paper will be graded primarily on your understanding and analysis of
book, but form will also be taken into account. Keep in mind that
you do not want to present a mere re-telling of the author's work, but
a strong analysis and critical response to the book. Start out
review by clearrly stating the author's thesis. Check carefully
spelling and grammatical errors before submitting your essay.
writing and poor proofreading will hurt your grade. On this
I have three words for you: proofread, proofread, proofread. Read
Dr. Robert Zieger's "How to Write" (below) before you begin to write
paper. It will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of bad prose
sloppy grammar. Typing errors should be corrected neatly and
must be numbered. Margins must be one inch all around. Font
size must be 12 pt. The paper should be stapled, not
Please do not place the paper in a folder or binder. Remember
if you use direct quotations from an essay or document, do so
Three to four direct quotes for a four page paper is more than
Moreover, you must indicate the quotation with quotation marks
give the author and page number in a parenthetical reference. For
example, "Midgets, giants, fat ladies, and ape-men were both
and honored as freaks" (Kasson 50). Be very careful not to
the paper must be in your own words. An appropriate paraphrase
be in your words. It is not enough to slightly rephrase the
of the author. I will know if you have lifted any major or minor
parts of your paper from the book or from an internet site.
will receive a grade penalty of five points for every calendar day
the due date. After two weeks the paper will not be accepted and
a "zero" will be calculated into your final grade. Please be sure to
your notes and a draft or photocopy of the paper until it is graded and
encouraged to meet with me to discuss their papers. Rough drafts
may be submitted to me for comments and suggestions without any formal
grade. In addition, I encourage you to make use of the writng
lab at the ENC Center for Academic Services.
Your first citation must include the last names of the
and the page number: (Johnson and Wilentz 122). After that you
only need to provide the page number: (127). When quoting a
make sure you place the period or comma inside the quotes and the
before the period. Like: "the soldiers never moved," Smith
(121). Not: "the soldiers never moved", Smith concludes. (121)
2. Always avoid
redundancy and repetition: "An African-American black man."; "A native
American Indian"; "During this time period." Simplify your
whenever and wherever possible. If you can write the same thing
fewer words, then do so.
3. A work of
history is not a "novel." A novel is a work of fiction.
Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel, whereas Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted
Courage, a history of the Lewis and Clark expedition, is not.
Calling a work of history a novel is like calling a biography a
It is like saying an elephant is a mouse. Definitions do
4. When referring
to events that took place in the past, use the past tense: "The
ate a meal of thanksgiving with the Indians," Not: "The Pilgrims eat a
meal of thanksgiving with the Indians." Events in the past are
happening right now. When recounting the arguments of a
author, it is appropriate to use the present tense: "Smith describes
5. When you
use words that are in any way pejorative or negative-stereotypes, terms
of derision-make sure to put them in quotes. Example: Locals
these Indians "savages." In other words, be cautious.
6. A few abbreviations
and terms I will use to mark your work:
---------- Convoluted writing or unclear meaning
Close up space
Transpose, reverse order
Awkward, clunky, or otherwise poor sentence
Error in case
Flowery language, wordy
A run-on sentence. Example: "Some older Americans thought it
to land a man on the moon, it seemed no one could accomplish such a
There should be a period after "moon" and "it seemed" should start a
A selection that is not specific at all and provides no details
Wrong word choice. If you are not sure what a specific word
avoid using it.
1. The first
paragraph of a historical paper, be it a research paper, short
or book review, should contain the author's central thesis or
The author must mention all important actors, as well as inclusive
of coverage and basic concepts or historical developments in the first
2. Use vigorous,
direct language. Short sentences work. Employ concrete, precise nouns
active verbs, being careful, for example, to find active substitutes
forms of the verb "to be" and "to go." Inexperienced writers often
think that convoluted language, long sentences, and pretentious diction
3. Use the
active, not the passive voice, in your prose. The active voice places
subject before the action. Active voice: On opening day, Sammy Sosa
his 71st home run. Passive voice: His 71st home run was blasted by
Sosa on opening day. (See the elaboration of this point below).
4. Avoid all
first-person or surrogate references. By "surrogate" I mean such terms
as one, we, the current writer.
