Book report for (The Will of The People) by Barry Friedman

Book Review Guide

In the book review assignment, the principal task is to explain and critique the author’s central argument (also known as the author’s central thesis). How to do this?
First of all, read my “Guide to Historical Thinking and Writing” document that is listed in the Course Materials module of the Content page of the D2L course site, as it contains important information on what is expected in terms of content, style, grammar, and syntax.
When you write your paper, assume that you are writing for someone who has not read the book. Structure your paper in a coherent manner. The most common way to approach a book review is to begin with an overview that explains, in a general sense, what the author sought to accomplish in this book, what the central argument or central thesis of the book is, and where the book fits in the preexisting literature on the subject. I don’t expect you to be experts when it comes to the last of these tasks, but by the time you start writing this review you should have a good sense of the significant issues involved in discerning the relationship between popular opinion and the Supreme Court.
After explaining the general thrust of the book’s argument, go into some (but not excruciating) detail about how the author tries to prove or demonstrate that thesis. It is critical that you demonstrate not only that you’ve read the entire book, but that you understand how the author ties sub-themes of the book to the central thesis. Here you are not summarizing in a pedestrian, blow-by-blow fashion the chapters of the book, but instead are "characterizing" the author’s analysis. Think to yourself, as you are organizing your thoughts on the book, about how this or that chapter "fits" within the author’s larger thematic framework.
Finally, a good book review includes a thoughtful critique of the author’s thesis and how the author goes about trying to demonstrate its validity. A good book reviewer can see the strengths and weaknesses in a book, for no book rises to the level of perfection and few are absolutely horrid. Ask yourself, how might other historians evaluate this book and its argument? What alternative arguments could arise from the author’s evidence? How effective is the author’s choice of evidence, setting, sources, etc.? What does the book explain well and what does it not explain well. And remember, just as mean-spirited fault finding (for example, making a big deal about a typo on a certain page) tells your reader little about the value of the book, so too does faint praise (for example, simply saying that the book is “interesting.”) In the end, it is important that you convey to your reader the substantive reasons why you find the author’s argument more persuasive than unpersuasive (or vice-versa).
Here is an example of a book review that I wrote some years ago and which is online:
https://networks.h-net.org/node/4113/reviews/4456/renda-etcheson-emerging-midwest-upland-southerners-and-political-culture

Guide to Historical Thinking and Writing
In addition to the guidelines discussed in my “Book Review Guide” document, which are specific to that type of paper assignment, the following are my principal stylistic, grammatical, and substantive requirements and guidelines for history papers in general as well as for participation in online discussions. Refer (often) to this guide when composing your participation posts, as well as when writing and revising your book review.
Substantive Issues:
• Maintain, in your analysis, a healthy balance between historical difference and historical parallelism. Since we want the past to be relevant to the present, it is tempting (and in many cases, perfectly legitimate) to make comparisons of the past and present. It is possible that you are familiar with the famous aphorism of George Santayana that those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. You may even be comparing developments from different eras. And many comparisons can plausibly be made, especially when dealing with the broadly-defined behavior of institutions. But keep in mind the “past-ness” of the past. Many of the words and concepts that we use, such as freedom, liberty, honor, equality, masculinity, femininity, democracy, republicanism, natural rights, morality, security, liberalism, conservativism, class, and free people, to name just a few, meant something very different two hundred years ago, one hundred years ago, or in some cases just a few decades ago, than what they do today. And what we today regard as “normal” or “common sense” may not have been regarded as such in earlier times.
• Remember that history is not synonymous with story-telling. Historical writing (even when it takes the form of the one thousand-page, grand narrative) involves analysis, synthesis, and argumentation.
• Neither celebrate nor condemn the people of the past. It is not our job to worship as heroes, past generations and absolve them of any and all wrongdoing, as if there were no alternatives to the choices they made, and as if the actions they took or did not take “had to be that way.” But it is also not our job to judge them as morally deficient, either by our own supposedly lofty standards, or even by those of their era. If for no other reason, one should not fall into these traps because they are, from an intellectual vantage point, dead ends. For example, if I either ridicule Thomas Jefferson as a hypocrite for having been a slave-owner even as at the same time he was espousing the doctrines of liberty, or, alternatively, apologize for or excuse his inconsistencies in some manner, where (in either case) do I then go from there in my analysis? A more intellectually profitable approach examines the role the institution of racial slavery played in shaping, defining, and influencing what liberty meant to Jefferson and his contemporaries.
