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Style Sheet

A big part of a historian's job is to write clearly and concisely, using technically correct language and, for research papers, a standard format for citing sources. This manual covers those basic skills.

Table of Contents


  1. THESIS: All history papers need a thesis, or what could be called a main point, purpose, central focus, hypothesis, or argument. The thesis is usually stated explicitly near the beginning of the paper.
  2. ORGANIZATION: All history papers should have logical paragraphs, headed by a topic sentence summarizing the main point of that paragraph. Paragraphs are longer than one sentence but shorter than one page.
  3. ATTRIBUTION AND AUTHORITY: Preface quotes and summaries of ideas by identifying the author and what makes that person an authority. (e.g., The historian Frederick Jackson Turner saw the frontier as the seedbed for a distinctively American individualism.) Give the full name of persons when first introduced. Do not call people by their first names or use titles. Thus, do not call Henry Ward Beecher "Henry" or "Mr. Beecher," but "Henry Ward Beecher" when first introduced and "Beecher" thenceforth. The same rules apply to women. Thus, Catharine Beecher is neither "Catharine" nor "Miss Beecher" but "Catharine Beecher" when first mentioned and then simply "Beecher." If both Henry Ward Beecher and Catharine Beecher are under discussion, continue to use their full names to distinguish between them.
  4. USE: dictionaries to check spelling and usage, a thesaurus for enhancing the variety of words, and word-processing spellcheckers. Especially useful for historians is the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives past definitions of words as well as present definitions.
  5. AVOID: sexist language ("Every historian has his own interpretation of the past" mistakenly implies that every historian is male), passive voice (passive=the revolution was fought by the peasants; should be active=the peasants fought the revolution), incomplete sentences, vague pronouns, the first person pronoun (I), abbreviations, and contractions.
  6. FORMAT: All written work should be word-processed and printed in a dark, legible print. Papers should be double-spaced with at least 1" margins on all sides, with the pages numbered and stapled together. Long quotes (eight or more lines) should be single-spaced, indented, and without quotation marks. Do not exceed the stated word or page limit for the assignment. Put your name, the course number, date, and topic of the assignment at the top of the first page or, for papers longer than four pages, on a separate title page.

Tables, charts, and graphs should have titles and be numbered consecutively. Identify the source for the data presented, label rows and columns clearly, distinguish between percentages and raw numbers, indicate the size of the samples analyzed, and report the results of any tests for statistical significance.

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When writing a CRITICAL REVIEW, evaluate the work in such a way that readers are still able to make their own estimate of it. A good critical review fairly reports what the book does and judges how well it does it, providing evidence from the book to support or illustrate these judgments. To read critically, carefully read the introduction and/or preface; discern the author's purpose, organization, and methods; study the footnotes, any illustrations or maps, and the index for usefulness and precision. Your criticism may be positive, negative, or mixed, but usually also includes the following information: a full citation for the book as a heading at the top of the first page, author's background, a brief summary of the book highlighting the author's main purpose, the author's viewpoint and attitudes (avoid being swayed by the author's philosophy rather than by the quality of the book), and the larger context for this book (contrast and/or compare the book under review with other books on the same subject, if possible). Put the correct bibliographic citation at the top of the first page of the review.

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In writing history, it is important to show where your information came from so that other people (1) can verify your findings and (2) use that information in their own work. Therefore, you must acknowledge the source of direct quotations and all other information, except for commonly known facts. Also, give references for disputed factual statements, theories not your own, and interpretations with which you disagree.

The History Department has adopted Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) as the authority for documentation. To see these procedures implemented, refer to recent issues of journals such as The American Historical Review, Hispanic-American Historical Review, or The Journal of American History, or to scholarly books published by houses such as Oxford University Press or Harvard University Press. Always keep in mind the goals of documentation: internal consistency and helpfulness to the reader.

