoted their economic interests". now himInstead ofappears correctly as an adverb. (Also note that the two sentences are now parallel: they both contain transitive verbs.)

Essentially and fundamentally.

These are usually filler words (the written equivalent of "uh" or "um") or weasel words just calling attention to your vagueness, lack of conviction, or lazy unwillingness to qualify accurately. 🇧🇷Essentially, Churchill believed that Nazi Germany posed a serious threat to Britain"). DeleteessentiallymiBasicallyunless you are writing about essences or bases.

Both share or both agree.

These are superfluous. if two peopleSplitÖaccepted, both are involved by definition. (“Stalin and Maoboth agreedthat capitalism belonged in the dustbin of history"). RemoveBoth.


This word means unique. It's an absolute. Something cannot be very unique, more unique, or somehow unique.


in casual conversationunbelievableoften means extraordinary, amazing or impressive ("Yesterday's storm was incredible"). To avoid confusion in historical prose, stick to the original meaning ofunbelievable: It is unbelievable. When you write that “William Jennings gave Bryanunbelievablespeeches," you're saying that you don't believe your speeches, or that your audience didn't believe them at the time; in other words, that you appeared to be lying or deceiving. You probably mean that you gave great speeches. When you write " It isunbelievablethat Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,” you question the existence of a historical event. You probably want to say that the Japanese attack was reckless or reckless. English is rich in adjectives. Finding the best one forces you to think about what you really want to say.


As a synonym for topic, point of contention, caveat, or just about anything else loosely connected to what is being discussed, the wordquestionit lost its meaning through overuse. ("There were manyQuestionsinvolved in Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb and some historiansQuestionswith your decision"). stop talkingQuestionsand get straight to the point.


Be careful with the wordliterally🇧🇷 It is commonly misused and almost never needed in historical prose.Literallymeans real, accurate, direct, without metaphor. The careful writer would never say, "Rooseveltliterallyit swamped Landon in the 1936 election. Imagine Roosevelt (in his wheelchair, no less!) throwing the unfortunate Landon off a pier in the Everglades on election night. The Deluge was figurative, a mere figure of speech. the adverbliterallyIt can also get you into trouble if you falsely generalize your verb cover. “London wasliterallydestroyed by shelling. This suggests that the entire city was destroyed, when in fact only parts were destroyed. Rewrite as "Lightning destroyed parts of London". You have now properly qualified (and gotten rid of liability).


If you are tempted to use that word, resist. I like thisquestion,includesays little to the reader. (“Erasmus was involved in the Renaissance.”) This statement can mean almost anything. Delete it and discuss specifically what Erasmus said or did.


This is a beautiful old word with many precise meanings, but as an overused synonym for feature, side, or part, it is often a sign of bland prose ("OtheraspectOne of the problems in this area is the fact that..."). Just get straight to the point.


Most good writers disapprove of using this word as a verb ("Eisenhower's military trainingshockedits foreign policy.”) Affected, influenced or shaped would be better here.influencedindicates painfully clogged wisdom teeth or bowel movements. had aA hitIs better thanshocked, but it is still rare because the impact implies a collision.


Here's another beloved but tasteless word. ("A lotfactorsled to the Reformation"). This sentence usually opens up a vague, boring, tattered paragraph. If you (reasonably) believe that the Reformation had many causes, start evaluating.


Overuse has the meaning of dehydratedimportant🇧🇷 ("Peter the Great tookimportantSteps to Westernize Russia"). Get to the point.


The adjectiveInterestingit's lazy, overused, and low-maintenance. ("Buckhardt had oneInterestingPerspective on the Renaissance"). This sentence is complete. Cross it out and explain and discuss your perspective.

The events that happened.

Your teacher will choke on it. Events happen or happen by definition, so the relative clause is redundant. Furthermore, most good writers don't accept thatsweatSynonymous with happen Again, follow the old rule of thumb: get to the point, tell what happened, and explain what it means. You don't need padding about events andsweaty.

The reason is because.

This sentence is clumsy and superfluous. Replace it with your reason, or better yet, just delete it and go straight to your reason.

For all intensive purposes.

the sentence isbasically, and few good writers use it in formal prose anyway.

Take it to Granite.

This is illiteracy. The sentence is "take for granted.“

should could.

you mean shouldto haveor couldto have.

Center all around.