• Strive for objectivity. To be sure, we can never be absolutely or purely “objective” in our analysis. Even the words we choose to use, let alone the topics we study and the arguments we make, reflect, at the very least, unconscious opinions, values, and biases, as well as the subtle (and not so subtle) ways our thinking is affected by the institutions, people, and events that intersect with our lives. And it is understood that we are going to have some passion about a topic that interests us. But good historians consciously try to be objective and endeavor to let the evidence, and not partisanship, ideology, or pre-conceived notions of what should be the case, or what should have been the case, drive their analyses.
• Remember that there is a difference between history and heritage. Your heritage is what the past means to you on some personal, and often emotional, level. It can also reflect what the past means to a particular social, geographical, cultural, or other type of demographic group with which you identify (again, often on an emotional level). History is the study of change and continuity, of causality, process, and the larger meaning of developments, and it is best approached with a conscious detachment from the particular topic being studied. A good way to analyze American history is to try to divorce yourself, in your mind, from your American heritage — to study American history with no more personal attachment than you would have if you were studying the history of another country for which you have no feelings, one way or another. It is not easy!
• Always adhere to historical context. It is important to recognize the setting or the historical backdrop to the specific events, statements, and developments from the past. One of the worst usages of historical sources, and one which can be observed every day on blogs and social media sites, is the “cherry-picking” of evidence from the past (quite often a quote attributed to a famous person), that, even when accurately cited, is (deliberately or not) taken out of historical context.
• Recognize historical processes. To do so, you must maintain a healthy balance between causality and historical meaning, as well as between long-term and short-term causes, in your analysis. One of the greatest challenges we face as historians when explaining why developments occurred is deciding how much weight we should give to long-term causes and how much weight we should give to more immediate, proximate causes. Similarly, we can become so fixated on causality (whether of the short-term or long-term varieties) that we can fail to see the greater historical meaning of the events and developments we are analyzing, and thus the historical processes that tie causality and historical meaning together. Put differently, we need to separate the forest from the trees, and to recognize the big, as well as the small, pictures. To use a metaphor an historian named Daniel Feller once invoked (and to which I refer in one of our discussion topics in Week #9), we must not become so fixated on measuring the minor, oscillating changes in each ocean wave as it descends onto the beach that we lose sight of the tide coming ashore. It is also important to distinguish change from continuity when analyzing the past, and to recognize the interconnectedness of historical developments (even of those developments that, on the surface, may seem to have little to do with one another). Otherwise, we lose all sense of historical process, in which case the past becomes little more than a chronicle of isolated facts.
• Do not, in your historical writing, romanticize either the past (by being nostalgic, as if things were always better in earlier times), the present (by insisting that we live in the best of all possible worlds and demanding that long-standing traditions be maintained for their own sake), or the future (by assuming that we are on some road to inevitable greatness and that any “bad” things that happened in the past are just bumps on that road). At the same time, do not let cynicism about the past (which implies that everything has always been the same as the present, and that people have always had the same motivations) override and undermine your historicism.
• Avoid sophomoric debates over questions related to historical “bragging rights,” such as, in which state did the Wright brothers “first” fly an airplane?, or, which town deserves the “honor” of being called the birthplace of the banana split ice cream dessert? Mention conflicts such as these only if they are related to some issue of greater historical significance.
• Do not commit one of the most common and unfortunate of all fallacies in popular conversations about the past – that of referring to an earlier era as a more “innocent” age. Such a statement reveals either selective memory or deeply-flawed analysis on the author’s part. And while referring to an earlier era in this manner often reflects a fondness for the past (produced in large part by nostalgia) it ironically also exudes (even if unintentionally) a condescending attitude toward the people of the past – for it treats them as lovable but naïve simpletons for not having either our hindsight knowledge or our supposedly more complex experiences. And while *you* may have been “innocent” in your childhood years, it does not follow that society in those years was innocent.
• Adhere to the principles of academic honesty. Do not cheat; do not plagiarize; do not submit the same or highly similar research paper in more than one course. While on the subject of plagiarism, I will use this occasion to thank my colleagues Joe Austin and Joseph Rodriguez for sharing with me many of the points in this guide, even as I have adjusted them to my own liking. As I mentioned in the syllabus, read the “Academic Ethics” document, located in the Course Materials module of the D2L course site’s Content page.
