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As a student of History , I’ve come across a number of problems. I didn’t know
who to turn to for the answers of them. Because all of the professors will tell you
everything you need to know about History. But they will not tell you the methods to
study History and score good grades. History has so much information: facts, dates,
names and events. How is one person supposed to memorize so much stuff? Or
are we even supposed to learn so much useless information?
After extensive research I cracked the code of the History exam and in every college
exam I’ve gotten A+ in History employing theses techniques and I hope that you do
This book is a must have for every college student. I hope you enjoy this book as
much as I enjoyed writing it. And the History Monster never bothers you again
I wrote this book for friends they scored awesome grades and asked me to launch
this book. But I decided to give it away to you my lovely and loyal blog readers.

What you will get from this book:

Introduction to History
Tips to study History
Tips to write History Essays
Note-taking methods
Exam taking tips

1.1 The Proper Attitude
In History as in life in general, your attitude is everything. In other words, to make your experience with
History as enjoyable and worthwhile as possible requires the proper attitude. You have to be able to
place yourself in the right frame of mind and that frame of mind is one in which exploration, discovery and
self-awareness are integral.

self-awareness are integral.
History has always gotten a bad rap in part because what students remember of their experience in history
classes is that sort of mindless memorization of facts: dates, events, wars--what I routinely refer to as "the
history of kings and queens." This sort of history has its place, I suppose. It does qualify as History, but of
a most basic sort. A case in point: go to your local bookstore, go to several in fact, and take a look at
what they have on the shelves under history. Unless you are at one of the larger stores like Borders,
Barnes & Noble, or at a university bookstore, I'm willing to bet that most of what falls under History is
really little more than war. We have a fascination for war--I don't know why. But, the fact remains, that
for most people, the study of history means little else than the study of war.
This confuses me! All these facts. All this stuff of history crowding my mind. A number of surveys over the
years have pointed to the disturbing fact that Americans don't know history. They don't know their own
history. Here is a typical question from one of those surveys: Did the Civil War take place before, or after
1850? Hopefully, you did not need to find your textbook for the answer to that one. But there is a deeper
issue here. To know, to have the knowledge, to have committed to memory the simple fact that the Civil
War took place after 1850 is, to me relatively unimportant. After all, anyone can learn to memorize, well,
anything. Is this history? What have you learned? What I would like to suggest is that you learned a fact-you have obtained knowledge. But, far more important to me is wisdom. Does the knowledge that the
Civil War took place after 1850 give you wisdom? does it make you wiser? Or, are facts and wisdom
gained through knowledge two distinct entities?
Some people like to read about war. For these people, it is war that "makes history come alive" (as if it
needed any prodding in the first place). Military history is fascinating but, in my opinion, only meaningful
(historically) when put into the context of the "other" history that is occurring at the same time. What is that
"other" history? Simple. It's the history which explains why that war took place in terms of the economy,
culture, diplomacy and perhaps a hundred other variables. In general, most Americans would rather be
"entertained" by passively watching a film about war rather than listen to someone talk about the origins
and consequences of that war.
So, this much said, what sort of attitude do we need to have when studying history? Well, the first thing is
that you should not enter a history class--any history class--looking for answers. The study of history
reveals that there is no clear cut answer for anything. Since understanding history is based on individual-and therefore subjective--interpretation, you must decide for yourself what kind of meaning you will attach
to the topic. Go into history with an open mind. Don't expect the answer to be presented to you as if
written in stone. It's not. History is not a science--it's a form of literature and the historian is little more
than a writer of non-fiction.
A number of years ago I was teaching the second part of a western civilization course at a community
college. We had just spent four or five lectures running through the French Revolution. The students had
heard lectures on the origins of the Revolution, the moderate stage, the radical stage, Robespierre and
finally Napoleon. Now it came time to review. Twenty of us sat in a circle and set out to "discuss" the
meaning and significance of the French Revolution. Was it successful? was it a failure? did the Revolution
come as a result of the Age of Enlightenment? was it a bourgeois revolution? I began the discussion by
reviewing the "great days" of the Revolution, events like the Oath of the Tennis Court or the Flight to
Varennes and people like Robespierre and so on. So, we eventually got to the point where we were
discussing interpretation. Some students spoke up and said the Revolution was a success, others said it
was a failure. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes until one student raised her hand and said, plain as
day, "Well, which is it? Was it a success or a failure?" She sat in her chair, her pen poised to write...the
answer! All I could say was, "Well, what do you think?" I immediately saw a brick wall. She didn't get it.

Some of us don't. We build brick walls as a short cut to thinking. "There must be an answer. What is it? I
don't want to think. I want to know." So much for wisdom.
You can avoid this trap. It's not that hard. You have to open your eyes, open your mind. Tear down the
walls. Study history with a sense of wonder and enjoyment. After all, this "stuff"' is all happening in the
past. Study history with a sense of engagement. There ought to be a sense of "what was it like" when you
study history. Really good professors will instill this sense of wonder, that is, if they are worth anything at
all. More about this later.
I've seen a great many students come and go in my own classes in Western Civilization and European
History. And one thing that will help them embrace the proper attitude is that they all get a sense of
historical time. Yes, this does mean that you understand what came before this or after that. You must get
into the habit, difficult as it might at first seem, of putting things into historical and chronological
perspective. You must make yourself aware of historical time. Look at the big picture (Europe 11001650) even while you are studying the small one (the Renaissance) or the even smaller one (Florentine
diplomacy). You must be able to eventually "image" a timeline in your head so that when your professor
rambles on about Dante, Rabelais, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Cervantes, you'll have an approximate
idea of how his discussion might all be tied together. I think that once you get in this habit, your
appreciation for history, in a word, your attitude, will begin to show signs of improvement as well.
Another important attribute which may assist in creating the proper attitude is television and film. I mean
this seriously. How else can you actually understand a lecture on say, the Black Death of 1347-1351,
unless you have some real images in your head? Your textbook will contain the obligatory photographs, of
course. And this will help. So too will an instructor who can really instill the terror, uncertainty and anguish
of the people at that time. But, I have always found that my memories of watching Ingmar Bergman's film,
"The Seventh Seal", has always helped me visualize mid-fourteenth century Europe. Think of all the films
you might have seen. Go ahead, do it right any of them provide you with images of history
past? Where else do our images of the past come from?
For instance, up to a certain point in time, my image of World War Two was fashioned by watching
Hollywood films, you know, John Wayne, Dana Andrews, Gregory Peck and so on. Americans charging
up hills toward victory. The hero, shot in the final scene, asks for a smoke with his dying breath. Blatant or
subtle propaganda? You decide. The point is that I grew up with a sort of idealized--mythical--version of
war that just does not stand up to the historical record. However, the images remain. "Image" as much as
Here's an example before we pass on to the next section. In my introductory lecture on the Scientific
Revolution I ask my students to "image" a scientist. Go ahead. Do the same thing right now. What does a
scientist look like? How is the scientist dressed? What does his office look like? Is the scientist a man or a
woman? Okay, what did you "image"? I'm almost certain I know what you are seeing because that image
of the scientist---wild hair, disorganized, absent-minded, dedicated to truth, unemotional---are all images
we've silently digested from Hollywood.
Can you successfully complete a course in history without having the proper attitude? Of course you can.
But why take the short cut? Why not make the effort. Rather than go through the motions, make history
part of your life. After all, that's exactly what history is--it is your life.

1.2 Why Study History?
Let's face it, our first experience with History is that it is a course that we have to take in order to

faced as we are with the question "why study history?" I can only hope to answer by telling you why I study history. are modified. I managed to have a number of excellent history instructors throughout my high school years and this was at a time when I was leaning toward the physical sciences. numbers. Marx. And we celebrate the past all the time. Mill and a host of other "greats. i. History can. motherhood and yes. Only this time I could do it from the ground up. everything has a history. But what was the historical environment that gave rise to their ideas? Ideas are not akin to balloons hanging from the ceiling of Clio's den. Dante. we can be sure to know something of the future. wars. If we have learned from the past then over the centuries we ought to have accumulated so much knowledge that things like war. waiting to be retrieved by a Marx. I was pretty keen on Plato. You may have been told that we study history so that we won't repeat the mistakes of the past. pencils. Ideas have a history. We can't let go of the past. But experience aside. poverty. on the other hand. or monarchy or the franchise. As a junior and senior high school student we are confronted with American history. even toilet-training. we've still got a long way to go in this respect. but what I really want to know about is the present. the actual historical context in which these writers conceived and executed their theoretical work. We didn't have a choice. I knew what they had to say about liberty. It gives some . But there's only one thing that can make our first experience with history a miserable thing indeed: and that's a poor instructor. The main problem as I see it. Fine. simply stated. I don't hold to this view either. injustice and immorality ought not to exist. It's too clean. That's my experience. This is the wishful thinking school of historical interpretation. Sure." But what I soon discovered was that my lack of understanding of history. This sort of approach makes me better able to visualize history in a different way. but I do remember having excellent history teachers. Try hard as we might. I first began to appreciate the study of history as an undergraduate studying political philosophy at Boston University. why study history in the first place? What could history offer the business major? the student intending to study web page development? the student taking her first psychology class? or pre-med student? or the lawyer? or the worker on the shop floor? Well. To insist that the study of the past will reveal something of the future is a nice idea. You may also have heard that everything repeats itself. is not history itself. whether we like it or not. Of course. And the fact that we are forced to take history puts us on the defensive. so to speak. coal miners. Aquinas. I was fortunate. a Mill or a Plato. We begin to build that grandiose brick wall that will prevent us from getting anything important out of history. we can't escape the past. They change. by studying history you can study anything for the simple reason that everything has a history: ideas. windsurfing. So. Locke. made my understanding of their philosophy one-sided. They undergo a process of development. state history and perhaps even a general course in western civilization or world history. geology and biology to be exact. Even history itself has a history. And why not? I could still study Marx or Mill or Plato. Once I realized this fact it was quite natural that I turn my attention to history itself.e. are distributed or are forgotten only to reappear years. I might not have been an excellent history student. reveal all that is the present. Godwin. races. History cannot "tell" the future.graduate. The study of history can be fun. decades or perhaps even centuries later. Well first off. so if we study the past. or the proletariat. Hobbes.

that should be one of the most important things to you. The first is to go to the primary sources themselves. Self-improvement of the instructor and self-improvement of the student. And what is the point of Socratic dialogue? Improvement. his knowledge consisted in the realization that he knew nothing. there is not one so important as yourself. for me. And in this respect. In other words. To know yourself means to be aware of what it is that makes you who you are. But people do not live alone. hence the Socratic dialogue. we have a number of works from which to choose. Can you learn history without the Socratic dialogue as your guide? Yes. knowledge of self does not hinge upon reflection or introspection. The Crime of Galileo (1955). perhaps the highest virtue can be summed up in the phrase. it can be done. But why do I bother? What's the point? Well. In this instance. for Socrates. they live in society. for example: Giorgio de Santillana. for me it's a form of selfishness. . This classical pedagogical method is called the Socratic method. all of whom are on the same quest. All I am trying to suggest here is that your experience with history will be a much richer one if you keep in mind that history means self-knowledge and as students. Pietro Redondi. If your instructor isn't at least familiar with it. of all the things in the phenomenal world. 1. You had to know why you knew it. Socrates was a man of knowledge but not that much knowledge. Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography(1978). it's a Socratic issue. the one thing which reveals this knowledge is history." In other words. And by improving myself I also improve others. again. His "job. brought him to the greatest question of all: what is knowledge? What can we know? Well. if you wanted to learn about Galileo's astronomical and philosophical arguments for the motion of the earth. To learn about the past we have two alternatives. in varying degrees." so to speak. But. then I'm afraid your historical education is going to suffer as a result. "Know thyself. And this. The second alternative and the one more likely chosen by most students at the high school or undergraduate level is to go to the secondary sources. So why do I study history? or why do I teach history? Well. doing history means writing history. was to question the Athenian youth. For Socrates. And the only way we can do history is to examine the available records from the past and then write about them. I wish to improve myself. So. It was not enough to know something. This Socratic irony leaves us rather high and dry but I think there is a greater issue at stake here. As a freshman in high school you probably knew more than Socrates. Galileo Heretic (1987). And it is in society that the individual comes into contact with other individuals. but conversation. Socrates was a wise man. for Socrates. The Socratic dialogue implies that instructor and student meet on an equal footing. So.sense of "pastness" to the past.3 Why Write History? To study history is to do history. Stillman Drake. He had wisdom because he knew only one thing: that he knew nothing. Dialogue means conversation between two or more people. you could do no better than read his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems--Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632). of course.