Good writers disapprove of this phrase because it is illogical and shocking. Usefocus onÖfocus onAttention to a small detail like this indicates that you are thinking carefully about who you are
proverb, then you will be disciplined and ready when big problems come your way.

ask the question

Recently, many people use this phrase to refer to a raise, an invitation, or a question. ("Stalin's purgesraises the questionif he was paranoid"). IndeedWordsis the common logical fallacy of accepting your conclusion as part of your argument. ("In the late 19th century, many Americans moved to cities because of urbanization.") Note that using abstractions (e.g., urbanization) encouragesWords🇧🇷 Understanding this fallacy is crucial to your education. The formal Latin term,beg,It's too fancy to understand, so you'll have to keep the simple English sentence. If something raises a problem, just say so.

Historical/historical confusion.

Anything in the past or related to the past ishistorical.Resist the media-driven hype that elevates the ordinary to the mundanehistorical🇧🇷 ("A three-alarm fire last night destroyed thehistoricalSite of the first Portuguese-owned dry-cleaners in Cleveland.") Reserve the floorhistoricalfor really important events, people or objects from the past. The Norman invasion of England in 1066 was indeed sohistorical.historical, historians meet annually for ahistoricalconvention; So far, none of the conventions have been therehistorical.

Affect/effect confusion.

Most likely, the verb you want isinfluence, meaning to influence ("The Iranian Hostage Crisisaffected[not effective] the 1980 presidential election”).It is finishedas a verb it means to bring or bring into being (It is finishedchange).It is finishedas a noun it means result or consequence ("The impact of the Iranian hostage crisis on the elections...").

during/during confusion.

If you emphasize the contrast is the word you wantWetter.Wetteremphasize simultaneity. "Hobbes had a gloomy image of man,Wetter[noWetter]Rousseau believed this man
he had a natural feeling of pity.”

It is/his confusion.

That isaclassic airhead error. Please note that the spell check will not help you. And remember-It is'not a word

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Domination/Control Confusion.

A queen reigns during her reign. You control a horse with reins.

You/it/they are confusion.

You know the difference. Pay attention.

Daily/everyday confusion.

as an adjective,every day(a word) means routine. If you want to say that something happened every consecutive day, then you need two words, the adjectiveatand the nounes🇧🇷 Note the difference in these two sentences: "Kant was famous for simultaneously following the same constitutional line.every day🇧🇷 For Kant it was practice and thinkingevery dayActivities."

It refers to/alludes to confusion.

To thealludemeans to refer or imply indirectly. The word you are probably looking for in historical prose isrefer, meaning to mention directly or to attract attention. "In the first sentence of the 'Gettysburg Address,' Lincolnrefers to[noplays] to the fathers of the nation [he mentions them directly]; theplayson the 'Declaration of Independence' [the seven-year, four-point document that comes to mind but is not directly mentioned by Lincoln].”

Novel/Book Confusion.

RomanIt is not synonymous with book. ARomanit is a long work of fiction in prose. A historical monograph is notRoman- unless the historian invents everything.

What / so confusion.

This is a terrible new bug. When you compare, use the conjunctionabout what🇧🇷 ("President Kennedy's health has deterioratedabout what[noafter] the audience noticed").

Lead/Led Mess.

The past tense of the verb to lead isHe led(noRide). „ShemannHe led[noRide] a march to the sea.”

Lose/lose confusion.

The opposite of victory isto lose, nolose🇧🇷 "Proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment suspected soto lose[nolose] the fight to change the constitution.”

However/but confusion.

Neverthelesscannot replace the coordinating conjunction. ("Mussolini began his career as a socialist,but[noNevertheless] later gave up socialism for fascism.") The wordNeverthelessit has many appropriate uses;Nevertheless, [note the semicolon and comma] fancy authors use it sparingly.

Quote/website/view confusion.

Fromquoteda source for your paper; old Britplaced onStonehenge on one level; Columbus viewnormal sightTierra

Conscious awareness/confusion.

When you get up in the morning, it's youdeliberately, although youawarenessIt might bother you if you forgot to write your history paper.

Master/Tenant Confusion.

Have your religion, ideology or beliefbeginning– Proposals that you represent or believe.renterHire owner.

Not all is/not all is confusion.

If you write: "atThe settlersI did not do itwants to break with Britain in 1776," he most likely meant, "No waythe colonists wanted to break with Great Britain in 1776. The first sentence is a clumsy way of saying that no colonists wanted to break with Britain (and is clearly wrong). The second sentence says that some colonists didn't want to break with Britain (and it's clearly true, although you'll have to be more specific).

Confusion of the 19th/19th century.

