Paper Overview: You will continue to use the Oral History interviews (Links to an external site.) from the Library of Congress’s Civil Rights Project as primary sources to help you explore and examine the diverse elements that helped fuel the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. You will be examining 4 different oral histories to write a short history essay that will compare and contrast what elements influenced and shaped civil rights activists.
Your paper should be 3-5 pages, 12 font, with citations.
1. Review my comments on your outline and and re-watch: Writing 101- How to Write an Essay with a Thesis. Reviewing my comments and re-watching the video will help you write an effective essay.
2. Review the Writing TipsPreview the document as they will help you improve your paper. (Don’t forget you can use Tutor.com to get feedback within 12 hours!)Important Tips for Writing History Papers taken from History Writing Center at William and Mary
You are now ready to begin writing. As you write, keep in mind the following list of writing tips that can improve your paper. Remember, though, that your professor is always the best person to ask if you have any questions or concerns.
1. Write in the simple past tense.
By definition, history is concerned with the past, and since you’re writing about the past, you need to write in the past tense.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: Roosevelt ordered the banks closed until auditors verified that they were solvent.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE: Roosevelt orders the banks closed until auditors verify that they are solvent.
2. Avoid excessive use of the passive voice.
The passive voice often fails to identify who or what is performing the actions you are describing. Also, the passive voice tends to result in excessive use of various forms of the verb “to be,” which leads to wordiness. Phrasing sentences in the active voice allows you to use active verbs that are more descriptive and that enliven your writing.
PASSIVE VOICE: Many programs were created to put Americans back to work.
ACTIVE VOICE: The government created many programs to put Americans back to work.
In the passive voice example, the reader does not learn who created the programs. Was it government, private corporations, or some other organization? The active voice clearly indicates where the programs originated.
3. Avoid the use of the pronoun “I.”
Unless your professor instructs you otherwise, you should avoid the use of “I” in college writing, as it is too informal. Structure your essay so that your ideas come across clearly without having to state that they are your ideas.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: The WPA was one of the most successful New Deal programs.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE:I think that the WPA was one of the most successful New Deal programs.
4. Avoid the use of qualifying terms.
Terms such as “possibly,” “probably,” “seems,” “may,” and “might” indicate weaknesses in your argument. In some cases where evidence is almost completely lacking, such words can be used, but when the preponderance of evidence points in one direction, do not use qualifiers.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: The “Bank Holiday” restored public confidence in the financial system.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE: The “Bank Holiday” probably restored public confidence in the financial system.
5. Vary sentence structure.
Blend brief, direct statements with longer, more complex sentences. This improves the flow of your paper and makes it more readable. Too many short sentences make your paper choppy and difficult to read. An endless string of long sentences confuses the reader.
6. Be sure pronouns agree with their antecedent.
If a pronoun replaces a plural noun, you should use a plural pronoun. When replacing a singular noun, use a singular pronoun. If you name several people in a previous sentence, be careful not to use a pronoun that could apply to any one of them; the reader won’t know to whom you’re referring.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: After consulting his advisors, Franklin Roosevelt selected several programs he thought would be effective in helping to end the Depression. He immediately presented these programs to Congress.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE: After consulting his advisors, Franklin Roosevelt selected several programs he thought would be effective in helping to end the Depression. They immediately presented these programs to Congress.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: Two women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Frances Perkins, played crucial roles in the New Deal. Perkins served as FDR’s secretary of labor.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE: Two women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Frances Perkins, played crucial roles in the New Deal. She served as FDR’s secretary of labor.
7. Avoid slang.
Unless you are using a direct quotation that employs slang, do not use it. Slang will ruin the tone of your paper.
8. Omit needless words.
State your ideas as directly as possible. Excessive use of adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases can clutter a sentence, obscuring rather than amplifying your points. Many students load their papers with “filler” words in order to meet a minimum length requirement. This is obvious to the reader, and does more harm than good. It’s better to use additional evidence rather than additional words.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: The CCC employed thousands of workers to construct hiking trails in national parks.
INCORRECT EXAMPLE: The CCC kept many thousands of workers busily employed in constructing long hiking trails through America’s beautiful national parks.
9. Know your audience.
Identifying your audience helps you determine what information and how much of it you will include in your essay. Your audience for a history paper is usually the professor or the teaching assistant who will grade it. This leads many students to assume that their audience is already familiar with most of the material. As a result, student writers often take shortcuts by failing to place information within its context, or by neglecting to define terms. Writing this way puts you at risk of providing insufficient information; when grading the essay the instructor is likely to assume that you are not familiar with the context or terms. One way to overcome this problem is to write your paper so that a general reader unfamiliar with the topic would be able to read and understand the essay. You might ask a friend who fits this description to act as your “ideal reader” and point out areas in your paper that are not clear or have other problems. If you have any questions, ask your professors about their expectations in this area.
10. Read your draft aloud.Hearing your own words, or having someone else listen to them, can help you identify run-on sentences, awkward phrasing, and other problems that might otherwise escape your attention. This is one of the most effective ways to proofread your work before turning it in.
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