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Writing a Term Paper or Senior Thesis Welcome to the History Department You will find that your history professors care a great deal about your writing. They may cover your papers with red ink. Writing is hard work, but it requires neither native genius nor initiation into occult knowledge.
We historians demand the same qualities stressed in any stylebook— good grammar and syntax. It uses the active voice; it has a thesis; it explains the significance of the topic; and it tells the reader who, what, when, where, why, and how.
We hope that this booklet will help you to avoid the most common problems of style and substance that students encounter in writing history papers.
Get a good general stylebook and keep it by your side as you write. You engage in cheap, anachronistic moralizing. You are sloppy with the chronology. You are vague or have empty, unsupported generalizations. You write too much in the passive voice.
You use inappropriate sources. You use evidence uncritically. You have no clear thesis Fargo thesis essay little analysis. Avoid pretentious, vapid beginnings. Get to the point.
For example, you might go on to argue that greater British sensitivity to Indian customs was hypocritical. State a clear thesis. Whether you are writing an exam essay or a senior thesis, you need to have a thesis. A good thesis answers an important research question about how or why something happened.
Develop your thesis logically from paragraph to paragraph.
Your reader should always know where your argument has come from, where it is now, and where it is going. Be sure to analyze.
Students are often puzzled when their professors mark them down for summarizing or merely narrating rather than analyzing. What does it mean to analyze?
In the narrow sense, to analyze means to break down into parts and to study the interrelationships of those parts. If you analyze water, you break it down into hydrogen and oxygen. In a broader sense, historical analysis explains the origins and significance of events.
Historical analysis digs beneath the surface to see relationships or distinctions that are not immediately obvious. Historical analysis is critical; it evaluates sources, assigns significance to causes, and weighs competing explanations.
Who, what, when, and where are the stuff of summary; how, why, and to what effect are the stuff of analysis. Many students think that they have to give a long summary to show the professor that they know the facts before they get to their analysis. Try instead to begin your analysis as soon as possible, sometimes without any summary at all.
Like good detectives, historians are critical of their sources and cross-check them for reliability. Consider the following two statements on the origin of World War I: Only a professional liar would deny this Neither the people, the government, nor the Kaiser wanted war As always, the best approach is to ask: Who wrote the source?
The first statement comes from a book by the French politician Georges Clemenceau, which he wrote in at the very end of his life. He was obviously not a disinterested observer. The second statement comes from a manifesto published by ninety-three prominent German intellectuals in the fall of They were defending Germany against charges of aggression and brutality.II: Body of the Essay: Defending Your Premises.
You should begin the first paragraph of the body of the essay (the core of the essay) by introducing your first main premise from your complete thesis statement as a topic sentence. To support your first premise, use specific examples from the movie or book or TV show to illustrate your point.
A similar phenomenon occurs in Las Vegas and on every cruise ship on the planet. People feed their hard-earned little green employees into the slots and cashiers of these rigged games, impoverishing themselves and enriching the sneaky owners with mathematical certainty.
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