3. Writing history gets you in the habit of synthesizing large quantities of material. writing about history means a personal involvement with history and this will necessarily produce a greater understanding of history. a good thing in itself! 2. writing history will help you to better organize your thoughts. 4. you plan to become a doctor. thinking history.Notice that this list of secondary sources pertain to Galileo in general and not specifically to his ideas on the motion of the earth. When students write about this secondary literature. The historian must exhibit some kind of logic or the analysis falls apart. but why write history? After all. General thesis statements must be fashioned from the evidence at hand. writing allows you to persuade the reader of your argument. Listening to a lecture. you are now prepared to voice your own. The pastness of the past is the key to the present. or a cabinetmaker or a webmaster. it is much more than that. Remember. that much is clear. For instance. What good does it do you to know how to write history? Why must you do history? 1. No. Lastly. Writing allows to you to bring that confusion to the surface and hopefully. there are also times when writing allows you to express your confusion regarding a particular idea. Evidence must be gathered and prioritized. they are entering into the discourse of history by the simple fact that they are now adding their own perspective. writing history--in a word. You begin to learn about the general topic upon which you are writing as well as several topics which appear on the peripheries of your topic. or viewing a film." writing history. the study of history and the writing of history is not a passive response to the historical past. At the very least. You produce a logical argument. Having read a variety of interpretations. However. many historians have interpreted the Thirty Years' War as an example of what would later be called a world war and therefore a modern war. This is where you step in. They are an example of "doing history. Develop your own historical perspective. This is fine. . you'll be able to show that something needs to be more fully explored. that goes without saying. or taking part in a class discussion is one thing. 5. You may agree or disagree. Studying history. or a professor of economics. Since the interpretation of history is always subjective. or reading a monograph. you demonstrate evidence. We have already discussed the importance of becoming actively engaged in the subject of history. Take charge of your efforts to do history. No. But the real issue at stake here is that now is the chance to submit your interpretation. Some people are not capable of that kind of sustained effort. you'll be able to answer your own question. Gain as much confidence as you can. What better way to do so than to actually do it? In other words. History involves the active engagement of your life with all life. or even the last medieval war. event or thing. But writing about this "experience" will demonstrate your general understanding of history. Writing history will help you learn history. Writing history gives you the chance to render your opinion. They say that the Thirty Years' War is an example of a medieval war. As you write. doing history--is not easy. it is difficult and requires much sustained effort. There are other historians who disagree. Writing history will force you to understand history to a much greater degree. The secondary sources offer a broader appreciation of the topic.

I often assign Modris Eksteins' Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age in my course on Twentieth Century Europe. I can't tell you how many times I've heard students admit that they hated a certain text because it was boring or too long or too complicated. A case in point. With an average age of twenty-five. For my own courses. "The Rites of Spring" with all those cultural.P. the majority of my students hold down full-time jobs and many of them are married with kids. The medieval scholarship of Jacques LeGoff and George Duby fall into this category. For instance. It all depends on the book you are reading. On the other hand. Also. Still. Why? Quite simple. a war they thought they all understood. No. John Herman Randall. say. you will quickly become lost as the information presented will make little sense. My typical student is what I could call non-traditional. and complexity. In the field of intellectual history. What makes such a comment sometimes harder to accept is that often. And reading history can be a satisfying experience. regardless of what you might have heard. Most often. some of the texts instructors assign are those books which made a difference in their own lives. and not a great one I might add. But what "works" for me may not work for you. They expect a book about World War One. That's why I assign this text: it makes the students think differently about war. There's no sense assigning. It's a wonderful book which juxtaposes Stravinsky's ballet. they have to read further in order to grasp what Eksteins is really trying to do.Thompson's magnum opus. Isaiah Berlin. I only assign four or maybe five texts per course because that seems a reasonable amount given the fact that most of my students work full time. in a survey class on modern European history. If you do just jump in. Let's . they begin reading about a ballet. There's no escaping that simple fact. closeness to both the general topic and my approach to it. intellectual and psychological forces surrounding the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. I realize their limitations. You can't just jump into a text and expect to get much out of it especially if the subject matter is genuinely alien to you. H. E. I well remember that all of us had to read nine or ten books. Instead. as a graduate student taking an advanced undergraduate course in United States Cultural and Intellectual History. the works of Peter Gay. it's a matter of personal preference. I try to assign books based on a number of variables such as: price and availability. so it's the beginning of the term and you've been given your first reading assignment.1 How to Read a History Assignment The study of history means reading. the reflection that a text is boring or too long is sometimes just. you must make an effort. having been a student myself. length. Okay. In order to make the reading of history more satisfying and more purposeful. What relationship could a ballet possibly have with a world war? Of course.2. This means that you must have a general sense of the subject matter. there are quite a few books that I have read which literally transported me in time and space. they become confused. Stuart Hughes and Frank Manuel have always impressed me. The Making of the English Working Class. assigning more than 100 pages per week would be asking too much. that would be a bit much. So. But when my students first start reading the text.

In terms of chronology. they don't cover enough. Who wrote the book? Does the publisher give you any information? 3. See anything you like? 5. 6. do you then put the book down and say. That interpretation may be an accepted one or simply one that your instructor agrees with. look at the covers. that oftentimes. disaster. Bad textbooks either cover too much material or just the opposite. there are bad textbooks and good ones. the monograph deals with a very specific portion of the historical record. Can you determine the general thesis of the book? 8. Reading involves engagement. "I'll start reading this tomorrow"? 9. the better textbooks make the attempt to balance length with coverage. For one thing. If your instructor is any good. When reading a monograph. Your instructor has assigned the monograph because (1) it covers the material he wants to cover and (2) it provides a specific interpretation.say you are enrolled in my 20th Century Europe course and you have been asked to read Modris Eksteins' The Rites of Spring. you need to pay special attention to the author's general thesis. your instructor may have deliberately assigned a book whose thesis is at variance with his own. like films and food. Are there any illustrations? footnotes? a bibliography? 7. Textbooks are rarely exciting stuff and so you need to approach them a bit differently. the subject is World War I and the birth of modernism. Of course. however. In some cases. See anything interesting? 2. tables and maps. Anything strike your eye? Take a look at one chapter. Thumb through the book. in fact. Check out the textbook the same way you checked out the monograph. Pick up the book. Read the Preface and Introduction. the end result is no interpretation at all. they are usually the work of several authors. Read the first sentence. this is something you must do. If you've been assigned a textbook you should always make every effort to read those chapters which are directly related to the lectures presented in class. How do you begin? 1. Underline and somehow mark information which seems to be important. So many. Written by a historian. Does it look like a good book? worthy to be read? 10. the most common history assignment. When was it written? Do you think this makes a difference? Why? 4. the structure of the class will follow the organization of the textbook. However. you must be able to distinguish between what is . Scan the Table of Contents. look at the pictures. and that's what we're trying to avoid. the text under review is what is called a monograph. In Eksteins' case. Why might your instructor have assigned this particular text? That's actually quite a bit of investigative work on your part and you haven't even really started to read your assignment. The monograph aside. Why would an instructor do this? Simple! To force his students to clarify their own position and to show them that there are indeed various historical interpretations. Eksteins only considers the period 1900-1930 and his subject matter is specifically European. Still. As you might have guessed. is the reading of a textbook. How is the chapter organized? Get familiar with the layout because there's a good chance the textbook will be your main focus for the duration of the semester. In the example above. Does it hold your attention? Or. You are left with 1000 pages of "stuff" without an interpretive structure. If you don't. Reading is not passive. You must make the effort. This means that a variety of interpretations are at work.

the only way you are going to get through all the reading is to approach it with the proper attitude. the above rules all apply. just how many pages you are responsible for per week. Feel free to assess the assigned readings. The primary documents usually become the groundwork for in-class discussions. You can then split the reading into equal sections or perhaps just plan on reading for a specified period of time per day. I need to know whether of not these books are worth using again.truly important and the evidence the historian draws upon to fashion his conclusions. Is it any good? Should it be used again? Why is it good? or bad? I've always had the habit of asking students about the books while they are reading them. For example. in the past I have based an entire ninety minute discussion on a primary source as short as one paragraph. there are also professors who assign reading because they know they are supposed to assign reading!) Lectures are one thing. Although end of semester course evaluations often contain a section where the student can assess the books. So add up the pages for the assignment. maps and illustrations. "Well. Books are another. why not tell your professor as you are reading the text. by a quick glance at the syllabus. reading a textbook takes a different kind of attention than does reading a monograph. hence their importance. And whether your instructor assigns textbooks. you really need to learn to "read" your instructor. for that is the whole point of the sourcebook. monographs. If you insist on taking notes from the text it is perhaps best to organize them into outline format. These texts are sometimes called sourcebooks or readers. These books usually contain a series of primary sources as well as secondary sources which help to explain the primary sources. "What does my instructor want me to get out of this?" You may also be assigned a book of readings for your course. Do they help you in any way or do you just gloss over them as perhaps unnecessary? You may also be tempted to make notes on your reading. I don't know about you. Don't underline everything! If you like. what do you think?" . An hour per day ought to suffice although in the end it all depends on how quickly you read. Again. To sum up. If you are assigned such a text your instructor expects that you read the selections and be able to highlight the general argument. Keep asking yourself. And of course. but I've always thought it a good thing when an instructor asks a class. Do not take these readings lightly. make notes in the margins of the text. you will also be spending a great deal more time on your assignments. Approach the reading in a positive way--don't build brick walls! Most instructors assign readings because they want their students to read. sourcebooks or even novels. And by asking the students their opinion of a text is an excellent way to develop a relationship between instructor and student. you should know. You must ask yourself why your instructor is making you read this assignment. Look at the photographs. One last thing. something I have already discussed. otherwise you will be re-writing the book! It's also worth asking yourself how much time you plan to devote to reading your history assignments on a weekly basis. perhaps more time than is really necessary. I use this type of text frequently. While I guarantee that this technique will improve your chances for greater understanding. After all. (Then again. If your instructor has carefully organized the class.

you have to read between the lines to determine the importance of those points being made during a lecture. But one thing is missing. . more worthwhile. I always assign essay questions on exams. In my own classes I stress individual interpretation. you should make every effort to "read" the desires of your instructor. Your instructor starts talking about the diffusion and popularization of science in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. then the lecture is going to make that much more sense. you've got the proper attitude. you are in the classroom. [2] Since your professor will undoubtedly give you some type of exam on the material--whether essay or objective--be sure to determine which points of the lectures are given more weight than others. asterisks and other notational devices to highlight things that seem really important. you will already have an idea of the subject. thus making listening to the topic a bit more enjoyable and in the long run. you will find your notes nearly impossible to understand when exam time rolls around. Because so much of your understanding of history depends upon interpretation. Of course. You are so afraid that you might miss something "important" that your tendency is to write everything down. If he's worth anything. While I regard this as most facile. Your hand is sweaty from the constant writing and you've filled up seven pages of your notebook. but it is much better to listen to the lecture carefully and record only those things that were genuinely important. and perhaps even taken notes on your reading. Some instructors will come right out and say something like "This is important. I know this for a fact. bring it up during the next class section. if you are confronted with an essay question which demands an interpretation. I realize it's easy for me to say this. at a glance. Use arrows. like Western Civilization). Organize your notes into brief sections. At the end of 90 minutes you have literally rewritten the lecture. completed at home rather than in class. [3] It goes without saying that your notes should be written legibly. Of course. some professors will demand that you parrot back only information that they themselves have given you." Others will not. you have to be able to differentiate your interpretation from your professor's and from the assigned reading. You listen to the first few words and then you begin to take notes.2. exams which are more often than not. Do not write everything out in paragraph form. And instead of listening to your professor covering unknown territory. You forgot to listen to the lecture. if there is ANYTHING you don't understand. This is a common problem not only in history classes but in all classes. That is because (with the exception of lower division courses. If you have read the assignment. make sure you have read it. The reading assignment is there because your professor plans to discuss that topic on that particular day. a conscientious professor will hand out an outline so that you can. stars. If you do. Just how is this done? [1] If your instructor has assigned reading for that particular day. In the last analysis. Fine. As a rule. If not. or your professor's. grasp the meaning of the entire lecture. your instructor seems eager and energetic and you're ready to learn. We all do because we have all committed this error at one time or another. Copious notes. If there are some things you wrote down which were not adequately explained then you have to bring them to the attention of your instructor. However. I wouldn't suggest re-writing your notes after every class but sometimes this will help you understand and recollect the material better. he will explain them to you. realize that you must be knowledgeable of many interpretations and not just your own.2 Taking Notes in Class Okay.

