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When there are tons of homework you risk to lose things, which are more valuable — your friends and relatives. You have to be in touch with people, who care about your life, but on the other hand solving the academic questions is not of less importance. If you do not already have a general background on your topic, get the most recent good general source on the topic and read it for general orientation.

On the basis of that reading formulate as clearly focused question as you can. You should generally discuss with your professor at that point whether your question is a feasible one. Building a Basic Bibliography: If there is a specialized bibliography on your topic, you will certainly want to consult that as well, but these are often a bit dated.

Building a Full Bibliography: Read the recent articles or chapters that seem to focus on your topic best. This will allow you to focus your research question quite a bit. Use such tools as Historical Abstracts or, depending on your topic, the abstracts from a different field and a large, convenient computer-based national library catalog e.

For specific article searches "Uncover" press returns for the "open access" or possibly less likely for history "First Search" through "Connect to Other Resources" in MUSE can also be useful. Now do the bulk of your research. But do not overdo it. Do not fall into the trap of reading and reading to avoid getting started on the writing. After you have the bulk of information you might need, start writing.

You can fill in the smaller gaps of your research more effectively later. Write a preliminary thesis statement, expressing what you believe your major argument s will be. Sketch out a broad outline that indicates the structure - main points and subpoints or your argument as it seems at this time. Do not get too detailed at this point. On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps.

If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text with a searchable symbol. It is important that you try to get to the end point of this writing as soon as possible, even if you leave pieces still in outline form at first and then fill the gaps after you get to the end. Critical advice for larger papers: It is often more effective not to start at the point where the beginning of your paper will be.

Especially the introductory paragraph is often best left until later, when you feel ready and inspired. The "second draft" is a fully re-thought and rewritten version of your paper. It is at the heart of the writing process. First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it.

You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative. That is perfectly normal even for experienced writers even after 40 years and a good deal of published work! You will be frustrated. Note carefully the distinction between that for use in restrictive clauses, with no comma and which for use in nonrestrictive clauses, with a comma. Remember—history is about what people do, so you need to be vigilant about agency.

Focus on the punctuation and its effect on agency: Surely, the writer meant to say that, in his analysis of imperialism, Fanon distinguishes between two kinds of hierarchy.

A comma after suggests fixes the immediate problem. Now look at the revised sentence. It still needs work. Better diction and syntax would sharpen it. Fanon does not suggest with connotations of both hinting and advocating ; he states outright. But between the elements A and B, the writer inserts Fanon a proper noun , suggests a verb , imperialists a noun , and establish a verb. Try the sentence this way: We know what Fanon does, and we know what the imperialists do. Notice that errors and infelicities have a way of clustering.

If you find one problem in a sentence, look for others. Discipline your prepositional phrases; make sure you know where they end. Notice the mess in this sentence: Yet the writer intends only the first to be the object of the preposition.

Hitler is accusing the Jews of engaging , but not of stating ; he is the one doing the stating. There are two common problems here. More upset than who? The other problem, which is more common and takes many forms, is the unintended and sometimes comical comparison of unlike elements.

Often the trouble starts with a possessive:. A misplaced modifier may also cause comparison trouble: Get control of your apostrophes. Do not use the apostrophe to form plurals. This is a new error, probably a carryover from the common conversational habit of pausing dramatically after although.

Remember that although is not a synonym for the word however , so you cannot solve the problem in the sentence by putting a period after Europe. A clause beginning with although cannot stand alone as a sentence. This is a strange new error.

If your word-processing program underlines something and suggests changes, be careful. When it comes to grammar and syntax, your computer is a moron. Not only does it fail to recognize some gross errors, it also falsely identifies some correct passages as errors. Do not cede control of your writing decisions to your computer. Make the suggested changes only if you are positive that they are correct. If you are having trouble with your writing, try simplifying.

Write short sentences and read them aloud to test for clarity. Start with the subject and follow it quickly with an active verb. Limit the number of relative clauses, participial phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.

You will win no prizes for eloquence, but at least you will be clear. Add complexity only when you have learned to handle it. Avoid the common solecism of using feel as a synonym for think, believe, say, state, assert, contend, argue, conclude, or write. Concentrate on what your historical actors said and did; leave their feelings to speculative chapters of their biographies. As for your own feelings, keep them out of your papers. If you believe that Lincoln should have acted earlier, then explain, giving cogent historical reasons.

This is a clumsy, unnecessary construction. This phrase is filler. Get rid of it. Attend carefully to the placement of this limiting word.

Note, for example, these three sentences:. The first limits the action to interring as opposed to, say, killing ; the second limits the group interred i. More than likely, you have not earned these words and are implying that you have said more than you actually have.

Use them sparingly, only when you are concluding a substantial argument with a significant conclusion. Instead is an adverb, not a conjunction.

Note also that the two clauses are now parallel—both contain transitive verbs. If two people share or agree , they are both involved by definition. This word means one of a kind. It is an absolute. Something cannot be very unique, more unique, or somewhat unique. To avoid confusion in historical prose, you should stick with the original meaning of incredible: You probably mean that he gave great speeches. You probably mean that the Japanese attack was unwise or reckless. English is rich with adjectives.

Finding the best one forces you to think about what you really mean. As a synonym for subject matter, bone of contention, reservation, or almost anything else vaguely associated with what you are discussing, the word issue has lost its meaning through overuse. Beware of the word literally. Literally means actually, factually, exactly, directly, without metaphor.