Stylistic and Grammatical Issues:
(Some of the following points apply only to papers; others apply both to papers and online discussions.)
• All papers must have a title page.
• All pages of a paper, except the title page, are to be numbered.
• The marginal space on the top, bottom, and sides of papers must not exceed one inch in height or width.
• When writing a paper, use a font size no larger than 12 pts. or 10 cpi.
• You may use either footnotes or endnotes in papers, but choose one or the other (not both).
• Research papers must have a bibliography. Book reviews do not require a bibliography unless you are citing books or articles in addition to the book being reviewed.
• In general, when writing a paper, follow the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style, especially as it relates to how one should cite sources in footnotes or endnotes, and how one should list sources in the bibliography.
• Spacing within sentences: one space after a comma, a semi-colon, and before and after parentheses; two spaces after colons and periods.
• Line spacing in papers: Double-space your text in the body of the paper. For block quotations (those which are longer than five lines), single-space the text. Do not indent block quotations, and do not put quotation marks around them. Single-space, as well, the text of your footnotes/endnotes, as well as your bibliography.
• It is conventional for the comma or the period to go inside the quotation marks. I’m not a stickler about that rule, but be consistent in your usage.
• Italicize book and journal titles, as well as non-English phrases; use quotation marks for articles.
• Do not use sub-headings in the text of a paper; write transitional sentences instead to tie sections together.
• Do not use "firstly, secondly, etc." If you must number your points, write "first, second, etc."
• Make sure your sentences are logical and sensibly structured. For example, "the worker stuffed and mounted the animals" makes sense; "the worker mounted and stuffed the animals" does not.
• When listing three nouns or adjectives, use two commas: "He bought black, brown, and blue coats."
• Do not confuse "its" (which indicates possession) for "it’s" (the contraction for "it is").
There is no word "its’." Also, know the difference between "affect" and "effect," "prophet" and "profit," “to” and “too,” “prey” and “pray,” “waive” and “wave,” "accept" and "except," and "their," “there," and "they’re."
• Try not to use the same word twice in one sentence or three times in one paragraph.
• In general, paragraphs are four to six sentences long. This is not an iron-clad rule, but I do not like to see "laundry lists" (a series of one-sentence paragraphs) or, at the other extreme, two-page paragraphs.
• Give an individual’s full name and position upon first reference, just the last name in later references. Do not include credentials (Ph.D., for example) unless those titles or ranks are essential to your interpretation.
• If you are citing a court case, write out the name of the case upon the first reference, and then use an appropriately unique abbreviation upon later references. Court cases should always be italicized.
• In formal prose, one should write out all words. Do not write "ad" for "advertisement" or abbreviations such as e.g., etc., or vs.
• Wherever possible, avoid using contractions (for example, "couldn’t").
• If you use an acronym, such as SCOTUS for the Supreme Court of the United States, upon first reference write out the full title or name, followed by the acronym in parentheses.
• Eliminate all asides such as "it is interesting to note," which implies that the comment is a throwaway observation that is not central to your interpretation. Use transitional phrases that tie the comment to your argument.
• Avoid using clichés, melodramatic phraseology, and sports metaphors.
• To link paragraphs, use transitional words such as moreover, on the other hand, finally, yet, although, even though, sometimes, rarely. Do not begin a sentence with the word "however" if followed by a comma. Instead put "however," in the middle of the sentence.
• Watch out for redundancies. For example, "influential and important" mean roughly the same thing so eliminate one of them.
• This is a history course, so write in the past tense whenever you are writing about the past. You may use the present tense when referring specifically to an author in the context of his or her book or article, but do so consistently. You should use the present tense when writing about time-neutral phenomena–such as the Mississippi River empties (not emptied) into the Gulf of Mexico.
• Ellipses (". . .") appear in the middle of a quotation only, not in the beginning or end.
• Do not "stretch out" your paper–either by cheating on the spacing, fonts, or margins, or "filling" the paper with text that is redundant or lacks substance. Your professor, just like anyone else, prefers not to have his intelligence underrated, and your real problem, if you take this assignment seriously, will be that of not exceeding too greatly the required number of pages or words.
• Eliminate use of the passive voice whenever possible. For example, do not write: "Andrew Jackson was driven by Nicholas Biddle to veto the bank bill.” Instead, write: "Nicholas Biddle drove Andrew Jackson to veto the bank bill.” In other words, let the subject perform the action. Using verbs that are prefaced with "is," "are," "was," or "were" often indicates the use of the passive voice. You will find that the active voice results in more forceful, elegant, and economical prose.