And if you find yourself attending a class where the terminology escapes you. you should ask your professor if he does not tell you." A film. Why didn't they raise their hands? This is education. "the end/means justifies the means/end. it's also a good idea to keep a glossary of frequently used names. etc. ruling ideas. Make sure the notes follow the order in which the professor conducted the lecture. a great injustice. Strangelove. events. I stop every so often and ask whether everyone understands the word "hegemony" or "ideology" or "aphorism" or the concept of a renaissance. it was quite late in my academic studies that I finally understood the meaning of the expression. The film is there for a will be doing yourself. usually the same day. when I teach. the only way you can take any notes is if you know beforehand why in fact your instructor has decided to show you the film in the first place. This is good organizational practice as well. there's a good chance your instructor will never know. Should you take notes? Well. ideology. proletariat. and words in your notebook for future reference. You may even want to get into the habit of underlining or highlighting topical headings or defined words or ideas. they ought also to keep a running Glossary. For instance." Bergman's "The Seventh Seal. like a novel. I demanded that while my students were reading a number of works by Marx and Engels. your notes will later serve as a basis for reviewing when studying for a test or writing assignment. Embarrassed as it makes me feel. Every paper topic I assign asks the student to consider a specific film as well as lectures and readings. They are afraid. I know that because I was once there myself." So today. You have to raise your hand and ask away. I routinely show Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" and "Dr. capital. otherwise I would never have included them. After all. So. Unless you make your difficulties known." Chaplin's "Modern Times" and Lucas' "THX-1138. and they will be writing an essay on modernism. A History of European Socialism. you know. and everyone else in the class. ideas. I assign several films in many of my courses and they always end up as integral parts of the course as a whole. In another class. such an exercise seems necessary. can be "read" on several . a glossary of important words. raise your hand and ask your question! [4] Always record the title and date of the lecture since your instructor may refer to it in the future. In fact. ideas. Why settle for less when you are easily capable of more? [5] If your professor has a film scheduled that does not mean it is an excuse to sleep or to not pay attention or to not show up at all. Feel free to revise your notes at some point after the lecture.) that are unique to themselves and their historical period. I can't tell you how many times I've lectured about one topic or another only to find that one or more students were confused about something fundamental to the entire argument at hand. Since Marx and Engels use so many words and expressions (ie. So. and people would be an aid even to the best of students. You'd be surprised at how helpful this becomes later down the road. students will become lost unless they have a common vocabulary from which to obtain their ideas and valuations. And speaking of definitions. means of production. Since the first six weeks of the class are about modernism.. they should write it down. it is your responsibility to bring this to your instructor's attention. in my Twentieth Century Europe class I announced on the first day that all students should write the word modernism at the top of a sheet of paper and every time they read or hear or think about something that has to do with modernism.

how do you proceed? How do you study for the test? First. Organize the lecture in your head. However. get the notes from someone whom you trust. Next. If you haven't done all the reading necessary for the exam. Read them through date by date (you did remember to date your lectures. The task for you as a viewer is to determine how this or that film might fit into the topic under discussion. If you underlined or highlighted your textbook. You treat any assigned monographs in the same way. why you marked them in the first place. if your professor doesn't tell you. Sit down. this ought to take you a few hours.3 Studying for the Exam When a test is announced.4 Taking the Exam So. be sure to find out what kind of an exam it will be: objective. Now that you've done all that. Next. refer to it while you are reviewing your notes. short answer. ask! 2. now is the time to go back and re-read those passages that you marked. You haven't much time. Depending on the amount of material covered by the exam (let's say five weeks). Personally. You should also know what material is being covered by the exam. Will he want his own interpretation. Relax. You need to be much more aware of the author's interpretation.different levels. you've spent all that time studying for that exam. after all. What does this all mean? Study to the point where you become confident. With any luck you have studied to the point where you feel most confident about your grasp of the material. That is. It's a good idea to have your outline notes next to the text so that you can fill in the gaps in knowledge or elaborate upon your understanding of the material. Next. didn't you?). Underline or highlight those remarks which your professor specified as important. If your instructor used an outline. Make sure your instructor is clear about this. I always studied on my own. . If he doesn't specify this information. then get going. A final word or two: If you have prepared yourself for the exam by knowing what is expected. Again. go through your notes and mark those lectures which pertain to the exam. multiple choice. If you missed a lecture. This is most important if your professor intends to include essay questions on your exams. paying special attention to things you know are important. Confidence is everything! What more can I say? 2. Rather than memorize everything he said. start looking at your books. the author's interpretation or your own? Be sure you know before you start studying. keep in mind that the approach of the monograph is quite different from the general textbook. raise your hand. essay. it might be a better idea to rewrite your notes in outline fashion. If you are confident about your abilities then chances are very good that you also understand the material. Start with the lecture notes. That has its ups and downs but then so too does studying with friends. You may not know everything but you still feel sure that you can field most any question the instructor might throw at you. get all the books that were used in that specified period. look at the syllabus and note all the lectures that are covered by the exam. you will have the confidence to do well. Should you study with friends or alone? That's up to you. maps etc.

When necessary. When you are given the exam. You should avoid padding your answer with verbiage. Get to the point. Don't write the first thing that comes to your mind. Refer to concrete points of historical time. It's not that necessary to edit but do make sure that what you say is clearly stated. You know the answer. 3. Spending twenty minutes thinking for a thirty minute essay will not do. 2. the ones you know the most about. Trust your confidence. Think organization. If you know specific dates. It may add words to your essay but it takes away from the final grade. it's the facts that will give evidence to your main points." means just that. "Identify and discuss the significance of. You must write quickly but clearly. Try to let your ideas flow from your brain to your pen. 6. Then again. that's the kind of answer I like to see. remain calm and confident. So. Begin with the easiest questions first. read every question carefully. Back up your position." then describe. Unless your instructor has given you anticipated times for each part. Now write your answer as if you were explaining it to someone who was educated but who did not know that much about the topic at hand. Please don't repeat yourself. jumping right in after reading the question once will not do either.. you fall into the former category. If it asks you to "describe.If you are about to take an objective exam." then that is what you must do. Your answer must be specific or general as the question suggests. There's nothing quite so frustrating for an instructor than to read an essay in which five centuries of human endeavor have been jumbled together as if all history took place yesterday. you will have to decide how long to spend on each question. Think. Here are some other tips worth considering: 1. even if it's only something like 1. you need to look at the big picture as well as the smaller ones which are contained within it. refer to the facts. There must be some kind of happy medium. "compare. After all. Your instructor has given you an essay question or questions in order to examine how well you can synthesize the information which has been presented in class. Even that will help. ie. your only task is to parrot back everything your instructor told you was important (whether it is or not is a different story). your best tactic is to answer the question! I know that sounds simplistic but as a college history instructor. Never wander away from the topic. If the question says. Instructors tire of this "technique" quickly. use them. .. 8. 2. You should make every effort to write legibly. 4. But what if your enlightened instructor gives you an essay exam. Hopefully. 3. 5. You should re-read your answers whenever possible. 7. How do you proceed? First of all. The only thing I can say about this type of exam is that you either know the material or you don't.. Take a few notes. In general. How will your answer be organized? Here it is helpful to jot down a short outline. Your instructor will appreciate it too. Read the question carefully.

cute remarks. we can only discern the significance of conflict if it is .1350 were moulded by two powerful forces: on the one hand. The Two Cities (1992): Explicitly or implicitly. History abounds in conflict and each age has had to reconcile its conflicts in its own way: that is. typed and double-spaced. you should proceed in the following way. Hints on how to write the research paper are given below. specifically the Renaissance and Reformation. What they really have is a penchant for writing too much. This is especially the case if you use a word processor. The short essay--usually between five and ten pages. Treat the information like a film you have just seen. the activities and thoughts of human beings in the centuries between c. Here's an example from my class. Finally. They freeze. Some people are better writers than others hence their essays may "read" better.9.1 Writing the Short Essay Your instructor will often assign a short essay as a means of assessing your understanding of particular historical topics and/or themes. a conflict which is at times hidden. my only advice comes from the ad people at Nike---JUST DO IT! 3. the deeply held belief in the need to aspire towards a higher. your books. Now is the time to discuss that "film. itself displayed with increasing clarity by contemporary social changes. Just answer the questions. The question may contain a quotation which you are to use as a guideline. Others write page after page of nonsense and think they have mastery over their subject. It can be argued that human beings determine their identity through conflict. spiritual life. two powerful forces) can shed some light on future developments in the intellectual history of Europe. it can be said that an adjunct theme has been the question of identity. and your power of memory. I much prefer a direct. well-argued response to some lengthy "essay" which never really goes anywhere. I think Barber is on to something. this conflict is out in the open and it is there that individuals find themselves. or plaintive gestures. Write as much as possible. Refer to your notes. At other times. is an excellent way for you to demonstrate your ability to condense a great deal of material into what is essentially a compact essay. You've heard it before and I hate to say it again. The short essay may be composed of one question your instructor has asked you to grapple with. the pressures and the temptations of the material world. Consider the following excerpt from Malcolm Barbers’s excellent study. perhaps three hours of uninterrupted time and write. and on the other. Do nothing but write. and thus manifests itself in subtle ways. No smiley faces.1050 and c. Some people just don't "test" very well. Then read the questions very carefully. A short essay is not a research essay and should not be treated as such. made all the more manifest by economic development. A student may have excellent comprehension of the subject matter but draw a blank when it comes to expressing themselves on paper. regarding take-home exams. but grades are not everything. I also think his model of conflict (implied in his use of the expression. Modern European Intellectual History: Conflict and the Quest for Identity in the Middle Ages Although the major premise of our course thus far has been the elaboration of the world view between 1050 and 1550. Take the question(s) home and sit on them for a day or two. Try to balance your response with economy and comprehension. You can always go back over your work and edit away." Set aside two hours. If you get stuck.

