Writing Papers for HIST 100

HIST 100 is intended to develop students' understanding of the history of Western civilization. This includes developing an understanding of the ways in which Western civilization has interacted with the rest of the world. Part of the understanding of history, in turn, comes from learning about the questions historians ask in their investigation of the past.

Papers are your chance to show the understanding you have gained in your studies. Understanding is not simply a matter of being able to state information. In order to understand, you need to know whether the information is true, what the information means, and why the information you have stated is the correct answer to the question you are addressing. Understanding involves being able to explain.

Therefore when you write a history paper, you need to show that you can explain.To show taht you understand your topic you need to write papers that provide clear, organized explanations of the points you wish to convey.

For example, make sure that each paragraph deals with just one idea or theme or point. Make sure that the statements in each paragraph show some connection to one another; make sure that it is clear why those particular statements should go together. Also, be sure that the point you are making with the whole paragraph is clear.

Make sure that all of your statements and all of your paragraphs have to do with what you say in your thesis statement. Do not add information whose connection to the thesis of the paper is not clear.

Be sure to identify when you are quoting from an author, when you are summarizing an author, and when you are stating your ideas.

Do not repeat statements or ideas. (Partial exceptions to this principle: It is all right to SHOW at the end of the paper that your thesis statement is correct, and this may involve restating the thesis statement. Also, it is perfectly fine to begin a paragraph with a phrase such as, "One example of Thucydides' interest in eyewitness accounts is..." and then to begin the next paragraph with, "Another example of Thucydides' interest in eyewitness accounts is...")

Make sure you know what the topic questions mean, and what the text you have chosen means. If you are having trouble with those things, contact your instructors.

For example, here are some terms that are used in the topic questions. Make sure you understand them correctly (many people use these terms without thinking about what they really mean):

credible: offering reasonable grounds for being believed.

cause (used as a noun): something that brings about a result or an effect; or, something that helps to bring about a result or an effect. (A cause is not just something that comes before an effect; the cause is what actually makes the effect happen, or helps to make it happen. If you say that one thing caused another to happen, you need to show how the first thing really led to the second, why it had to lead to the second thing.)

evidence: something that furnishes proof; an indication of what is true.

(These definitions are from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th ed.)

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