5. Avoid discussion
of method, intentions, and structure. There is no need to intrude
statements of authorial intention ("In the following pages, I am going
to argue that. . . ."-just state the argument) or to deliver bulletins
about the paper's structure ("This paper is divided into three
. . ."-just state your three central arguments or observations in a
opening paragraph). I agree with writer Samuel Hynes that "the less
the story-teller is, the better for the story, and . . . when an
narrating personality shoulders his [or her] way between the reader and
the subject, biography [and history] suffer. . . ."
of frequent chronological references and their placement at the
of sentences, paragraphs, phrases, and so forth contributes
to more accessible and dynamic prose.
7. On a related
point, an author must be careful in selecting the time boundaries for
paper but once having established them she must not extend them in the
text. Authors should observe this rule on the level of the paragraph as
well. For example: If the title of your paper is something like
Goes to War, 1917-19," it is not appropriate to mention in the text any
event or development that occurred after 1919, except possibly in an
paragraph. If the writer finds herself "stretching" the chronological
of the paper to make points that seem important but falling beyond the
original time limits established, she needs to adjust the paper's
focus and change the title. Thus, for example, "Gainesville Goes to
1917-1919" might be retitled: "The Impact of World War I Mobilization
the Citizens of Gainesville, 1917-1941."
8. It is easy
to fall into stuffy, pompous, trite rhetorical patterns. Double
for example, often only lend inflated importance to commonplace
The gratuitous imputation of erroneous views to the reader is another
habit (as in: "It would be unfair to conclude that Nixon was a
. ."; or "It would be a gross overstatement to say that the South won
Civil War. . . ." In both cases, the reader is being warned against
an error that the author is actually suggesting).
9. Don't use
lengthy block quotes. Always paraphrase and integrate into your own
Confine quoted words to short, distinctive selections, subordinating
material to your own purposes and your own language. Of course,
must be absolutely scrupulous in making proper attribution in quoting
10. There is
much dismissive talk these days about so-called "political
It is important for serious people to weigh carefully their language
referring to ethnicity, race, gender, and other politically charged
Many complaints about the need to be "politically correct" reflect a
on the part of politically or culturally dominant groups or interests
have license in the language they use to characterize or refer to
subordinated, or vulnerable groups. Language is a powerful tool. Use it
judiciously, carefully, and with due respect for your fellow human
No one ever accused Adolph Hitler of being "politically correct."
AND BAD HABITS
1. Run-on sentences.
When in doubt, start a new sentence.
modifiers. ("Jumping out of bed, my shoulder hurt"; "Based on this
Prof. Jones argues. . . ").
and punctuation marks. Remember these lifetime rules: In American
-- Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, Colons and
always go outside quotation marks, Question marks and exclamation
(which latter you have no need for in this paper) depend on the context.
between possessives, which take the apostrophe, and plurals, which
There are specific rules for plural possessives (e.g., for nouns ending
in s, add apostrophe s to make the possessive; but for pluralized nouns
otherwise not ending in s, just add the apostrophe). Examples:
are made with tequila (correct). Margaritas' [or Margarita's] are made
with lime juice (incorrect). The Margaritas' intoxicating properties
me into a zombie (correct).
5. Watch out
for its and it's. Its is the possessive, as in "I liked the house
of its roominess." It's is the contraction for it is, as in "It's going
to rain today." Ronald Reagan never could get this straight and
at what happened to him.
and adverbs--get rid of as many as possible. In general, the higher the
proportion of verbs in your writing, the more vigorous and effective it
will be. Especially, strike the words "very" and "interesting" from
and parallels. Make sure that when you make or draw them, the terms are
consistent with each other. ("In regard to onions, Harding's smelled
than Coolidge"-should be: stronger than "those of Coolidge" or
8. Be a "which"
hunter, substituting "that" wherever possible.
9. When dealing
with human beings, "who" is the correct pronoun; "that" is never
(as in: I met a man who [not that] once tended Sir Douglas Haig's
10. In quotations,
always make clear the identity of the person whom you quote. Every
needs a "signature phrase," indicating the identity and/or standing of
the person being quoted.