Historians talk a lot about the centuries, so you have to know when to separate them. Follow the standard rule: when combining two words into a compound adjective, use a hyphen unless the first word ends in ly. 🇧🇷Nineteenth century[hyphen] Steamboats reduce travel time across the Atlantic"). Omit the hyphen when using only the ordinal number to modify the noun century. ("In whichnineteenth century[no hyphen] Steamboats reduce travel time across the Atlantic.” By the way, even if you have centuries in mind, remember that the 19th century is the 19th century, not the 20th century. The same rule for the hyphen applies tomiddle classmimiddle class– a group that historians like to talk about.

Civic/Civil Confusion.

BourgeoisIt is usually an adjective meaning characteristic of the middle class and their values ​​or habits. Occasionally,Bourgeoisis a noun meaning a single member of the middle class.Bourgeoisieis a noun meaning the middle class as a whole. (“Marx believed that theBourgeoisieoppressed the proletariat; argued thatBourgeoisValues ​​like freedom and individualism were hypocritical.")

Analysis of a historical document

Your teacher may ask you to review a main document. Here are some questions to ask about your document. You'll notice a common theme: read critically with sensitivity to context. This list is not a suggested outline for an article; the wording of the task and the nature of the document itself should determine its organization and which of the questions are most relevant. Of course, you can ask the same questions about any document you find in your search.

  • What exactly is the document (e.g. diary, royal decree, opera score, bureaucratic memorandum, act of parliament, newspaper article, peace treaty)?
  • Is it the original or a copy? If it is a copy, how far is it from the original (e.g. photocopy of the original, reformatted version in a book, translation)? How can deviations from the original affect your interpretation?
  • What is the date of the document?
  • Is there reason to believe that the document is not genuine or is not exactly what it appears to be?
  • Who is the author and what role does the author play in the topics discussed? If the document is not signed, what can be inferred about the author or authors?
  • What kind of biases or blind spots might the author have? For example, is an educated bureaucrat writing about rural famines with third-hand knowledge?
  • Where, why and under what circumstances did the author write the document?
  • How might circumstances (e.g., fear of censorship, desire to flatter, or avoid finger pointing) have affected the content, style, or tone of the document?
  • Has the document been published? If so, did the author intend to publish it?
  • If the document was not published, how was it preserved? In a public file? In a private collection? Can you learn anything from the way it was obtained? For example, was it treated as important or as a small piece of paper?
  • Does the document have a clichéd format or style, suggesting that it's an attempt at a standard genre, or does it appear unusual, even unique?
  • Who is the target audience of the document?
  • What exactly does the document say? Does this mean something different?
  • If the document represents more than one viewpoint, have you carefully distinguished between the author's viewpoint and viewpoints that the author presents only to criticize or refute?
  • How are you, the historian, reading the document differently than the intended audience would have read it (assuming future historians were not the intended audience)?
  • What does the document leave out that you expected to be discussed?
  • What does the document assume that the reader already knows on the subject (eg, personal conflicts between the Bolsheviks in 1910, the details of tax collection in 18th-century Normandy, secret negotiations to end the war in Vietnam)?
  • What additional information can help you better interpret the document?
  • Do you know (or can you infer) the effects or influences, if any, of the document?
  • What does the document say about the study period?
  • If your document is part of an edited collection, why do you think the editor chose it? How might the editing have changed your perception of the document? For example, were parts left out? Has it been translated? (If so, when, by whom, and in what style?) Did the editor place the document in a suggestive context with other documents, or otherwise lead to a particular interpretation?

Write a book review

Your professor may ask you to write a book review, most likely a scholarly historical monograph. Here are some questions you can ask about the book. Remember that a good review is a review, but a review doesn't necessarily mean it's negative. This list does not claim to be complete and is not a suggestion for a structure. Of course, you can ask these questions to any secondary historical work, even if you're not writing a review.