understood in its historical context. I gave them a topic which demanded work and some of them did not take the assignment seriously. what happened? They were intimidated. I always ask my students: "What do you want to write an essay about? The three field system of crop rotation?" They laugh at that one but I'm dead serious. The students had one full week to complete the assignment. I knew that the quotation highlighted some of the central themes we had developed up to that point in time. this was a small class and no one would take the class simply because it "fit their schedule. Okay. 12th Century Renaissance. I give the short essay because I want my students to focus on an issue or theme. you need to go back to your lecture notes and consider those comments he may have made in reference to Fascism. My students had heard four three hour lectures and had already done some substantial reading from a text of primary sources. But what about the instructor who. without warning. Begin to take notes on your notes. Explain its appearance and importance in the 20th century. in the last paragraph. Now. That's what education is all about. something easy? Or something that gives you a challenge?" I prefer the challenge myself. produces identity and without identity. you may wish to view the period in its totality and so talk in more general terms. Reformation)." That's it? Well. Renaissance. I would like you to write an essay which discusses conflict and the creation of identity as it was worked out in the period c. fine you say. is that some students were not prepared to handle such a question. Although I never discussed Barber's quotation in class. where do you begin? Obviously. as I soon discovered. announces that he is assigning a short essay. of course. Therefore. What seems important? Are there any names that keep springing up? Did he ever list the causes of Fascism? Next. . After all. The ultimate reconciliation of conflict within the individual and society. Petrarch. I have not only supplied an introduction to the topic. depends on your view or image of the period." In other words. "What are we supposed to write about?" And the instructor simply says. I was a bit surprised by this because I did expect more. your professor would not have assigned such a topic unless you or he had already discussed it in class. but also a quotation taken from a modern historian.1050-1550. The short essay assignment above was given in the fourth week of a fifteen week semester. Erasmus gambit) or. I then elaborate on the passage and finally. take notes. I raise a series of questions which the student ought to consider but not necessarily answer. They thought they could write a few paragraphs and call it a day. as you can see from this example. one can not seriously fashion a world view. They had several in-class discussions as well. what forces were present which produced conflict and how was that conflict reconciled (if it indeed ever was) to fashion a new identity (or world view)? You may wish to consider individual thinkers as representative of their age (the Abelard. Well. Again. "What do you want. A student raises their hand. Your answer. The student should have few problems obtaining the required five to ten pages on such a topic. go to your texts and reread and review the appropriate sections. the Medieval world) or perhaps as distinct episodes (eg. Bad move! Speaking for myself. "Write an essay about Fascism. With this in mind. the students in the class wanted to take the class. Many submitted "essays" that were less than five pages on a topic which could have easily demanded more. You may see the period as a whole (eg. he says the topic is Fascism. The problem with such a topic. This much said. Without handing you anything.

a brand new ideological force which came to be known as "fascism" burst upon a Europe just recovering from the body-blows of the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Whatever works best for you. Of course. Use dates! You should also outline. Your professor knows that it's you who are writing so there's no need to remind him. v). well.. But you can do the same thing! Trust yourself. Confidence. you should write a paragraph or two which further explains the importance of Fascism.. And if your essays are illogical or inconsistent. Outline every single paragraph. the remainder of your essay. A conclusion ought not simply repeat arguments. In other words. just say what's on your mind. consider the following: "When this century was still young. begin to think! To give force to the above statement about the importance of the first sentence of your essay. Your professor will tire easily. p. does Fascism perhaps have a history that lay outside the war and interwar years? Is there a relationship between Fascism and the Roman Empire? What is the difference between fascism and totalitarianism? Be daring. outline. although there are ways to do this without simply resorting to the list format. After two years of reading my essays. 1914-1945? Or. If you know what you are talking about. you're going to have problems..You may be tempted to drag out an encyclopedia." "I think that. then. Oxford. The twentieth century didn't occur last night. then say what you really want to say.. Your professor will commend you for it. Again. Be bold. So. my advice is to outline. You believe you have demonstrated the essential focus of your opening sentence. Go ahead. This is not the place for the "I believe. outline. only within the context of European history. "Get to the point!" he may write in the margin. then by all means say it. try outlining your lecture notes without looking at the outline your instructor may have given you or written on the board. My writing had very little logical order or consistency. Was Fascism important. you can develop a complex outline in which each point of each section is a sentence unto itself. Now it's time to conclude. Even in graduate school I had to learn this technique. perhaps a different way of thinking about the topic. Mention events--the First World War and the Russian Revolution? Mention dates. use the information you have established in the rest of your essay to fashion a general statement about the topic. On to the hardest part--the body of the essay.. Without an outline you will have the tendency to roam over a lot of material without any coherent plan of attack. 1995." Now that is an excellent opening line.Mussolini for one. Your outline can consist of numbered points. A short essay can include references to other works and if you frequently use quotations from these . Can you do it? Okay. Instead. There's a lot of years to consider. JUST DO IT! Following your killer opening salvo. Got a good quotation? Use it here. If you're daring." "in my opinion. for example. It may help fill in gaps. I was outlining in reverse. you've written the body of the essay. It is in the body of your essay that an outline will become necessary. in barest form. it was written by a historian (Roger Griffin... Above all. each one of which is a paragraph or. that's a good move. Mention names -. A quotation as the first sentence of your essay is also an excellent way to grab the attention of your reader.. my advisor finally "advised" that I take an essay that I already had written and outline it. Fascism. If you have some point to make. ed." and so on. You're feeling good. I can't stress enough the need for outlining your essays. I know this for a fact because I almost never used an outline as an undergraduate student. Know what I soon discovered? Simple..

and for some students it is. Why be mediocre? Strive for excellence! Your instructor may demand that your essays be typed. Ask your professor if he will read rough drafts of your essays. And stick to that outline---you'll be glad you did. But. Both are probably very good. Your professor should tell you what he is after. your professor is prepared for typed text and so the handwritten essay usually falls to the bottom of the pile. There are twelve parts to this . you may be asked to write an even longer essay. submit all written work typed rather than handwritten. You may think ten pages or 25003000 words is a great deal to write. do you know which one is easier to read? Do you know which one I will read first? Psychologically. move on. but if you know your topic well and enjoy your topic. your instructor is asking you to commit yourself to some extended research culminating in a long essay on the order of 20-30 pages. Other professors would prefer a typed paper but do not require it. you should make every effort to submit your essays typed rather than handwritten. If you simply write your papers with some vague awareness of what is required the result will be mediocre at best. If you find yourself stuck on that first sentence. If you are taking a class which utilizes a teaching assistant. Some people are born writers---the majority are not. With the semester only 15 weeks long. if for some reason. By assigning a research essay. I receive two essays on the same topic. it often happens that students have no idea what to write about until the semester is half over. If you are discussing one book and all your quotations are to that book. In general. You can always edit away later. then you will have to come up with some kind of system of notation that is in agreement with your instructor. 4. It can't hurt to ask. You need to keep in mind that a short essay is just that---short. I have always done so and you may surprised to learn that your instructor does as well. Since the research essay requires some skills that differ from those of the short essay it is best if we spend some time talking about what those different skills might entail. (In advanced undergraduate seminars. And since the first several weeks are spent getting a feel for the subject of the class in general. It is difficult to express verbally what we can at times only intuit silently. then you ought to be able to complete the assignment handily. then they ought to be included in your essay as footnotes or as endnotes. good writing takes patience and practice. First. Confronted with such an immense task.) The essay must utilize either footnotes or endnotes and must also contain a bibliography. Like anything else. But.1: Writing the Research Essay -. There are a great many style manuals to choose from so make sure that if your professor wants perfection that you use the style manual that is recommended. you may even be required to submit a rough draft. a suitable subject must be arrived at quickly. then simple page numbers cited within the body of the text are all that is required. For example. for your own sake. The rule with footnotes and bibliographies in general is: be consistent. The bottom line is this: ask questions and obtain answers. So. the student does not have that much time. the student must do a number of things. Write what comes to How do we proceed? How do we make the best of such a short time? Hopefully this section will answer some of the basic questions in order to get you going.Introduction You will eventually enroll in a history class in which the instructor requires that you submit a research essay as part of your course requirement. your essay is based on the reading of several books.

choose your topic carefully. The bottom line is this: if your instructor has left the topic totally up to you. Also. Conducting research on a topic which doesn't interest you makes for a boring life. That's where selecting the topic of your essay can be easier to do. I ask my own students to submit a one page essay which specifies the title of the proposed essay. He will probably ask you to submit a proposal. You must choose something for which information exists. So what do you do? Well. If your instructor has given you a few weeks to decide then get to work right away. you may find yourself fighting a losing battle. then choose carefully. The ideal topic is one about which you think you already know something. He explains that he will hand out the topic and general instructions in a week or two. Why? Well. It's much better to select a topic that interests you and also contributes to your overall understanding of the course in which you are enrolled. I can't tell you how many times I have chosen a topic in the first two or three weeks of class only to find that in the seventh week the instructor was talking about something I found more interesting. Given this problem. a description of what the essay is to be about and a short list of books the student might have consulted.2 The Research Essay -. So try to select a topic about which you do have some genuine interest. or war. if you choose a topic in which your instructor is the expert. or person. Or. He then announces that all students will be required to submit a research essay at the end of the term. . Perhaps you had encountered some event. Your instructor can then say one of two things: [1] "Everyone is to write a research essay on Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In the unlikely event that your instructor does not ask you to submit a proposal." That's it. Choose a topic in which you are interested in some way. With a topic as broad as Modern European Intellectual History.Selecting a Topic So." This is even more difficult than the first scenario because now it's up to you. or theory. years of the western intellectual tradition. Of course. [2] he could say "I would like you all to submit a research essay on a subject of your choice. you ought to ask him if he will look at one you have written. or idea or something. it's the first day of class and your instructor is busy going over the syllabus and explaining the structure of the course. what do you do? It's all a matter of judgment. and you want to know more. you are to choose a topic which embraces 200.section! 4. Everyone moans. I also ask that the student mention any problems they might have encountered thus far. Better safe than sorry. trying to select a topic in a class which has just begun is difficult. Let's say the course is Modern European Intellectual History. Choosing a topic upon which 2000 books and journal articles may have already been written in the past ten years is not such a good idea. perhaps 500. you'd be covering a topic that your instructor already knows well and that makes for boring reading on the part of your instructor. That goes without saying.

French Revolution). Now is the time to narrow it down to something more specific (that is. If you know very little about your topic. In other words.4. Mary. Obviously.3 The Research Essay -. Not only could you not condense 350 years of European history in twenty pages. To get you started quicker. To conclude. This a broad topic. You also find out that Godwin and Wollstonecraft produced a daughter. hopefully even more than the original nebulous topic. fifteen weeks is hardly enough time to do the research for a longer study. you find yourself attracted to Tom Paine's essay The Age of Reason. I arrived at a topic for seminar paper which happened to be about the notion of human perfectibility in the thought of William Godwin. you are led to an entirely different topic. I mention this example because using this same technique. Quite a jump from your first initial interest in Paine's deism. You will run across names (Diderot. You also need to look at your topic realistically. now is the time to use the powers of your intelligence and "image" the topic. What does the topic look like? Does it interest you? Will it interest anyone else? Can you see certain sections of the essay? Do you have a mental image? This is important. events (Lisbon Earthquake. You must be able to see your topic in your mind--you must conceive before you can execute. no one would contemplate a topic so broad as "A History of Europe. and his ideas on deism in particular. and ideas (scepticism. and wrote Frankenstein. which means a trip to your library. Suppose your general topic is the Age of Enlightenment. Paine). deism. You then thumb through a brief biography of Godwin and soon discover that he married Mary Wollstonecraft. in general. We've discussed "imaging" already. 1648-1996. something which better meets the confines of the research essay). Suddenly. Rousseau. not abolish it altogether. Will you be describing something? analyzing? comparing? criticizing? Have you decided to investigate a large block of historical time? or just a small episode embodied within it? Ask yourself as many questions as you can. ask yourself what it is that you are most intent on finding out about the subject. with a little investigative work on your part. even if it were possible. your first task is obviously to learn more. . isn't it? And all of this could have taken place in a week or two. you encounter the radical philosopher William Godwin. English political radicals in the age of the French Revolution. Perhaps one of these things strikes your fancy. you have already selected a general topic. an out-spoken feminist who wrote the first critique of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (Paine's Rights of Manwas a response to Burke's Reflections as well). liberty)." for an essay only twenty pages in length. Conceptualize the topic as much as possible and the execution of the essay will be that much easier. Voltaire."Imaging" Your Topic Once you have the topic under control. Consult an encyclopedia. Write them down if that helps. who later married Percy Bysshe Shelley. you must narrow down your topic to something which (1) can be discussed in the required twenty pages (or whatever length has been specified) and (2) still interests you. for whatever reason. say. You begin to ask yourself questions: who was Tom Paine? what is deism? who were the deists? why did deism appear when it did? what effect does deism have on the movement for parliamentary reform in England in the 1790s? Then. He was an anarchist which is odd because he was writing at a time (1790s) when most English radicals were trying to reform Parliament. Through your discovery of Paine's Rights of Man.

