Writing Resources for Historians
These links and books will help you with specific aspects of historical research and writing.
History Department Style Sheet
Unless your professor specifies another style guide, use this style sheet for papers in history courses.
Online guides for writing research papers
- Writing with Sources by Gordon Harvey
- Reading, Writing and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students, by Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College)
- Self-Help Documents on the Writing Process (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
How to read articles, books, and primary sources
- How to Read a Secondary Source (PDF), by Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College) - see above for the entire document
- How to Read a Primary Source (PDF) , by Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College - see above for the entire document
- A Student's Guide: How to Read a History Assignment, by Steven Kreis (Historyguide.org)
Online guides to style and grammar
- The Elements of Style (1918 edition) by William Strunk
- The Columbia Guide to Online Style
- Grammar and More (games and resources)
- Guide to Grammar and Writing (study sheets, exercises, and links)
Online guides to argumentation
- Arguments, concepts, and philosophical terms by Jim Pryor, Princeton University (intended for philosophers, but the section on arguments is useful for history students)
Online Reference Works for Writers
- Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric - guide to classical rhetoric, including general concepts and a nearly exhaustive list of figures of speech
- Oxford English Dictionary - the historical dictionary of the English language (access restricted to UMass campus community)
Writing Resources at UMass
- UMass Writing Program, including the Writing Center
- Professional Writing and Technical Communication Program
- College of Engineering Technical Writing Resources
- History Department guidelines for Junior Writing Seminars (PDF format)
Writing Centers at other colleges and universities
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Harvard University Expository Writing Program
- Dartmouth College Composition Center
Plagiarism--what it is and how to avoid it
Please note: the university's official policy on academic honesty is contained in the Code of Student Conduct booklet
- Plagiarism: What it Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It -- Indiana University
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. ISBN 0-226-06584-7. An excellent guide to research from the perspective of rhetoric; treats research and writing as mutually interacting activities.
Mann, Thomas. The Oxford guide to library research. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-195-12313-1. User’s manual for the academic library.
McCoy, F. N. Researching and writing in history: A practical handbook for students. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. ISBN 0-520-02621-7. A useful handbook for the beginning researcher. Some of the specific techniques are out of date (cf. Mann), but the book as a whole provides an overview of what goes into research, with more specific tips for historians than Booth, Colomb, and Williams.
Turabian, Kate. A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations. 6th ed. Revised by John Grossman and Alice Bennett. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. The nuts and bolts of formatting papers, writing footnotes, using abbreviations, etc. Some courses may require that your papers be formatted according to Turabian.
Williams, Joseph M. Style: Toward clarity and grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. ISBN 0-226-89915-2. An excellent guide to improving your writing style. The textbook edition, published by Longman, has useful exercises but omits the detailed discussion of coherence that the Chicago edition contains.
Compiled by Alice Nash and Brian Ogilvie