  • Who is the author and what are his qualifications? Has the author written other books on the subject?
  • When was the book written and how does it fit into the academic debate on the subject? For example, Smith writes to refute that idiot Jones; qualify the work of the competent but unimaginative Johnson; or humbly add to the evidence presented by Brown's terrifying classic study? Be careful not to confuse the author's argument with arguments that you make only to criticize later.
  • What is the basic plot of the book? (Getting this right is the basis of your review.)
  • What is the author's method? For example, is the author strictly based on narrative and anecdote, or is the book analytical in some way?
  • What kind of evidence does the author use? For example, what is the relationship between primary and secondary sources? Did the author do archival work? Is the foundation base substantial or does it feel flimsy? Is the author up to date with the scientific literature?
  • With what skill and imagination did the author use the evidence?
  • Does the author actually use all of the material in the bibliography, or is some of it for display?
  • What explicit or implicit ideological or methodological assumptions does the author bring to the study? For example, is he committed to soft objectivity? A Whig view of history? Marxism?
  • How convincing is the author's argument?
  • Is the plot new or is it old wine in new bottles?
  • Is the argument important, with far-reaching implications, or is it narrow and trivial?
  • Is the book well organized and skillfully written?
  • Overall, how would you rate the book critically?
  • What is the general meaning of the book, if any? (Make sure you are judging the book the author actually wrote and not complaining that the author should have written a different book.)

Write a thesis or thesis

Here are some tips for those long and daunting papers or theses:

  • start early.If you don't, none of these tips will apply to you. If you don't have a specific topic by the end of the first week, big trouble is brewing. In the second week you should research the sources.
  • Check out all the pros and cons in this brochure.
  • Work closely with your teacher to ensure your topic is neither too broad nor too narrow.
  • Set up a time with your teacher and review their guidelines on reading drafts or parts of drafts. Then let your teacher know what you're doing. You don't want any unpleasant surprises. You probably don't want to hear, "I haven't seen you in weeks and you seem terribly wrong. How do you do that with only two semester weekends left?
  • Make an appointment with Kristin Strohmeyer, Burke Library's historical reference librarian. It helps you to find and use the relevant catalogs and directories.
  • Use your imagination to put together a bibliography. Think of all possible keywords and topics that could lead you to the material. If you find something really cool, check out the topics it's listed under. Check the notes and bibliographies of books and articles you've already found.
  • You won't find a lot of what you need in our library, so please meet the friendly people at interlibrary loan.
  • start early.You can't say that often.
  • Use as many primary sources as possible.
  • Write down your ideas as they come to you. You may not remember them later.
  • Take careful notes as you read. Label your notes fully and accurately. Distinguish carefully and systematically between what you quote directly and what you summarize in your own words. Accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism. Get as clean as a dog's tooth. Don't just write the quote or idea page, but the entire series of pages that cover the topic. Reread all of your notes regularly to make sure you still understand them and gather what you need to write your article. Rather write more than you think you will need. Detailed and precise notes will no longer haunt you; sparse and vague notes will suffice. Just accept that there's something anal about taking good notes.
  • When you take notes right on your computer, indexing and accessing them is easy, but there are some downsides. You won't be able to see them all at once as you can observe the cards arranged on a large table. What you gain in easier access can come at the cost of missing the bigger picture. Also, if your notes are on your computer, you might be tempted to save time and thought by pasting lots of them directly onto your paper. Note cards encourage you to rethink and revise your ideas into a coherent whole.
  • Don't start writing until you have a good outline.
  • Make sure your essay includes a thesis. (See entryExpress a clear thesis.)
  • Check your details and confirm them again.
  • footnote correct. (See entryCite sources carefully.)
  • Save a lot of time for verification.
  • start early.

Top 10 signs you might be writing a weak history essay

10You are very happy to know that you can fill the necessary pages by expanding all the margins.

9.He gave no facts or sources in several paragraphs.

8.They use the phrase "Throughout history mankind has..."

7.You just inserted over 100 quotes.

6.You have no idea what your next paragraph is about.

5.They keep clicking on The Britannica, Webster's and Bartlett's.

4.His writing tutor looks at his watch again as he reminds him to clean up his thesis for the third time.

3.Its main historical actors are this, that, they, people and society, and all are involved in factors, aspects, effects and problems.

2.At the end you realize you didn't get the task but it's 3am. p.m., work is due by 9 a.m. m. and you do not dare to call your teacher.

1.You're relieved that work accounts for only 20% of your grade.

last advice

correctly understood -start early.


1. College Essay Tips from Admissions Counselors
(Coalition for College)
2. Dr. Tikia Hamilton Used Writing To Find Her Voice | Role Models with Richie Crowley
(Richie Crowley)
3. Alexander Hamilton Essay Writing Workshop
(Derek Orme)
4. Inside the Hamilton Classroom
(Hamilton College)
5. Episode 8: Roundtable - Writing Across the Curriculum
(Writing Wise)
6. How To: Gathering Information for a Great Humanities Thesis!
(That Writing Life with Dr. D)


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