• My experience is that students over-quote in their papers and in online discussion posts–possibly because it fills up space. Quote only the quotable.
• With respect to papers, in most cases it is not advisable to write about your sources in the body thereof. Relegate your sources (including points worth making about them) to your footnotes or endnotes.
• In most cases, it is considered poor syntax to end a sentence or even a clause with a preposition. Instead of "Lincoln had important allies he could turn to" write “Lincoln had important allies to whom he could turn."
• As stated in the Book Review Guide, when writing a book review or a review essay, do not write blow-by-blow summaries of events or of the books you’ve read. Characterize rather than summarize the author’s arguments. Your discussion should be functional to the exposition of the author’s (or your) arguments. It should not exist just to help you fill up space.
• Eliminate rhetorical questions, such as "but what else could he do?" They are condescending toward your readers.
• Remember that there is a distinction between literal and figurative language. In an effort to emphasize a point, people sometimes conflate the two styles of language. For example, a statement such as "in 2008, the American people literally stood on the brink of a new depression" makes no sense unless one thinks that the American people were gathered around a large crater. A statement such as "things literally hung in the balance" makes no sense unless one is referring to an actual scale with weights or objects on each side. A statement such as “John C. Calhoun literally took Robert Barnwell Rhett under his wing” makes no sense unless Calhoun actually had a wing. In short, don’t add the word “literally” to a figurative expression.
• Plainly, there is no excuse for any more than one or two spelling errors in either a paper or an online discussion post, especially today with the spell-check functions that come with any word-processing software and which are included among the D2L system options. These errors result from laziness and a failure to proofread.
• To avoid confusion, do not use the word "1800s" as a synonym for the nineteenth century, for "1800s" often refers to the decade between 1800 and 1810.
• Write economically and strive for conciseness–making every word "tell."
• Do not use the split infinitive. Do not write: "Douglas allowed Lincoln to easily outmaneuver him." Write: "Douglas allowed Lincoln easily to outmaneuver him."
• Use semi-colons correctly. They are not interchangeable with commas. Semi-colons are used either to separate items on a list or to separate two independent clauses that are usually short in length and could stand as separate sentences if necessary – but “sound” like they belong in the same sentence due to a shorter, comma-like pause in between them than what one usually finds between two sentences.
• With very few exceptions, all sentences must have a subject and a verb.
• Use commas in natural pauses. Do not use commas in between nouns and verbs, such as "Ulysses S. Grant, now advanced toward Richmond." Do not use commas to separate independent clauses unless a conjunctive (for example, "and") begins the second clause.
• Do not use dangling participles. A participle is a verb ending in “ing,” and it is called a dangling participle when that verb does not correspond to the subject of the sentence. Here’s an example: "When discussing race and gender, sensitivity is necessary." In this sentence, the subject is “sensitivity,” and the verb is “discussing,” but sensitivity is not doing the discussing. A better way to write this is: "When discussing race and gender, the student should be sensitive." Now, the student is doing the discussing. There are other examples of sentences in which the subject and the verb do not correspond with each other, but a dangling participle is the most common example of this grammatical snafu.
• Watch out for faulty parallel structures in your writing. Let’s take, as an example, the following sentence: “Ways of discouraging immigrants from voting included the English literacy requirement and imposing a complex voter registration system." In this sentence, a noun (“requirement”) is in a series in which a verb ("imposing") corresponds only with the other noun (“systems”). Re-work your sentence so both nouns correspond with that verb, as in “To discourage immigrants from voting, lawmakers imposed an English literacy requirement and a complex voter registration system.”
• Avoid using the word "obvious"–which many readers treat suspiciously.
• Avoid using colloquial expressions or intemperate language (for example, in one paper a student wrote: "Pierce kicked Scott’s ass in the 1852 election").
• Do not use gendered pronouns for nations or inanimate objects.
• Use the first person sparingly. It is unnecessary to write "in my opinion" where I know that it is your opinion. In general, avoid personal digressions.
• Do not assume that your meaning can be deduced from incomplete or incoherent sentences. Clarity is critical in good historical writing. Be as precise as possible and do not assume that your reader knows what you mean. Re-write any phrase or sentence that is ambiguous in its meaning.
• Do not substitute what you "feel" for what the evidence supports.
