Consider these two sentences: During the French revolution, the government was overthrown by the people. The revolution is important because it shows that people need freedom. Who exactly needed freedom, and what did they mean by freedom? Here is a more precise statement about the French revolution: Threatened by rising prices and food shortages in 1793, the parisian sans-culottes pressured the convention to institute price controls. This statement is more limited than the grandiose generalizations about the revolution, but unlike them, it can open the door to a real analysis of the revolution. Be careful when you use grand abstractions like people, society, freedom, and government, especially when you further distance yourself from the concrete by using these words as the apparent antecedents for the pronouns they and. Always pay attention to cause and effect. Abstractions do not cause or need anything; particular people or particular groups of people cause or need things.
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They were thesis defending Germany against charges of aggression and brutality. They too were obviously not disinterested observers. Now, rarely do you encounter such extreme bias and passionate disagreement, but the season principle of criticizing and cross-checking sources always applies. In general, the more sources you can use, and the more varied they are, the more likely you are to make a sound historical judgment, especially when passions and self-interests are engaged. You dont need to be cynical as a historian (self-interest does not explain everything but you do need to be critical and skeptical. Competent historians may offer different interpretations of the same evidence or choose to stress different evidence. You will not find a single historical Truth with a capital t on any matter of significance. You can, however, learn to discriminate among conflicting interpretations, not all of which are created equal. (see also: Analyzing a historical Document ) be precise. Vague statements and empty generalizations suggest that you haven't put in the time to learn the material.
They cant both be right, so you have to do some detective work. As always, the best approach is to ask: Who wrote the source? The first statement comes from fruit a book by the French politician georges Clemenceau, which he wrote in 1929 at the very end of his life. In 1871, Clemenceau had vowed revenge against Germany for its defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War. As premier of France from 1917 to 1920, he represented France at the paris peace conference in 1919. 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 1914.
You can't do an analysis unless you know the facts, but you can summarize the facts without being able to do an analysis. Summary is easier and less sophisticated than analysis—thats why summary alone never earns. Like good detectives, short historians are critical of their sources and cross-check them for reliability. You wouldn't think much of a detective who fruit relied solely on a suspects archenemy to check an alibi. Likewise, you wouldn't think much of a historian who relied solely on the French to explain the origins of World War. Consider the following two statements on the origin of World War I: 1) For the catastrophe of 1914 the germans are responsible. Only a professional liar would deny this. 2) It is not true that Germany is guilty of having caused this war. Neither the people, the government, nor the kaiser wanted war. .
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. Dont push the distinction too far, but you might think of summary and analysis this way: 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. The facts will shine through a good analysis.
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Your essay thesis is your take on the subject, your perspective, your explanation—that is, the case that youre going to essay argue. Famine struck Ireland in the 1840s is a true statement, but it is not a thesis. The English were responsible for famine in Ireland in the 1840s is a thesis (whether defensible or not is another matter). A good thesis answers an important research question about how or why something happened. (Who was responsible for the famine in Ireland in the 1840s?) Once you have laid out your thesis, dont forget about. 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.
You use evidence uncritically. You have no clear thesis and little analysis. Making Sure your History paper has Substance get off to a good start. Avoid pretentious, vapid beginnings. If you are writing a paper on, say, british responses to the rebellion in India in 1857, don't open with a statement like this: Throughout human history people in all cultures everywhere in the world have engaged in many and long-running conflicts about numerous aspects. This is pure garbage, bores the reader, and is a sure sign that you have nothing substantive to say.
Get to the point. Heres a better start: The rebellion in 1857 compelled the British to rethink their colonial administration in India. This sentence tells the reader what your paper is actually about and clears the way for you to state your thesis in the rest of the opening paragraph. 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. Dont just repeat the assignment or start writing down everything that you know about the subject. Ask yourself, What exactly am I trying to prove?
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You engage in desk cheap, anachronistic moralizing. You are sloppy with the chronology. You" excessively or improperly. You have written a careless teresa one-draft wonder. (see revise and proofread). You are vague or have empty, unsupported generalizations. You write too much in the passive voice. You use inappropriate sources.
We hope that this booklet will help you to avoid the most common problems of style and substance that students encounter in writing history words papers. Please note that this booklet cannot cover everything you need to know about historical writing and research. Get a good general stylebook and keep it by your side as you write. In addition to the colleges style guide, essentials. Writing, we recommend Strunk and White, the Elements of Style and diana hacker, a pocket Style manual. Mary lynn Rampollas a pocket guide. Writing in History contains useful advice on historical research and writing. Top Ten reasons for Negative comments on History papers (Drawn from a survey of the history department).
i, we me, us my/mine, our/ours (2) Next: Second Person Pages you may also like. View pdf version, you may click on the links below to navigate through the topic of your choice: 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. You neednt worry that you have to master a specialized historical style. A successful history paper is clear, precise, concise, organized, analytical, and concrete. 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.
Heres a sentence containing both: I ( first garden - person singular) look forward to my monthly book club meeting. We ( first - person plural) are currently reading, never have your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda. The first - person point of view is used primarily for autobiographical writing, such as a personal essay or a memoir. Academics and journalists usually avoid first person in their writing because doing so is believed to make the writing sound more objective; however, using an occasional i or we can be appropriate in formal papers and articles if a publications style allows. Williams, author of Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, agrees: deleting an i or we does not make the science objective; it makes reports of it only seem. We know that behind those impersonal sentences are flesh-and-blood researchers doing, thinking, and writing (1). Besides i and we, other singular first person pronouns include me (objective case) and my and mine (possessive case). Plural first person pronouns are us (objective case) and our and ours (possessive case). Those are a lot of forms and cases, so the following example of a sentence that uses the first person —with both singular and plural forms and all three cases—will, i hope, help identify the different uses: i asked Sam to help me with.
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Jump to navigation ô, episode #259, update required to play the words media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your. You probably know what it means to write in the first person, but you may not be as confident about using the second- or third- person point of view. Today were going to focus on each of these three points of view. In grammatical terms, first person, second person, and third person refer to personal pronouns. Each person has a different perspective, a point of view, and the three points of view have singular and plural forms as well as three case forms. First, person, in the subjective case, the singular form of the first person is i, and the plural form. I and we are in the subjective case because either one can be used as the subject of a sentence. You constantly use these two pronouns when you refer to yourself and when you refer to yourself with others.