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Plagiarism is taking someone else's words or ideas and not giving them credit for it. To avoid plagiarizing words, you must (1) put quotation marks around the quoted phrase or sentence (for long quotations, indentation takes the place of quotation marks), and (2) use a parenthetical citation or a footnote to inform readers of whose words those are and on which page those words appear. When quoting, you must faithfully include every word and punctuation mark of the original. Exceptions have rules that clue readers into any changes you have made: "..." takes the place of any words excluded, and brackets [ ] give you the opportunity to add words or explanation. To avoid plagiarizing ideas, you must (1) put the author's idea entirely in your own words, and (2) use a parenthetical citation or a footnote to inform readers of whose idea that is and on which page the author's idea appears.

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Short papers based on just a few sources may use a parenthetical citation system. In this system, the author's surname, the date of publication, and the page number appear in parentheses in the text of the paper immediately following the quote or paraphrased material from the book, article, or other source. At the end of the paper (and usually on a separate sheet of paper), alphabetically list the full citation of all sources used. This section is labeled "Reference List," "Bibliography," or "Works Cited." The UWEC History Department allows students to use the same bibliography format for short papers and major papers.


The newly introduced practice of buying homes with thirty-year mortgages may have caused the decline in the rate of horizontal mobility evident in the 1950s and 1960s(Tobey, Wetherell, and Brigham 1990, 1395).


Tobey, Ronald, Charles Wetherell, and Jay Brigham. "Moving Out and
   Settling In: Residential Mobility, Home Ownership, and the Public
   Enframing of Citizenship, 1921-1950." The American Historical Review
   95 (December, 1990): 1395-1422.

For more information how to cite various kinds of sources in "Works Cited," see Bibliography, Bibliography Entries: Secondary Sources, Bibliography Entries: Primary Sources.

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History research papers require notes, which allow for more analysis and comparison of sources than a parenthetical system does. You may use either a footnote system (the notes appear at the bottom, or foot, of the page) or endnote system (the notes appear in a list at the end of the paper). Footnotes are numbered consecutively in the text, with the numbers placed at the end of sentences to limit interrupting the flow of the text. Footnotes are essential for citing sources but also contain supplementary asides to the main paper, such as historiographic discussions, cross-references to other relevant material, and additional biographical or other background information.

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   1. Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 73.

Book cited subsequently in same paper:
   2. White, Middle Ground, 24.

Journal article:
   3. Ronald Tobey, Charles Wetherell, and Jay Brigham, "Moving Out and Settling In: Residential Mobility, Home Ownership, and the Public Enframing of Citizenship, 1921-1950," The American Historical Review 95 (December, 1990): 1395-1422.

Essay in collection:
   4. Marcus Rediker, "The Anglo-American Seaman as Collective Worker," in Work and Labor in Early America, ed. Stephen Innes (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 276.

Thesis or dissertation:
   5. Timothy J. Shannon, "The Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 and the British-Atlantic Community" (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1993), 94.

Published statistics:
   6. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1975), series Z523, 1195.

   7. Itzak Perlman: In My Case Music, prod. and dir. Tony DeNonno, 10 min., DeNonno Pix, 1985, videocassette.

Internet source:
   8. Joanne C. Baker and Richard W. Hunstead, "Revealing the Effects of Orientation in Composite Quasar Spectra," Astrophysical Journal 452 (October 1995): L95-L98, (accessed 25 March, 1998).

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   9. Felix A. Castrioto to Benjamin Franklin, 2 December 1777, in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. William B. Willcox, vol. 25 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 232-233.

   10. Alexander Hamilton, "Report on Manufactures, December 5, 1791," in The Reports of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Jacob E. Cooke (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 115-205.

   11. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers, ed. Clinton Rossiter (originally published 1788; New York: New American Library, 1961), 261.

   12. Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia), 5 September 1795, p. 4.

   13. Henry Drinker to Roseweil Wells, 8 February 1800, Henry Drinker Letter Book, 1790-1800, Drinker Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Census Manuscript:
   14. Manuscript Census, Town of Preston, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, U.S. Census of Population, 1900, in National Archives Microfilm Collection T-623.

Unpublished Interview by Writer of Paper:
   16. Leda Smith, Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, interview by author, 4 November 1997, New York.

Government Document - Hearing:
   17. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Famine in Africa: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations,; 99th Cong., 1st sess., 17 January 1985, 57.