In fact. You learn that Godwin wrote a number of books. and Shelley or political radicals like Tom Paine and John Thelwall (who's he?). never once uttered his name (why not?). Paine. You decide to go with it. You drag out your notebook and begin to write down the names of authors and their books and articles. You've also seen Godwin's name mentioned a few times in your textbook and once in another book which was assigned for the course. People are talking candidates. For the purpose of this and the following sections we'll need an example and I know no better example than the one I used above. an election year. a radical anarchist writing at the peak of the radical stage of the French Revolution (The Terror) has no sympathy for revolution. politics and voting. It looks interesting.Off to the Library Make no mistake. Hmm. The library is your best resource for finding out information about your proposed topic. more food for thought. Proudhon and others. Hmm. You're even more interested at this point. two hundred years in the past. and you have elected to write some kind of essay on William Godwin. you're curious as to why Godwin rarely gets more than a passing footnote. among them Caleb Williams and Fleetwood: The New Man of Feeling.the "image" that we've been talking about all along. beginning research means beginning at the library. You've seen this thick book.4 The Research Essay -. husband to Wollstonecraft and father of Mary Shelley. You learn that Godwin doesn't get much notice. You've picked it up. First the Introduction. He also wrote a number of novels. as fascinating as is his argument that the ultimate reform of government means the annihilation of government. you realize that Godwin was a Dissenter. . Your instructor. Hey. He views all political associations (or parties) as inconsistent with the principles of political justice: "The whole is then wound up.."So much for politics! You turn off MSNBC's coverage of the Conventions. however. Babeuf. Coleridge. with that flagrant insult upon all reason and justice. the deciding upon truth by the casting up of numbers. Marx. Reading Kramnick's Introduction further. It has an interesting cover. You begin to formulate a picture in your mind.. You learn that he influenced Romantic poets like Wordsworth. More questions. So. So you begin to read. An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice by Godwin. Good job! That's where it all begins. You read some anecdote that Godwin relates in his diary about the Sunday his father beat him because he picked up a cat. The weight of the book feels good in your hands. 1750-1850. all with political themes.4. You learn that Godwin was a philosophical anarchist. it's 1996. a lengthy essay by Isaac Kramnick. what's that? And that he was brought up in a Calvinist household and later became an atheist and anarchist. Along comes Godwin. Robespierre. Internet resources may help you conduct some research but you always have to start in the library (more about this in a moment). we'll imagine that you are enrolled in a course on Revolutionary Europe. You thumb through the book and find Kramnick's bibliography. You also discover that he had no dealings with the London Corresponding Society (???) or the Society for Constitutional Information (???) or that he was no advocate of violent revolution. especially alongside Burke. But there's something about that thick book that interests you. Godwin seems more interesting. You find that Godwin's idea of human perfectibility is fascinating. Hmm.

you look up Godwin himself. You learn that this latter volume was written by an instructor in philosophy at Notre Dame. Brown. Here's another biography. (I won't discuss the use of either card catalogs or online computer catalogs. But first. The other volume was written by a literary critic. who were the Dissenters? Is there a connection between Dissent and radicalism? You've now spent two hours at the library and you decide that's enough for the day. Who was Godwin. Hunh! There's quite a bit of stuff. You leave the library. Better yet. Perhaps it's been moved to storage because no one has borrowed it for fifty years. But you've forgotten one thing and it's organizational. You have checked several books and brought a few of them home with you. [Even in the most well-organized library. William Godwin: His Friends and Contemporaries. What . William Godwin: A Study in Liberalism (1951) Rosalie Glynn Grylls. go back to the card catalog and make sure you copied the information correctly. Who knows?] Find a table. You glance quickly at each book. Fast! Sit down. Perhaps that particular title is getting rebound. Kegan Paul.) It's time to start finding these books. I wonder if that makes a difference? You may begin to notice that many of these books say the same thing. Perhaps it's been stolen. But wait. Hmm. No serious writer of the research essay should leave home without their stash of index cards.You rush off to the library with your rough bibliography and head right to the card catalog or the online terminals." Interesting topic. all you can hope to accomplish is the collection of a reading list. two on another and one on still one more. Turns out to be a biography written sixty years ago. Ask a librarian if in doubt. A Fantasy of Reason: The Life and Thought of William Godwin (1980) D. only this one is less than five years old. Their use is fairly straight-forward. You haven't even begun to tap the journal literature as yet. Enter the 3 x 5 index card. Ford K. You need a way to collect and collate all those books (and later journal articles) that you've seen. and before you ask the library staff. Perhaps you need to re-visit the card catalog and do a bit of research on the French Revolution as well as England in the 1790s. William Godwin and His Circle (1953) Don Locke.Monroe. 2 vols (1876) You head to the appropriate section of the stacks on the appropriate floor and there you are. Still.H. perhaps to attend your next class. But what are these things for? Why can't you just write all this stuff down on pieces of paper and keep them in your notebook? Easy. one of these books is missing! Where is it? Ask the librarian where the book might be. anyway? At this stage of the game. And what about Dissent? Might that not also play a role? After all. They contain biographical information but many of them also focus on that historical topic known as "The French Revolution in English History. Your mind is busy at work. you feel as if you are just a bit closer to getting this whole research essay together. Godwin's Moral Philosophy: An Interpretation of William Godwin (1953) C. But first you borrow ten books. Open your notebook and pick up the first book. The Life of William Godwin (1926) David Fleisher. Interesting. You write it all down. "Godwin Central"! You pull those books off the shelves whose titles and authors you had recorded earlier. They get lost. books are often not where they are supposed to be. It's tough to alphabetize a list of books when you've got five references on one sheet of paper. They are disorganized. You've got a stack ten high.

Grab half the deck and place a rubber band around you do? Here's the solution. If your library doesn't have the title you can do one of two things: (1) forget the resource or (2) order the title from Interlibrary Loan (ask your librarian!). I repeat. The information should be entered in the exact order in which that title will appear in your finished bibliography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers · The Chicago Manual of Style for Authors. footnotes.). A Manual for Writers of Term Papers. what these 3 x 5 cards will really be doing for you is building your own card catalog! You should also record the date you read the book and also record any notes about the general utility of the book. Editors.memphis. Albert. Since you can only borrow the book for a short period of time. if he hasn't already told you (and he should have). If you need to refer to it again in the future. For example. You can do this at home as well. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness. 1979. carry them whenever you go to the library to do more research. record all the required bibliographical information exactly as it will appear in the finished product. does "Brit. · Kate L. margins. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Edited by Isaac Kramnick. using the Albert . One rule of thumb is this: whatever style you use for your paper (and that means spacing. All three manuals have gone through several editions so make sure you use the latest one. Whenever you encounter a likely " For example: Goodwin. Next. DO NOT USE ABBREVIATIONS! This is important." mean Britain or British or Britannia? Perhaps you meant to say Briton? See what I mean? Regarding the "style" or "format" of the finished bibliography is concerned. any color. and Dissertations · Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. the student would do well to consult one of the following." write the author's name and title along with the bibliographic data on one of the cards. you should never mix formats. that is. and Copywriters A number of citation style sheets have also begun to appear on the World Wide Web. and it's a simple one. 1976.h-net. The Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution. In other words. be consistent. When you next go to the library. it will eventually need to be returned. Every time you see a book that you might use. enter its bibliographical information on one index card. you can verify the resource.html · Beyond the MLA Handbook (http://www. why go through the card catalog again? After all. Why? Simple. I list only a few of them here: · Melvin Page's Brief Citation Guide (http://www. go buy a pack of 100 3 x 5 index cards.msu. Turabian. William.html) · Citing Electronic Information in History Papers (Maurice Crouse) (http://history. etc. at this point you should ask your professor what style manual he prefers. For example.htm) You should also record the call number of the book. First. While a discussion of the various style manuals is beyond the scope of this document. or Godwin.vwc. Achtert.

So too is the one at The British Library in London. But no William Godwin Page. Heck. Searching via keywords is perhaps easier using online terminals than it is card catalogs. you will search by his last name. For one thing. you're reading this document on the World Wide Web! Well. there isn't. 18th Century.5 The Research Essay -. you should still keep the index card. if you run several searches across the Internet you will find that there are sites which contain digitized versions of some of his texts. Radicalism. But. Godwin's name appears here a number of times. Of course. 18th Century or History. Obviously. You ought to enter the proper information on every book or journal article you encounter during your research. at least.Goodwin book above as an example. The catalog at Sterling Library at Yale is immense. England. I have recorded on my index card: DA/520/.475-78 are specifically about Godwin and that I read the book February 26. Well. this is true for card catalogs as well. 1984 and again on April 21. (Interesting. I have annotated this book. What did you expect? Did you really expect to find dozens of resources about Godwin? Think about . you will also find links to "Donna Godwin's Recipe Mania" or "The Godwin High School Home Page.G6/1979 (the call number). You may even find a link back to the page you are reading right now. Make two piles: one for the references you will use in your essay and another pile for those you will not. they are in Japan!) You will find reviews of books about Godwin. the bibliographic reference. ask the librarian---they get paid to assist patrons find information. always have keywords in mind. Of course.Internet Resources Okay. 4. When you are searching either the hard copy card catalog or the online catalog. France. French Revolution. Even if you never use a specific title in your essay." "Rick Godwin's Portland Real Estate Page" and so on. Keep in mind that just because the university's holdings have been made available online does not necessarily mean that all the entries are there. if you found this document. you've got your Internet access through your university or college or high school." In other words. if you are researching William Godwin. it involves less physical movement. a note that says pp. But. there must be others that will help you with your research essay on William Godwin. They are also excellent resources for further information. hit Enter and then let the database do the walking. the combined card catalogs of Sterling and the British Library must tally somewhere over 40 million volumes!) Your university will probably have both hard copy and online catalogs and I suggest that you use both. (After all. I used this technique religiously for four years of my graduate education as well as four years of my doctoral research and I now have a catalog of index cards that fills five eighteen inch boxes (that's roughly eight feet!). Perhaps you've also got a dial up or broadband connection at home or at work. Somewhere there must be The William Godwin Home Page. There's another note that reads "Godwin as minor radical---mentioned only in connection with more popular members of the LCS. What it does mean is that no one has bothered to set up a site devoted to William Godwin. You stand in front of a terminal and input keywords. what other key words might be of service to you while you are conducting a search? How about running a general search for: History. Not necessarily. After all. If you get stuck. Does this mean there is absolutely nothing regarding William Godwin on the Internet? No.