• Do not cast doubt on your own abilities. Sometimes students begin papers or discussion posts by telling me that they know nothing about the subject. Imagine the effectiveness of such a tactic in a job interview!
• When analyzing a source (whether a secondary source like a book written by an historian, or a primary source like a Supreme Court justice’s written opinion), do not make criticisms such as "I didn’t understand this book," or "the opinion of the Court is boring and too long." Even if true, these are not terribly interesting points to make.
• Finally, good writing, whether in history or any other subject, requires re-writing. Good writers actually have fun thinking about what they have written and considering ways in which they can re-write and improve their prose. Even winners of prestigious awards write, re-write, and re-write again drafts of their essays, articles, and books. Moreover, they eagerly ask others to read their drafts and provide feedback. A fresh set of eyes will notice your awkwardly constructed phrases, run-on sentences, and ambiguously framed arguments – and sometimes more quickly than you will notice them yourself. Book Review Guide

In the book review assignment, the principal task is to explain and critique the author’s central argument (also known as the author’s central thesis). How to do this?
First of all, read my “Guide to Historical Thinking and Writing” document that is listed in the Course Materials module of the Content page of the D2L course site, as it contains important information on what is expected in terms of content, style, grammar, and syntax.
When you write your paper, assume that you are writing for someone who has not read the book. Structure your paper in a coherent manner. The most common way to approach a book review is to begin with an overview that explains, in a general sense, what the author sought to accomplish in this book, what the central argument or central thesis of the book is, and where the book fits in the preexisting literature on the subject. I don’t expect you to be experts when it comes to the last of these tasks, but by the time you start writing this review you should have a good sense of the significant issues involved in discerning the relationship between popular opinion and the Supreme Court.
After explaining the general thrust of the book’s argument, go into some (but not excruciating) detail about how the author tries to prove or demonstrate that thesis. It is critical that you demonstrate not only that you’ve read the entire book, but that you understand how the author ties sub-themes of the book to the central thesis. Here you are not summarizing in a pedestrian, blow-by-blow fashion the chapters of the book, but instead are "characterizing" the author’s analysis. Think to yourself, as you are organizing your thoughts on the book, about how this or that chapter "fits" within the author’s larger thematic framework.
Finally, a good book review includes a thoughtful critique of the author’s thesis and how the author goes about trying to demonstrate its validity. A good book reviewer can see the strengths and weaknesses in a book, for no book rises to the level of perfection and few are absolutely horrid. Ask yourself, how might other historians evaluate this book and its argument? What alternative arguments could arise from the author’s evidence? How effective is the author’s choice of evidence, setting, sources, etc.? What does the book explain well and what does it not explain well. And remember, just as mean-spirited fault finding (for example, making a big deal about a typo on a certain page) tells your reader little about the value of the book, so too does faint praise (for example, simply saying that the book is “interesting.”) In the end, it is important that you convey to your reader the substantive reasons why you find the author’s argument more persuasive than unpersuasive (or vice-versa).
Here is an example of a book review that I wrote some years ago and which is online:
https://networks.h-net.org/node/4113/reviews/4456/renda-etcheson-emerging-midwest-upland-southerners-and-political-culture

Guide to Historical Thinking and Writing
In addition to the guidelines discussed in my “Book Review Guide” document, which are specific to that type of paper assignment, the following are my principal stylistic, grammatical, and substantive requirements and guidelines for history papers in general as well as for participation in online discussions. Refer (often) to this guide when composing your participation posts, as well as when writing and revising your book review.
Substantive Issues:
• Maintain, in your analysis, a healthy balance between historical difference and historical parallelism. Since we want the past to be relevant to the present, it is tempting (and in many cases, perfectly legitimate) to make comparisons of the past and present. It is possible that you are familiar with the famous aphorism of George Santayana that those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. You may even be comparing developments from different eras. And many comparisons can plausibly be made, especially when dealing with the broadly-defined behavior of institutions. But keep in mind the “past-ness” of the past. Many of the words and concepts that we use, such as freedom, liberty, honor, equality, masculinity, femininity, democracy, republicanism, natural rights, morality, security, liberalism, conservativism, class, and free people, to name just a few, meant something very different two hundred years ago, one hundred years ago, or in some cases just a few decades ago, than what they do today. And what we today regard as “normal” or “common sense” may not have been regarded as such in earlier times.
