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Writing Guide for Humanities Papers For help with MLA Formatting and tips for avoiding plagiarism, a good site is Or, you can uses the resources from the library or writing centers at any campus. For many students, writing for the humanities is a new skill. It is different from the type of creative writing, or research papers, you may have done in English class. Focus is on your analysis of the primary sources and their context. It is specific, not general. Although you may do some research, you will not be asked to write a “research paper” where you search for many secondary sources that have been written by other scholars to support your argument. YOU are the scholar, and you will use the primary sources to support your argument. The following information will help you to understand how to write for this course. PAPER GRADE In general, your grade on papers will be based on the standards I have set forth in the writing guide below, as well as an ability to work with primary sources and discuss them in historical context. (Feel free to refer to the sections of the syllabus on context and primary sources.) Everyone starts out with an A. You will automatically drop a letter grade for the following: *No thesis *Paper not based on your thesis *Poor construction, grammar, punctuation, or spelling. *Do not write in the first person, or say you (I, me, we, you—y’all if you are from the South). * Lack of historical and cultural context *Not explicitly building your paper around primary sources *Improper formatting. *Length of paper does not meet word count. Papers at 50% of the word count will start at 50%, even before other factors are taken into consideration. *Did not follow directions for paper content. *Lack of a BOTH a works cited page AND in-text citations. *Paraphrasing or cutting and pasting large sections of the ideas of someone else
*You may NOT use your textbook as a source, unless you are referring to a primary source found in the textbook, such as a reading excerpt or a picture. I do not want you to paraphrase the commentary of the author of your textbook. Make original observations. Many students are terrified at the thought of writing papers. But it is not magic. Anyone can learn to write well. Writing is a skill that takes practice and time, just like anything else. The more you do it the better you get. And, there is a formula to it. There are tricks you can use to almost automatically make your papers better. There are also specific pitfalls to avoid. The biggest mistake students make is procrastinating. The second mistake they make is in not asking for help. Be kind to yourself, and leave enough time to write and re-write a good paper, instead of rushing to turn in something mediocre by the due date. A good paper is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you become comfortable with the formula, you will learn to write papers you can hand in with confidence. I am including this writing guide, to give you some advice on how to write a better Humanities paper. I realize it is looooong, but I hope it will act as a reference guide for you. Think of it as your personal

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