The History Department at Wooster uses the Chicago Manual of Style as its preferred citation method. This system employs footnotes, which often include analytical discussion alongside the citation itself. A good way to learn more about how footnotes work in history is to pay attention to the books and articles you are reading for class. Look at how scholars use their footnotes and endnotes to identify their sources and to invite further conversation.
For more information on the Chicago Style, two good online resources are:
There is no one-size-fits-all model of writing in history. Part of the process of learning how to write and to argue within the discipline is developing your own voice. That said, whatever your style, you should strive to make your writing clear and engaging. Consider the ideas below:
•Use a citation management software (Zotero, EndNote, etc.) while you are conducting your research so that you don't have to scramble to locate your sources at the end of a project.
•Make sure that you understand the assignment at hand. What is your purpose, and who is your audience? An informative plaque for a public museum requires a different approach to writing than an argumentative essay for your professor.
•What are the main points that you want your reader to learn from your writing? Make those ideas clear from the start. History writing is not like an M. Night Shyamalan movie: we don't need to wait to the end for a twist!
•If you are writing an analytical piece with a thesis, focus on crafting a debatable thesis. A strong thesis is one that someone could disagree with. (Surely they won't, though, once they have read your excellent evidence!)
•Avoid hit-and-run quotations! If you are quoting from a historical source, identify the source, explain its perspective, and tell us why your particular quote supports your point.
•Writing is a collaborative process. Once you have a draft, seek out feedback from your professors, from the Writing Center, and from your peers. Don't be afraid to change your argument or to make other big changes based on their ideas! Revising means more than just proofreading your text.
For more information about writing in history, check out these pages:
Don't write alone! Visit the Writing Center for help at any stage of the process.
Book and appointment here: