Writing and Research Resources

Grading Scale for Written Assignments
Zackery M. Heern

1. On time / Printed Correctly:                                                                       _______/5
(Paper was handed in on time and is printed, double spaced, in Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, with default margins. It is also within the page requirement and has page numbers.)

2. Cover page and Bibliography:                                                                    _______/5
(Name, Class, Instructor, Date, and Title appear on a title page or at the top of page 1. A bibliography or a works cited page is at the end of your paper that follows the Chicago Manual of Style.)

3. Introduction:                                                                                               _______/5
(Provides overview of the topic to be discussed in the paper and includes a strong thesis statement)

4. Topic Sentences:                                                                                         _______/5
(Each paragraph begins with a strong topic sentence that encompasses everything in the paragraph)

5. Conclusion:                                                                                                 _______/5
(Ties overall argument and facts together)

6. Analysis:                                                                                                     _______/15
(Argument is presented in a clear way and is based on facts)

7. Use of evidence:                                                                                          _______/15
(Facts support argument and are accurate. A variety of sources were consulted and sources were cited, using the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes/endnotes))

8. Paper is a direct response to the assignment:                                             _______/15
(Argument and facts clearly answer the question(s))

9. Presentation:                                                                                               _______/15
(Paper follows the rules of writing, is grammatically correct, and sentences flow together in an intelligible manner)

10. Organization:                                                                                            _______/15
(Paper is organized in a sequential manner and is easy to follow)

Total:                                                                                                              ______/100

Letter Grade:                                                                                                   __________

Resources for Research
Zackery M. Heern

      1. Avoid sources that do not have a known author, such as Wikipedia.
      2.  The good old library.
      3.   Interlibrary loan. If you can’t find a book you need in the library you can order it for free through interlibrary loan. If another library in the USA has the book, the library can borrow it for you.
      4.   JStor is a catalog of published articles from scholarly journals. Ask librarian.
      5.   Google scholar or google books – excellent resource because it allows you to peruse segments of the book. Usually contains contents and bibliography. (scholar.google.com)
      6.  Worldcat – useful for finding books that may not be in our library.
      7.  Lexis Nexis – searchable database for newspapers, magazines, legal documents, etc.
      8.  Academic Search Premier
      9.  Academic Search Elite (Ebsco) – catalog of published articles from scholarly journals
     10. Access World News – world news archive
     11. Use primary sources whenever possible.

Writing Tips
Zackery M. Heern

9 Steps to writing a paper:
  1. Notes. Take notes on primary or secondary sources with the question(s) you want to answer in mind.
  2. After taking notes, put the books away and prepare to write your paper based on your notes.
  3. Brainstorm. Make a list of the main points you will address and rank them according to their importance.
  4. Thesis. Based on your main points, condense your overall argument into a few sentences. This is your thesis statement.
  5. Outline. Make an outline that ensures you will address each main point fully and focus on the most important information that you have gathered. Your outline must include your arguments and evidence (historical facts) to back it up.
  6. Write an introduction. Start by introducing the topic of your paper in a general way and end with a thesis statement that summarizes your argument.
  7.  Construct solid body paragraphs that support your thesis. Each paragraph must start with a topic sentence that conveys your argument or interpretation of the evidence you have gathered. The rest of the paragraph must provide facts/evidence that support the claim you make in the first sentence. The last sentence of the paragraph generally ties your argument together with the evidence that you presented and points to the next paragraph.
  8. Write a conclusion that proves why your argument is right and shows how each of your sub-arguments supports your thesis. This is the place to tie your overall argument and evidence together. Your conclusion may also raise further questions, but do not introduce new arguments or afterthoughts.
  9. Edit. Once you are done writing, put your paper aside for a day or so. Then come back to it with a fresh mind and make the necessary changes. You can also have someone else look over your paper and give suggestions for revisions.

Some notes on formal writing
  1. When writing history and in most formal writing you are trying to persuade the reader that what you are writing is true and should be taken as fact. In order to do so, state your argument clearly, back it up by facts and avoid statements such as “I believe”, “I think”, etc.
  2. Whenever you are writing a paper that is supposed to address specific questions, be sure that you answer each question comprehensively. Do not avoid questions. Answer them directly and clearly.
  3. Avoid awkward sentence structure that may occur from cutting and pasting from another document. Many historical documents are not written in modern, fluid English and emulating them will make your paper sound disjointed.
  4. Avoid quoting, ESPECIALLY BLOCK QUOTES (i.e. quotes that span more than three lines), unless doing so adds directly to your argument and you cannot do justice to the quote by paraphrasing or avoiding plagiarism. Readers often skip block quotes and professors often assume that students include them to pad their papers.
  5. In order to avoid plagiarism, cite the sources of the evidence you use and arguments that are not your own. See the Chicago Manual of Style to be sure that your citations, bibliography, etc. are done properly. The following is a web link for a quick guide: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html
  6. Be sure that each paragraph starts with a strong topic sentence.
  7. Avoid using contractions in formal writing (e.g. don’t, it’s, couldn’t).
  8. Avoid the passive voice unless the subject of your sentence is unknown. (e.g. Instead of “America was discovered in 1492,” write “Columbus discovered America in 1492.)
  9. Be careful when using pronouns. For example, “You may think that this class is boring,” “They say that Columbus was a hero.” The reader has no idea who You and They are.
  10. Vary your word usage and avoid being redundant. Use your thesaurus. Also, do not start successive sentences with the same word.
  11. Never write about a historical figure, author, etc. using their first name only. When you first introduce someone, give their full name and dates. From then on you can refer to them by their last name or an abbreviated version of their name. e.g. Jalal ad-Din Rumi (d. 1273) was a great Sufi poet. Although Rumi lived in Konya, he wrote in Persian.
  12. Run a spell-check when you are finished writing and proofread for grammar mistakes or awkward sentence structure. Better yet, get someone else, perhaps your grandmother or the Writing Center, to edit your paper.