Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Writing In History - Jeffrey Alexander

Writing In History
Jeffrey W. Alexander and Joy Dixon
Thompson Nelson
Copyright: 2006

I wish I'd found out about this book back when it first came out as reading it has been most helpful for my understanding of what it takes to write a proper paper for an upper level university course in history (probably also for the Classical Studies department). Now that I'm almost done with my degree, it's not going to be all that helpful. Still, it should improve the final few papers I hand in.

Some of the material is obvious and basic, such as writing proper thesis statements, but other bits are really helpful. For example, the section on coming up with a proper title, or making a strong conclusion. Also, proper use of quotations, citations and the like. None of the style guides I've read went into that at all. There are sections on various types of sources, both original and secondary, and even some discussion of sources you might not normally think of using, such as novels.

The book also discusses various types of assignments that students might be assigned such as book reports and journal writing as well as the main subject of research papers (I'd say these are the majority of term papers we students are assigned).

Writing in History is a really short book at less than a hundred pages, but well worth the evening it takes to read. I've never seen a professionally published book bound with staples the way a magazine is, but I guess it doesn't really need anything more.

Frankly, I think this should be a required/optional book for all history classes, as once you've got it, you don't need to buy it again, but at least you will know about it and be able to take advantage of the advice the book gives.

Thinking about it, although the book is geared to university students, it might be helpful for the final years of high school as well.

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