GuidelinesSarah - 1 HIS 66 Amazons, Queens, Witches and...

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1 HIS 66 Amazons, Queens, Witches and Saints: Medieval and Early Modern Women SECCTION GUIDELINES: HOW TO WRITE A HISTORY PAPER Sarah Doub A short essay is assigned as a means of assessing your understanding of particular historical topics and/or themes. The short essay--usually between five and ten pages, typed and double-spaced, is an excellent way for you to demonstrate your ability to condense a great deal of material into what is essentially a compact essay. A short essay is not a research essay and should not be treated as such. 1. What is a history paper? A history paper is an essay. As such, it shares many characteristics with essays on other topics. Essays come in various shapes and sizes, and no two of them are alike. Each, though, expresses an opinion. A piece of writing merely describing something or explaining how something works is not an essay. An essay always conveys its writer’s viewpoint. In an essay, a writer never simply explains or describes. Instead, they make an argument , and provide a reasoned array of evidence to back up their opinions. Be careful with the word "opinion," however. A writer of an essay can have many kinds of opinion. They might have an opinion on world hunger or on the outcome of the next Superbowl, even if they know little about these subjects. We all have a right to this kind of opinion, but this is not the kind of opinion contained in an essay. A writer might also have religious beliefs, or beliefs in specific political or economic systems, that one cannot test by ordinary intellectual processes. In this case, their opinion would be a matter of basic belief and not usually subject to systematic argument. Systematic argumentation, though, is the point of an essay. Essays express the educated opinion of their writers. Historians form their educated opinions by examining and thinking about evidence of past conditions, causes, and effects. When historians write books, they are writing a long, extended essay presenting their opinions on their subject. As with all essays, they build the points of their argument and arrange their evidence in such a way that will best put their ideas across. For the historian, their argument is their interpretation of the past--how and why events happened the way they did, and what those events mean to future times. In your history papers you are to be your own historian. You will be writing an essay answering one of the topical questions put to you by the assignment. Choose carefully. To have and vigorously express an opinion in an essay,
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2 you must have an interest in your topic. For historical evidence, you will use the primary documents from your sourcebook Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe, Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies, or Marie de France’s Lais. You may use other primary sources from websites or books, but make sure that these sources are primary and not from a book written by another historian. Even if another historian’s book has a
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This note was uploaded on 05/20/2008 for the course HIST 66 taught by Professor Silleras during the Spring '08 term at UCSC.

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GuidelinesSarah - 1 HIS 66 Amazons, Queens, Witches and...

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