What else is there? Well. Be realistic in your approach to your research topic. "I am writing a paper on William Godwin's philosophical anarchism. or Rene Descartes or Plato or World War One or the Cold War or Bosnia or Iraq or Pizza Hut (!!!). Does it tell you anything you need to know for your research essay? At best. You should know that by using TELNET.How to Choose the Right Books Hopefully you've now got the idea that the study of history means reading and in my humble opinion. they might even be excellent resources. (Give my regards to Cliff Stoll!) Okay. that page will end up pointing you to a number of other pages in which information is replicated. GO TO THE LIBRARY. Sure. It is not the place to conduct all of your research. Or you could post a query to the newsgroup bit. This is especially so in the Humanities. But say you picked Karl Marx. the Internet is no replacement for library work. That's because these topics are more "popular. That's why I picked him as a thesis topic in the first place. don't give up. intellectual history included. Run a search on that stuff and you know what? There is a lot of information. Make the effort worthwhile. So what's my point? Is it that you ought to abandon the Internet as a viable research tool? No. you may find one in which the participants discuss anarchism. you could subscribe to one of these mailing lists and start discussing Godwin's theory of human perfectibility. Wiser too! History is a reading subject. So go to the Rene Descartes page. At least not yet. The Internet is not a waste of time. But only if the moderator allows you to join the group." for lack of a better word." what I really mean is. unless you waste your time on the Internet. This is good if you are trying to locate resources. an adjunct to research. nothing can replace a trip to the library. Furthermore. if you know the resource exists but your library doesn't have it in the stacks. Walk right up to a librarian and ask about an Interlibrary Loan. But. And again. However. e. And what do you end up with? Sixty minutes online and no closer to completing your research essay. so perhaps the World Wide Web doesn't have what you want. there are more than 20. You can't sit in an empty room and write history. Godwin is a minor figure in the history of the western intellectual The Research Essay -. You . You must have evidence. reading makes you more knowledgeable about a specific topic.000 USENET newsgroups out there and although you won't find one devoted to Godwin. or doesn't exist.g. This is true even if you use the best search engines in the most efficient manner. 4. Can anyone offer any insights?" Or what about mailing lists? (There are at least one hundred listservs devoted to all facets of history. Maybe you could search their FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) archive and see if anything is there. Of course. there is a caveat.) Sure. Go ahead. does not necessarily mean you are going to find what you are looking for. The Internet is at best. And by "realistic. you may encounter some resources and if you're lucky.listserv. What I would say is this: do not expect too much from the Internet. Well. this won't get you the resource but at least you'll be closer to knowing that the resource does indeed exist. don't despair. because that's where you are going to find what you are looking for without question. you can access the online database of almost any library in the country. Just because the Internet exists. I would never say that.history.

this is graduate school stuff. you come across two titles seemingly about the same thing. But. Spend an hour or two at the terminal or improve your physical health by consulting the hard copy card catalogs. if your library still uses the older. how do we choose what it is we should read? How do we choose the "right" books? Well. I wouldn't think twice of borrowing fifty books at a time. when confronted with a research essay. here's what you do. Ford K. (Keep your index cards handy. head over to "DK." If it's Russia. Go to the library armed with your index cards and start digging. 1984). . In your research on William Godwin. Here's a few of the more popular ones: · Eugene P. including abstracts and indexes. Poulton. On the other hand. even those which seem remotely useful. The librarians usually moaned and groaned but I did have the right to borrow all those books. as a graduate student studying modern British history. I sometimes went straight to the stacks because I knew the majority of titles pertaining to British History were located in the "DA" stacks. technically.) You should begin to notice that titles are beginning to appear in clusters according to their call number and location in the stacks. Not only that. You must have interpretations. You'll be glad you did. Rather than spend the time describing these resources. was to head off to the library and find as many books as I could about the topic at hand. But all this still begs the question: how do you pick and choose the "right" books? Here's my advice. Library Research Guide to History · Carla Stoff and Simon Karter. and more. You don't want to start writing down information until you have the book in your hands and open to the title and copyright pages." It's that simple. Write down all likely sources in your notebook. In other words. Of course. Marshall's William Godwin (New Haven: Yale University Press. As a graduate student with unlimited borrowing privileges I used to use a cart to carry all the books I borrowed on any given day. These guides will give you brief descriptions of all the reference sources available in the Reference Section. In fact. So where does all this come from? And how do you choose your books wisely? My own habit. Materials and Methods for History Research There are so many resources located in the Reference Section of your library that I would need several pages to describe those of use just to historians. Well. Another aid in finding resources is to consult any one of the many guides to reference books which you will find in the Reference Section of your library. with all this behind us. Sheehy. as a graduate student I could keep those books decidedly longer than the undergraduate. Guide to Reference Books · Helen J. there are books which will help you more than others. By the way. there is no such thing as a wrong book. specifically "DA20690. Here's a simple example. You will soon get to know just what your library has in its holdings. Dewey Decimal system. you'll find all the history stuff in the 900-990 range. Research for undergraduate classes in history (or even high school classes) obviously entails much less. On the one hand. Go to the library and spend at least two hours in the Reference Section seeing exactly what is available. The Historian's Handbook: A Descriptive Guide to Reference Works · Elizabeth Frick. there is Peter H.must have facts.

as much as I could in the amount of time given. I bombarded myself with information and after a while. The other tactic would be to carefully read just a few books and "study" them. Now if. 1934. events. I were writing a research essay on Godwin and needed only a dozen sources or so. be determined by the subject matter. Why did I do this? Well.Brown's The Life of William Godwin (London: J. · If a book is consistently cited in the literature about your topic. I must admit here that as an undergraduate and graduate student it was my habit to read everything. then I would choose the volume by Marshall. Reading may not come easy to you or perhaps you don't have enough time to read everything. for example. there is a wealth of information available. Why? Because there's an excellent chance that Marshall is already familiar with any arguments that may have appeared in Brown's book. · When was the book published? Obviously. 485 tons! And those are just the records of the German Foreign Office! No wonder so much has been written about Hitler. You should have noticed right away that the two books were written nearly sixty years apart. I happen to be a fast reader so I chose the former technique. Hitler or the Nazis. Are there direct references to your topic? Is a chapter devoted to your subject? or just a page? Or worse. ideas and so on. Whichever technique you choose is entirely up to you. the more you read about one topic. to my way of thinking. Dent & Sons Ltd. I have always had a tendency to over-read (as well as over-research) a subject. a book published in say.) · Read the Preface or. You will have to adjust your research habits accordingly. in the Forward to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (New York: Simon & Schuster. M. or at the very least. things just begin to sink in. William Shirer mentions that 485 tons of records of the German Foreign Office were captured by the U.. then it's a good bet that you . locate those titles which pertain to the topic in general. is going to give you a different approach than one written in 1894 or 1964 or 1996. In other words. places. What you need to read will. In the case of the Godwin example I have used throughout this section. 1990). both texts would have to have been consulted. Since you don't have the time to read everything. the more you become familiar with common names. Just to put this into perspective. So. as an undergraduate. But not nearly so much as might be available on. 1926). if it isn't too lengthy. people. if your topic is something like slavery in American society. the Nazis and World War Two. the Introduction. if this were a graduate school seminar essay or thesis. of course. Glance at the Table of Contents and Index. First Army in the Harz Mountains just as they were about to be burned on orders from Berlin. you should be able to determine whether a book may be of use to you by following these guidelines: · Try to locate books that match your topic exactly · Once you have these books in hand. say.S. why waste your time reading Brown when Marshall has perhaps already done the work for you? Of course. (Ask yourself why. just a footnote? · If there is a bibliography (and there almost always is) go through the entire thing and see if you can locate other books which might help you.

quite a bit less. If you don't have a clue about how you are going to proceed (or why) then you will find yourself with a pile of notes you will never use. More important. If you have selected a topic for which very little secondary literature exists then you will more than likely need to master it all. Worse still. Now's the time that you start taking notes. How do you proceed? Well. if confronted with the tonnage of materials indicative of World War Two scholarship. you've now got your topic. Don't . You read inconsistently and wildly and take notes on things which may not end up in the finished product. For example. You've written a draft proposal for your instructor or teaching assistant.Taking Notes So. Determining the number of books you ought to use to conduct your research is a judgment call and really depends on the topic you have selected. time management is important for the simple fact that you don't have much time (more about this below). then it is up to you to ask. you know you want to write something about William Godwin and his notion of human perfectibility but what about after that? In other words. Regardless. is the author's book useful to you in any way? You may find yourself pulling quotations from various texts. it's not enough to say you want to write about such and such a topic. That's why it's usually a good idea to read more recent works of historical scholarship since the author has already done some of the research for you. it all depends on what you are looking for.7 The Research Essay -. you must use quotations in historical writing of any kind. You have some vague idea about the topic but have not yet refined it. Excellent! You're ready to get down to the actual research. In fact. you first need a clear understanding and grasp of your topic. the first rule is quite simple: To take good notes is to know in advance what you are looking for. in some cases. So. As you begin reading your primary and secondary sources you will find sections of those sources which you may wish to include in your own essay. You've done the legwork at the library and you've got some ideas drawn up in outline form. That sounds simple enough. Keep that question in the front of your mind as you conduct your research: why am I looking at this source? what am I looking for? Well. you could fail to take notes on things which are essential to the successful completion of your essay. you might find yourself in way over your head before you've even really begun your work. Off you go. Is he pressing a specific interpretation? What is it? What sorts of sources does the author utilize? And of course. It all depends on the topic. The rule is: copy the quote exactly as it appeared. You can't read everything in such a short period of time as one semester. Your professor ought to give you some idea of the kind of research he expects and if he doesn't. 4. What is the general idea the author is trying to convey? Write it down. and stick to it. What is necessary is to know why you are looking at a specific source. This usually occurs when you first set out to research a topic. However. so you must learn to choose carefully and avoid texts which duplicate stuff you've read elsewhere. doesn't it? But how many times have you gone into research mode by consuming everything and writing down everything you've seen? Talk about overkill! It's not necessary. You need to ask yourself why. however.should be familiar with it as well. then you are going to have to refine your topic considerably. it is essential that you carefully define the nature and scope of your research. That might mean a great deal of reading or. Again. That's okay.

quoting an author is not enough. In other words. instead of using a 3 x 5 card. (I prefer the 5 x 8 card. first in your mind and then on paper. So read the passage. use them when they are needed ("when in doubt. saying this or that is not enough. when applicable. Using quotations to establish both your understanding of the topic under review and to give evidence to what you are saying is essential. You can use the quotation from the other author but be sure to locate the original source (it's usually a footnote). If you can't locate it. well how to do use quotations intelligently and forcefully? Well. used judiciously throughout your research essay. using too many quotations is not a good thing. Okay. One more thing. Okay. do not use the quotation out of the context established by the author. You can't do this. I have always found that beginning a paragraph with a quotation is an excellent way to prepare your reader for what is to come. and then retrieve a quotation or series of short quotations to give force to what you just said. In the hundreds of essays I've read over the years. Try to explain things in your own words first. or your overall discussion. Your cards ought to contain information from one source only. record your understanding of it. leave it out"). You'll soon find that explaining a quotation from a primary or secondary source will enhance your own writing and your own comprehension of the topic. ---Godwin was the son of a Dissenting minister who punished him often for his frivolity on Sundays.34) ---Godwin was also a minor radical who wrote a lot in the 1790s. now what? The general rule is that your cards ought to contain only one idea or discussion of an idea. (Grylls. it's poor practice to put the following on one card. then you will have to acknowledge that in some way (in a footnote of your own). It is absolutely essential that the meaning of the quotation you use is absolutely clear. In this way. If you do so. Of course. knowing when to use quotations is an art in itself. As a rule. and you will be defeating the purpose of using the quotation in the first place. You've learned the necessity of quoting an author's words. ---Caleb Williams was Godwin's most famous novel. p. Above all. Quotations.change the word order or change the text in any way. inserting quotations in the body of a paragraph will focus the reader's attention. we're back to the index cards again. You need to learn to paraphrase the arguments of an author. There will be times that an author will quote another author. buy yourself either 4 x 6 or 5 x 8 index cards. ending a paragraph with a quote is an excellent way of tying together the previous discussion. You need to explain to your reader why you have selected this quotation in the first place. I have sometimes seen students submit papers in which paragraphs are nothing but a series of quotations strung together. But where do all these notes go? How do you take notes? Well. you've got the cards. . so you've learned a few tips toward more economical note taking.) But why not use the same 3 x 5 card? Simple: you'll need more room on the note cards because they will contain more than just bibliographical information. can be of benefit to you by enhancing the finished product. You have to explain why and this means discussing the importance or significance of the quote. then you will be twisting the arguments of that particular author. an author's interpretation can be blended with your own. Going back to the Godwin example above. Only this time. Fine. or section. or chapter and then. But. And yes. Like writing in general.