The swamping was figurative, strictly a figure of speech. The adverb literally may also cause you trouble by falsely generalizing the coverage of your verb. Like issue , involve tells the reader too little. Delete it and discuss specifically what Erasmus said or did. Just get directly to the point. Most good writers frown on the use of this word as a verb. Impacted suggests painfully blocked wisdom teeth or feces. Had an impact is better than impacted , but is still awkward because impact implies a collision.

Here is another beloved but vapid word. If you believe quite reasonably that the Reformation had many causes, then start evaluating them.

Overuse has drained the meaning from meaningful. The adjective interesting is vague, overused, and does not earn its keep. Delete it and explain and analyze his perspective.

Your professor will gag on this one. Events take place or happen by definition, so the relative clause is redundant. Furthermore, most good writers do not accept transpire as a synonym for happen. Again, follow the old rule of thumb: Get right to the point, say what happened, and explain its significance. This phrase is awkward and redundant.

Replace it with the reason is, or better still, simply delete it and get right to your reason. The phrase is for all intents and purposes , and few good writers use it in formal prose anyway. Use center on or center in. Recently, many people have started to use this phrase to mean raises, invites, or brings up the question. Understanding this fallacy is central to your education. The formal Latin term, petitio principii, is too fancy to catch on, so you need to preserve the simple English phrase.

If something raises a question, just say so. Everything in the past or relating to the past is historical. Resist the media-driven hype that elevates the ordinary to the historic. The Norman invasion of England in was indeed historic. Historically , historians have gathered annually for a historical convention; so far, none of the conventions has been historic. Effect as a verb means to bring about or cause to exist effect change. This is the classic bonehead error.

As an adjective, everyday one word means routine. If you wish to say that something happened on every successive day, then you need two words, the adjective every and the noun day. Note the difference in these two sentences: For Kant, exercise and thinking were everyday activities. To allude means to refer to indirectly or to hint at. The word you probably want in historical prose is refer , which means to mention or call direct attention to.

Novel is not a synonym for book. A novel is a long work of fiction in prose. A historical monograph is not a novel —unless the historian is making everything up. This is an appalling new error. If you are making a comparison, you use the conjunction than. The past tense of the verb to lead is led not lead. The opposite of win is lose , not loose. However may not substitute for the coordinating conjunction but.

Your religion, ideology, or worldview all have tenets —propositions you hold or believe in. Tenants rent from landlords. The second sentence says that some colonists did not want to break with Britain and is clearly true, though you should go on to be more precise.

Historians talk a lot about centuries, so you need to know when to hyphenate them. Follow the standard rule: If you combine two words to form a compound adjective, use a hyphen, unless the first word ends in ly.

The same rule for hyphenating applies to middle-class and middle class —a group that historians like to talk about. Bourgeois is usually an adjective, meaning characteristic of the middle class and its values or habits. Occasionally, bourgeois is a noun, meaning a single member of the middle class. Bourgeoisie is a noun, meaning the middle class collectively. Your professor may ask you to analyze a primary document.

Here are some questions you might ask of your document. You will note a common theme—read critically with sensitivity to the context. This list is not a suggested outline for a paper; the wording of the assignment and the nature of the document itself should determine your organization and which of the questions are most relevant. Of course, you can ask these same questions of any document you encounter in your research.

Your professor may ask you to write a book review, probably of a scholarly historical monograph. Here are some questions you might ask of the book. Remember that a good review is critical, but critical does not necessarily mean negative. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it a suggested outline. Your writing tutor sneaks another look at her watch as she reminds you for the third time to clarify your thesis.

Your main historical actors are this, it, they, the people, and society, and they are all involved with factors, aspects, impacts, and issues. M, the paper is due at 9: Writing a Good History Paper. Additional Navigation About Us History. Seven Deadly Sins of Writing 1. Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses.

Misuse of the Apostrophe. Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers. Faculty Resources Writing Materials for Faculty. State a clear thesis. Be sure to analyze. Analyzing a Historical Document Be precise. Analyzing a Historical Document Use scholarly secondary sources. Writing a Book Review Avoid abusing your sources. Quote sparingly Avoid quoting a secondary source and then simply rewording or summarizing the quotation, either above or below the quotation.

Know your audience Unless instructed otherwise, you should assume that your audience consists of educated, intelligent, nonspecialists.

Misuse of the passive voice. Abuse of the verb to be. Inappropriate use of first person. Distancing or demeaning quotation marks. Remarks on Grammar and Syntax Awkward. Consider this sentence from a book review: It was a symbolic act. Note the two parts of this sentence: Consider these three sentences: Note that the following is not a sentence: Confusion of restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

Consider these two versions of the same sentence: Confusion about the objects of prepositions. Misuse of the comparative. Often the trouble starts with a possessive: Comma between subject and verb. Note, for example, these three sentences: Both share or both agree. The events that transpired. The reason is because. For all intensive purposes.

This is an illiteracy. You mean should have or could have. A queen reigns during her reign. You rein in a horse with reins. You do know the difference. What exactly is the document e.

Are you dealing with the original or with a copy? If it is a copy, how remote is it from the original e. What is the date of the document? Is there any reason to believe that the document is not genuine or not exactly what it appears to be? Who is the author, and what stake does the author have in the matters discussed? If the document is unsigned, what can you infer about the author or authors?

What sort of biases or blind spots might the author have?

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