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The bibliography provided below lists books to which you may refer for more information about historical research and writing. You may also use this as a sample bibliography; notice how the bibliography and foot/endnotes use a different citation style. Further examples of bibliography entries follow. If you need to know how to cite a source not covered in this bibliography or the list that follows, please consult Turabian. Turabian is the official style manual of the history department.


Benjamin, Jules R. A Student's Guide to History, 6th ed. New York: St.
   Martin's Press, 1994.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft
   of Research
. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Brundage, Anthony. Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research
   and Writing
. Arlington Heights: Harlan Davidson, 1989.

Marius, Richard. A Short Guide to Writing About History. Glenview: Scott,
   Foresman, 1989.

Shafer, Robert Jones. A Guide to Historical Method, 3d ed. Homewood:
   Dorsey, 1980.

Steffens, Henry J. and Mary Jane Dickerson. Writer's Guide: History.
   Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1987.


Baker, Sheridan. The Complete Stylist and Handbook. New York: Harper
   and Row, 1984.

Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, 3d ed. New York:
   Macmillan, 1979.

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and
. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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Multiple authors:
Steffens, Henry J. and Mary Jane Dickerson. Writer's Guide: History.
   Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1987.

Edited volumes:
Middleton, David and Derek Edwards, eds. Collective Remembering.
   London: Sage Publications, 1990.

Works with an editor or translator in addition to the author:
Pederson, Johannes. The Arabic Book. Translated by Geoffrey French.
   Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Journal articles:
Harlan, David. "Intellectual History and the Return of Literature." The
   American Historical Review
, 94 (1989): 581-609.

Another work by the same author:
_____. "Reply to David Hollinger." The American Historical Review, 94
   (1989): 622-26.

Multivolume works:
Ibn Hisham, Abd al-Malik. al-Sira al-nabawiyya, 2 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub,

One volume:
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science
   of Mythology
, vol. 1. Translated by John and Doreen Weightman. Chicago:
   University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Part of an edited volume:
Rippen, Andrew. "Lexicographical Texts and the Quran." In Approaches to
   the History of the Interpretation of the Quran
, ed. A. Rippin, 158-74.
   Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Works in a series:
Clark, Sara. Winter in Wisconsin: Fun in the Snow! Midwestern Winters
   Series, no. 15. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1960.

n.p. and n.d.:
Use the abbreviation "n.p." in place of the publisher and/or place of publication if this information is not available. Use "n.d." if the date of publication is not available. For example:

Ibn Hisham, Abd al-Malik. al-Sira al-nabawiyya, 2 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub,

Book reviews:
Morrison, Karl F. Review of The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation
   in Jewish and Christian Thought
, by Stephen D. Benning, American
   Historical Review
100 (February 1995): 133-134.

Theses and dissertations:
Gordon, Matthew, "The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: A History of the
   Turkish Community of Samarra (218-264 A.H./833-877 C.E.)" Ph.D. Diss.,
   Columbia University, 1993.

Strohm, Paul. "Cultural Frictions: Conference Commentary." (accessed
   22 March, 2004).

Microform editions:
Shaft, William. New Trends in Electronic Conferencing. Ann Arbor, Mich.:
   University Microfilms, 1977.

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Popular magazines:
Anderson, Terrie. "Childhood Memories." Children's World Magazine, May
   1995, 45-53.

New York Times, 12 December-15 January, 1997.

Government publications and public documents:
Please consult Turabian for the specific publication or document type.

Unpublished interviews:
Schoonover, Melissa. Interview by author. 2 May, 1995. Eau Claire, WI.

Manuscript collections:
McConnell, Doris Ellingsworth Papers. Diary and letters. Northhampton
   Historical Society, Northhampton, CT.

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Depending on the configuration of your web browser, the above examples may not appear as they should in your paper (simply have your browser take up the whole screen and examples will be displayed as intended). For clarification, footnotes and endnotes should have the TOP line indented so that it's roughly equal to the third letter of the second line. All subsequent lines should extend fully to the margin. In a bibliography, the second line, and all subsequent lines, should be indented equal to the third letter of the top line; the top line should extend fully to the margin.

Compiled and revised by Robert Gough, Nancy Shoemaker, Kate Lang, Scott Omodth and Reiko Shinno.

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