42-45) ---Godwin called for a "well-conceived" or "simple form of society without government. p. his meannesses and his follies?" (Godwin. You can even buy a file box (sort of like a card catalog drawer) in which to keep them. which he also called "intellectual candor. by its utility As you can see.---Paine and Godwin knew one another. Political Justice. (pp. (2) write the author's name and short title under the quote and (3) make sure the page number is correct. in his Evolution of the Welfare State. the more organization your project will require. The reason is so that you will have your direct reference correctly cited. p. and publish to the world. Another series of cards would be devoted to Godwin's fiction (and perhaps a stack of cards just on Caleb Williams). It's titled "Sincerity": "How great would be the benefit. Shelley. who would tell him in person. reflections or quotations on one card. would be overcome by the English Romantic poets (Blake. only one source on each card. title a bunch of cards "Biography.329) ---this must be impartial and dispassionate ---cool logic without emotion (did Godwin "feel" anything?) ---Sincerity is a virtue. his virtues. How then should you proceed? Well. doesn't it? Here's an example of a good note card taken from my own research: Derek Fraser. Let's move on.325) See the problems here? You've got a bunch of different topics as well as sources all located on one card. There you go. Can you tell me why that's a good note card? Or why it might be a good quotation? Here's another one. the entire content of this note pertains to Godwin's notion of sincerity. it's a good idea to keep them in separate piles." and then on those cards put information which only relates to Godwin's biographical details. If you use direct quotations from any of your sources. separated by markers. Again. It's even a good idea to keep some cards which list modern writers who have made Godwin the focus of some of their published work (you know. That makes sense. You can make one yourself if you are enterprising enough. each tied together with a rubber band. vol1. The bigger the research project. That's the whole card. for starters.98) That's it. Byron. make sure that you (1) copy the quote exactly. Coleridge and Wordsworth). Don't mix ideas. another topic: what was the relationship between the English . one of Godwin's problems." I've even asked myself a question: "did Godwin feel anything?" Perhaps this will make way for a discussion in the finished product. sources. After all. if every man were sure of meeting in his neighbor the ingenuous censor. II. Keats. still other cards to his relationship with Tom Paine and still other cards with his ideas on government. as I see it at least. You might even want to keep another set of cards which describe some of Godwin's contemporaries. And why would you want to do that? Simple? The reason we use footnotes is so that someone reading our work can locate the source of the quotation. When you've begun to collect a number of note cards. calls Godwin a "near anarchist" (p. the Godwin scholars!). was that he thought too much and felt too little and this attitude. his good deeds. The bottom line is: keep things organized." (Political Justice.

you drop your entire stack of cards. you should be able to place them back into their proper order without much problem. perhaps you might be tempted to do away with the poor little index card and just slap all your information into a database of some sort. You've taken the easy way out. The problem with reading history. I imagine you're starting to get the picture. Of course. so many questions that need to be answered. Better to struggle with knowledge than take the easy way out. using your PC or Mac to help store your data is fine as an adjunct. And it bears upon something each and every writer has had to face at least once in their career: plagiarism. depending on how much energy you devote to your research. Take your time and think! You will ordinarily record your research with your 5 x 8 cards and a pen. I don't have any problem with that unless you can't print up your notes on 5 x 8 index cards. to Edmund Burke (the father of a conservative political theory)? Were all Dissenters politically active? Again. Well. Why? Because you need to spread these note cards out in front of you when you write. So. One final thought. then either continue on the backside or begin a new card but be sure to number the card in some way so that you know where it belongs. Why was Godwin a minor radical? I don't think he was such a person and here's why. with a few clicks of the mouse. begin to write the research essay (more about this to follow). the more organized and your research will surely be. Why did one author say that Godwin (an apparent liberal) was similar. Worse than the mere mis-quoting of a source. You can also use the note cards to record your own thoughts as you progress through the early stages of your research.Romantics and Godwin? Perhaps you'll need a bunch of note cards on that as well. you could end up with a failed grade on your essay. is that they use a language . questions you might have. things which ought to have been researched but haven't. computer text retrieval software is a great thing to have at your disposal. Need I say it again. plagiarism can get you into deep trouble. Plagiarism can be defined as stealing the thoughts of another and using them as your own. Paper clips don't work either. with so many laptops in the hands of students these days. The more organized you become. Look at it this way. Say your sitting outside the student union and for some reason. If the quotation you are citing runs to more than one card. I trust you agree. But. That's good! Keep them handy--that is. but organization is everything. stealing the thoughts of another means you've been lazy. if you are writing about the effect of Vico's philosophy of history on the thought of Jules Michelet. then a database is essential. one thing building upon and off another. you will only be allowed to use a pencil due to the importance of many manuscripts and documents. on your desk or carry them whenever you head over to the library. But. In some libraries. in many respects. especially archives. you ought to begin to collect a stack of note cards. If you are quantifying information. but not as the sole means of support for your research notes. a great deal of this depends on the nature of your research. you're going to need a different approach. In short. especially the work of historians. If you've marked them correctly. On the one hand. I wouldn't staple the two cards together because that'll make it difficult to use when you are actually writing. On the other hand. well. Record things that pertain to your topic. After a while. generate a stylistically correct bibliography. Of course. However. There are a number of programs which will allow you to input bibliographical information and then. trying to write a research essay on Godwin with 350 individual notes tucked away on the hard drive of your PC or Mac is going to be tough business.

he's the one who's spent a great deal of his lifetime researching things you are just beginning to discover. It doesn't have to be this way. we "knew" our subject matter. I usually spent the better part of a research essay reading and the writing came only at the end." which for me meant reading everything I could get my hands on. That made it easy to write about it. I hadn't written a word! Well. in a brief flourish of mental activity. most of them) and is familiar with the arguments. Nobody said writing was easy work! It isn't easy. Nine times out of ten. "Describe this!" That's it.Reading v." Throughout my undergraduate and graduate school days.D. Writing "The most important thing about research is to know when to stop. in your own words. You know what? We wrote a lot because we had our subject matter right in front of us. The point? If you know your subject. Here's a trick I learned in an eighth grade English composition class. anathema. Three years of research. in no uncertain terms. removed the center drawer and dumped its contents onto the table. My M. 4. 450 pages! I was writing so much that I couldn't wait to get up the next morning so I could get back to work. At the end of a week I had ninety pages and the thing was done! My Ph. four notebooks filled with esoterica and a bibliography a mile long. he can spot the familiar relapse into plagiarism because he notices that: "Hmm. Instead. Nope. then do so. ideology. writing about it will be that much easier. It's easy to fall into this trap. you must learn to say "Enough!" Research must come to an end or else you'll find yourself with one week to go in a semester and no essay. dissertation took the same route. The teacher walked to his desk. I went back to my apartment and every evening wrote the thesis. You need to read your sources carefully. But where was the dissertation. I was given an ultimatum: my advisor pulled me into his office and said. including a year in England. this section on Godwin's biography is okay. to make a long story short. And as you are reading an argument. noumenal. and what did I have? Twenty pounds of 5 x 8 note cards. as I've repeated throughout this guide. Explain the passage or section in your own words. Why put yourself through so much . And that's not a very nice place to be. Again. I know this is tough to do but you have to do it. Paraphrasing is the technique in which you deduce the meaning of a passage. He's read all the books (well. I spent almost two years "doing research. After all. it's hard. mental labor. I'm afraid. And your instructor will know when you have fallen into the trap. I always had the habit of reading too much and not writing enough.8 The Research Essay -. But what about the writing? In my case." he begins to take note of special words: hegemony. it didn't have to be this way. you get the picture. Of course. How do you avoid plagiarism? Hard work. Simple rewording won't do. I ended up writing the magnum opus over a period of six months. He then looked at us and said. epigoni. well. transcendent. In a way. but this discussion on Godwin's theory of perfectibility looks different.A.specific to history itself. trust yourself and be confident." I told my committee. you become tempted to duplicate that language to the point that what you record as your ideas are really little more than reworked sentences of someone else's work. "It's all in my head. In fact. If something is worth quoting. or section. thesis on Godwin was written in this way. So. either submit the finished thesis in two weeks or no teaching position next year.

I procrastinated for a long time. 4. And please don't think of research as Part 1 and writing as Part 2. In other words. this is a tall order. Well.9 The Research Essay -. you have to have a firm grasp of your topic.Budgeting Your Time It pays to have some awareness of your limitations when attempting to write a research essay. Well. On the other hand. The first thing had to do with the necessity of keeping note cards. Listen carefully! Don't procrastinate! Take your work seriously! If you do. That sort of thinking will get you in trouble. . something I've discussed already. I learned nothing. he's a human being. the length of the essay. And lastly. in reality. And. And why not? Why not do the best job you can? So start writing as soon as you are able.. something I never bothered with as an undergraduate. doesn't it? Do you think your instructor really wants to read page after page of. Again. Granted. stick to that outline. but in general. You have to have made an outline of your essay..torment? Why not just accept that research essays entail two things: research and writing. I used my research as a crutch. then so will your professor. I can only offer you this advice because I never followed it myself. Here's the first sentence from my Ph. It means hard work. In this way you'll recognize what needs to be done as well as what has been done. Guess how long it took me to write it: The history of the scientific management movement in twentieth century Britain has never been adequately assessed by historians. I did learn something.. rather than simply THINK about it. words? After all. but think about it. WRITE about it! I know the transition is difficult. to write that sentence took me all of thirty seconds. And then I procrastinated a bit more. perhaps in deference to the two instructors who had to deal with twenty-five eager graduate students every Wednesday afternoon for three hours. It does make sense! Perhaps you've run across an interesting quotation that you've "imaged" belongs right at the top of your essay. you have to start writing your essay before you've even completed the research for it. So much depends on so many variables: the number of classes you are taking. just like the whole business of researching the research essay. You can refine it as your research proceeds. Record your thoughts on paper. My required Historical Methods class in graduate school was an exercise in absurdity. you've just got to do it. You see the quotation standing out on the page. Why bore him to death? Give him an essay for which you are proud. for starters. you have to stick to that outline. But you've got to do it. it took me three years! I sat on my research. as a way to avoid writing the dissertation..D. Think in terms of the whole project as a whole project and not as the sum of individual parts. You can always change them at a later date. Take control of the research essay rather than let it control you. even if they don't make any sense. You also intuit the meaning of the quotation as it relates to your entire enterprise. it doesn't have to be this way. Yes. How's it done? Well. for lack of a better expression. dissertation. The second thing I learned was this: always write while you are engaged in research. On the one hand.. my friend. That makes sense.

That was it. plan your time carefully over the course of the semester. as an undergraduate or high school student. I'm not making this up. So what do you do? Set aside a specific block of time every day and work on your research and your writing. and there are others besides. You need to know what he expects from his students. The bottom line is this: don't let yourself fall into the trap of trying to research and write a research essay over the course of one weekend." They sometimes miss the humor in that one! When I began writing my dissertation in earnest I struck upon an ideal compromise. you have contend with other classes and activities. The essay is then written over the course of twelve hours and the last word is typed twenty minutes after the start of the class for which the paper is due. You've got more important things to do with your time anyway." No sympathy for this student. go right ahead. you definitely don't have that luxury. especially when it comes to writing your research essay. Regardless of which type of professor you may have.the number of sources and so on. Think about things you need to do. as well as a fairly sophisticated bibliography. there are other professors who want to see you develop your own interpretative structure based upon the nature and scope of your research topic. And. (Remember to do both at the same time. it makes sense to realize that you do need to keep time management in the front of your mind.) What could be more simple? Stick to the plan and you should end up with a well-conceived and well-executed research essay. Then again. Demanding instructors demand excellence. Instead. And wouldn't you much rather write an essay which gives you pride in your sense of accomplishment rather than one which simply fulfilled the . "why didn't you start an hour earlier. Poor time management would be the case if you spent a weekend checking a few sources. So. the more difficult it will be to write the sort of essay for which you will proud. Count on at least a dozen sources.A. only. so why not use that time to your best advantage. And all of this ought to be done in the first few weeks of the term. Of course. When confronted with why they invariably tell me that. Perhaps more. No more no less. writing down some choice quotations as you move along. I always respond with something like. Not from me at least.D. And then think about how much time you have at your disposal. it's time to think. You also need to "read" your instructor as much as possible. Just make sure that what you are doing when you are in the library is real work. if you want to spend an afternoon or evening. They will perhaps be less mindful of the need to "pad" the bibliography and more focused on your interpretation and the manner in which it is developed. As soon as you have established your topic and have been given the green light from your instructor. this applies to the Ph. perhaps even a job or a hundred other things. family. they will require a minimum of twentyfive pages perhaps. In other words. I wrote from 7am to 1pm every day.. I treated writing like a job. Sometimes 10-12 pages per day. Of course. The longer you wait.. "I was in the computer lab printing up the essay when something went wrong with the printer. and M. Of course. Know what happened? I wrote the dissertation. Think carefully about the subject. Think about how long it will take you to do those things.quickly.. or even an entire day in the library. the whole thing hinges on the nature of your research topic itself. I can't tell you how many students show up late to class on the day a paper (long or short) is due. You will not get a satisfactory grade. Instead. of course. the more you procrastinate.

(Remember to do both at the same time..A. I wrote from 7am to 1pm every day.quickly. It makes sense. and there are others besides. if you want to ." They sometimes miss the humor in that one! When I began writing my dissertation in earnest I struck upon an ideal compromise. it makes sense to realize that you do need to keep time management in the front of your mind. Then again. You need to know what he expects from his students. writing down some choice quotations as you move along. there are other professors who want to see you develop your own interpretative structure based upon the nature and scope of your research topic. Of course.9 The Research Essay -.. "then why don't you take it home and rewrite it so that you can give me something good?" That makes them pause for a moment. I treated writing like a job. and M. the number of sources and so on." No sympathy for this student. Count on at least a dozen sources. when they submit their essay to me. the whole thing hinges on the nature of your research topic itself. That was it. And. family. Of course. especially when it comes to writing your research essay. Sometimes 10-12 pages per day. So what do you do? Set aside a specific block of time every day and work on your research and your writing. I'm not making this up. Not from me at least. "It's not very good. Instead. "why didn't you start an hour earlier. No more no less. When confronted with why they invariably tell me that. as an undergraduate or high school student. 4. of course. The essay is then written over the course of twelve hours and the last word is typed twenty minutes after the start of the class for which the paper is due. So.) What could be more simple? Stick to the plan and you should end up with a well-conceived and well-executed research essay. Poor time management would be the case if you spent a weekend checking a few sources. say something like. Know what happened? I wrote the dissertation. they will require a minimum of twentyfive pages perhaps. "I was in the computer lab printing up the essay when something went wrong with the printer. Perhaps more. They will perhaps be less mindful of the need to "pad" the bibliography and more focused on your interpretation and the manner in which it is developed." I look at them and say. You also need to "read" your instructor as much as possible.. you have contend with other classes and activities. you definitely don't have that luxury.Budgeting Your Time It pays to have some awareness of your limitations when attempting to write a research essay. I would prefer to read something "finished" rather than a rough draft. So my attitude is this: submit an essay for which you are proud to attach your name. perhaps even a job or a hundred other things. as well as a fairly sophisticated bibliography. this applies to the Ph. Demanding instructors demand excellence. only.general requirements of the essay? Every semester I encounter students who. the length of the essay. I always respond with something like. Of course. After all. I can't tell you how many students show up late to class on the day a paper (long or short) is due. So much depends on so many variables: the number of classes you are taking. Regardless of which type of professor you may have. In other words.D.

Instead. you can still include the information without taking away from the flow of the essay. go right ahead. then something is amiss.11 The Research Essay -. or even an entire day in the library. there is a footnote either at the beginning or end of the paragraph. say something like. all direct quotations must be footnoted. the more difficult it will be to write the sort of essay for which you will proud. or document of any kind. the more you procrastinate. You are probably not documenting something that does need to be documented. After all. no set number of footnotes to be utilized in each and every research essay you may be called upon to write. statements that you make which support the main points of your essay must also be footnoted. if you insert a footnote every other sentence. The longer you wait. Think carefully about the subject. And all of this ought to be done in the first few weeks of the term.Footnotes You should always use footnotes (or endnotes) in order to give the source of facts or opinions which you have obtained from outside sources. it's time to think. Of course. You've got more important things to do with your time anyway. then you may be overdoing it. The number of footnotes to be used in a 20-30 page essay varies from student to student and subject to subject. Of course. Finally. There are times when you want to make a statement about something but it doesn't quite fit in with your outline. There is. of course. "It's not very good. you must specify where the original information can be found. and so you must specify it. If you begin your essay with four or five footnotes per page and then only have one footnote for the next six pages. As soon as you have established your topic and have been given the green light from your instructor. However. And then think about how much time you have at your disposal. I would prefer to read something "finished" rather than a rough draft. for those of you who like numbers. Again. One technique I've seen is for students to footnote every paragraph. a twenty-five page research essay could . And wouldn't you much rather write an essay which gives you pride in your sense of accomplishment rather than one which simply fulfilled the general requirements of the essay? Every semester I encounter students who. The best thing to do is to include this information as a textual footnote. Think about how long it will take you to do those things. so why not use that time to your best advantage. It makes sense. plan your time carefully over the course of the semester. and there's no escaping that simple fact. Think about things you need to do." I look at them and say. This is necessary for one reason only: your reader may want to consult the same text or document. "then why don't you take it home and rewrite it so that you can give me something good?" That makes them pause for a moment. Controversial facts or opinions must also be footnoted.spend an afternoon or evening. 4. when they submit their essay to me. The bottom line is this: don't let yourself fall into the trap of trying to research and write a research essay over the course of one weekend. If you quote any author. In this way. You will not get a satisfactory grade. footnotes may also contain textual material of your own doing. for whatever reason. This technique is only proper if and only if the note refers to the information in the paragraph as a whole. The number of footnotes will ultimately depend on the nature of your subject. Just make sure that what you are doing when you are in the library is real work. In other words. So my attitude is this: submit an essay for which you are proud to attach your name.

Such a task is made easy with a word processor. The footnote number. flipping between pages of text and pages of endnotes is tiring as well. remember to maintain consistency. stick to it. There's nothing wrong with endnotes. Let's look at just a few examples.1 Final Thoughts -. for one reason or another. you will find that the majority of your instructors. This is perfectly acceptable practice. Should you use footnotes or endnotes? Your decision depends on the stylistic format established by your instructor. students are little more than a hindrance to their more important work. The proper format of the footnote should follow the style manual (Turabian. These instructors are not bad sorts of people. And remember the cardinal rule: whatever style you have been asked to use. It goes without saying that your footnotes must be numbered consecutively from beginning to end.contain anywhere between 20 and 75 footnotes. He's just going through the motions. These are the special instructors. then obtain one at your library or at the bookstore and keep it near you as you type up the final draft. You leave the room 90 minutes later having slept. doodled and learned nothing. these professors do not want you to know that they are human beings. the fact that they have to teach three courses per semester. in superscript. I've got to admit. the work which gets them noticed and hopefully. This much said. when you need to insert two notes within the same sentence.About Your Instructor It goes without saying that your instructor is a human being and ought to be treated as such. for me. APA) which your instructor suggests you use. is what makes a good professor. the ones who change the lives of their students. And that. Remove or add a footnote (or even 12!) and your numbering is adjusted automatically. Scenario 1: You walk into your Western Civilization I class and there might be three hundred people in the room. He reads his lectures automatically. I probably encountered no more than a handful of professors who really cared about their students. It all depends on the nature of the thing being footnoted. do not fit this description. For many instructors. a job at a more prestigious university. The list goes on and on. You attend the section meeting with your teaching assistant and 30 of your classmates and find that your TA seems to care . In other words. If he does not specify a style manual. however. should be placed at the end of the sentence or quotation. it all depends on the subject. They seem to have other things on their mind---departmental meetings. Of course. Consistency is everything. they teach because they love to teach. The bottom line is this: use what your professor prefers. It's just my opinion. the publish or perish mental framework. hiding behind the podium. Chicago. MLA. The professor stands rigid. They just seem to have forgotten what teaching history is all about. Again. There will come a time. Again. in four years as an undergraduate and five in graduate school (a total of 70 classes with perhaps 40 professors). . personal problems. He needs to complete a task oblivious to the fact that the task might have some intrinsic merit. they make for an easier read because your reader's eyes are not constantly shifting between the text and the bottom of the page. no weight given to one thing or another. They're not teaching for the prestige or the money (God forbid!). Rather. In fact.

is the history of twentieth century Russia THAT important? In the big picture. There are fifteen people in the class. One unexcused absence and you lose a half a grade. let's have fun. In a word. Okay. You have to help as well. If you enjoyed this book please visit and comment on: selfeducator. The class will be difficult. different professor. He stops. (Of course. The next class meeting. a better class defined as one in which students learn more and have a better time learning overall. He then goes on to enumerate the fundamentals of the course. after all. It's the first day of school. Scenario 3: You are enrolled in a class called A History of Modern Russia. You trust him. that is? No. you can't wait to go and discuss ideas. A different If you want your friends to get a copy of the book. Scenario 4: Same class. probably more difficult than any other class you've ever taken. then all those concerned must be prepared and willing to engage in the wonderful process of self-improvement. come to class prepared. he has his notes neatly packed away and leaves the room as quickly as he had entered it. Self-improvement is what this professor is after. of course. After all. Classes only "work" when everyone approaches the material with the proper attitude. Since education is nothing more than a dialogue between the instructor and the instructed. He smiles as he walks in the room. to stimulate you and force you to think. He catches your eye. energetic. ask questions and treat everyone in the room. A much better experience overall. glancing at no one. Let's learn. The political structure of the Soviet Communist Party. Papers must be on time or else lose another half a grade.) Scenario 2: Same class.more about your understanding of the material. the professor will make or break your experience in the history classroom. A bond is formed. He stops at the board and writes feverishly for ten minutes. Self-improvement of the student and the professor. his student. He's human. even way up there in the 12th row. as intellectual equals. But. it's his job not only to teach Western Civilization but also to captivate a decidedly large audience. You go to your section meeting with a different attitude. c. disarming those with any fears. Students are ill-prepared to tackle such a difficult course. it's all a question of the proper attitude. At the end of the period. . He accepts you as a student.1960. there are lousy TAs as well. Let's learn to think and challenge our own ideas. He listens. Your instructor walks in. He sets the tone of the class for the duration. there are only seven people in attendance. He explains the objective of the course. My point is that it is the instructor who takes the time to know his students who usually ends up with a better class. You see.blogspot. He tells the class something about himself. After all. four scenarios. There are others. hands out the syllabi and asks questions. but something about ourselves. walks to the lectern and begins a lengthy discourse on the sad state of university education. the most important thing to learn is not the "stuff" of history. The professor is animated. Take part in discussions. He sees you. your professor included. He lectures about his topic but he also talks to you. interested and interesting. and it's his job to educate you.

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