• Remember that history is not synonymous with story-telling. Historical writing (even when it takes the form of the one thousand-page, grand narrative) involves analysis, synthesis, and argumentation.
• Neither celebrate nor condemn the people of the past. It is not our job to worship as heroes, past generations and absolve them of any and all wrongdoing, as if there were no alternatives to the choices they made, and as if the actions they took or did not take “had to be that way.” But it is also not our job to judge them as morally deficient, either by our own supposedly lofty standards, or even by those of their era. If for no other reason, one should not fall into these traps because they are, from an intellectual vantage point, dead ends. For example, if I either ridicule Thomas Jefferson as a hypocrite for having been a slave-owner even as at the same time he was espousing the doctrines of liberty, or, alternatively, apologize for or excuse his inconsistencies in some manner, where (in either case) do I then go from there in my analysis? A more intellectually profitable approach examines the role the institution of racial slavery played in shaping, defining, and influencing what liberty meant to Jefferson and his contemporaries.
• Strive for objectivity. To be sure, we can never be absolutely or purely “objective” in our analysis. Even the words we choose to use, let alone the topics we study and the arguments we make, reflect, at the very least, unconscious opinions, values, and biases, as well as the subtle (and not so subtle) ways our thinking is affected by the institutions, people, and events that intersect with our lives. And it is understood that we are going to have some passion about a topic that interests us. But good historians consciously try to be objective and endeavor to let the evidence, and not partisanship, ideology, or pre-conceived notions of what should be the case, or what should have been the case, drive their analyses.
• Remember that there is a difference between history and heritage. Your heritage is what the past means to you on some personal, and often emotional, level. It can also reflect what the past means to a particular social, geographical, cultural, or other type of demographic group with which you identify (again, often on an emotional level). History is the study of change and continuity, of causality, process, and the larger meaning of developments, and it is best approached with a conscious detachment from the particular topic being studied. A good way to analyze American history is to try to divorce yourself, in your mind, from your American heritage — to study American history with no more personal attachment than you would have if you were studying the history of another country for which you have no feelings, one way or another. It is not easy!
• Always adhere to historical context. It is important to recognize the setting or the historical backdrop to the specific events, statements, and developments from the past. One of the worst usages of historical sources, and one which can be observed every day on blogs and social media sites, is the “cherry-picking” of evidence from the past (quite often a quote attributed to a famous person), that, even when accurately cited, is (deliberately or not) taken out of historical context.
• Recognize historical processes. To do so, you must maintain a healthy balance between causality and historical meaning, as well as between long-term and short-term causes, in your analysis. One of the greatest challenges we face as historians when explaining why developments occurred is deciding how much weight we should give to long-term causes and how much weight we should give to more immediate, proximate causes. Similarly, we can become so fixated on causality (whether of the short-term or long-term varieties) that we can fail to see the greater historical meaning of the events and developments we are analyzing, and thus the historical processes that tie causality and historical meaning together. Put differently, we need to separate the forest from the trees, and to recognize the big, as well as the small, pictures. To use a metaphor an historian named Daniel Feller once invoked (and to which I refer in one of our discussion topics in Week #9), we must not become so fixated on measuring the minor, oscillating changes in each ocean wave as it descends onto the beach that we lose sight of the tide coming ashore. It is also important to distinguish change from continuity when analyzing the past, and to recognize the interconnectedness of historical developments (even of those developments that, on the surface, may seem to have little to do with one another). Otherwise, we lose all sense of historical process, in which case the past becomes little more than a chronicle of isolated facts.
• Do not, in your historical writing, romanticize either the past (by being nostalgic, as if things were always better in earlier times), the present (by insisting that we live in the best of all possible worlds and demanding that long-standing traditions be maintained for their own sake), or the future (by assuming that we are on some road to inevitable greatness and that any “bad” things that happened in the past are just bumps on that road). At the same time, do not let cynicism about the past (which implies that everything has always been the same as the present, and that people have always had the same motivations) override and undermine your historicism.
• Avoid sophomoric debates over questions related to historical “bragging rights,” such as, in which state did the Wright brothers “first” fly an airplane?, or, which town deserves the “honor” of being called the birthplace of the banana split ice cream dessert? Mention conflicts such as these only if they are related to some issue of greater historical significance.
• Do not commit one of the most common and unfortunate of all fallacies in popular conversations about the past – that of referring to an earlier era as a more “innocent” age. Such a statement reveals either selective memory or deeply-flawed analysis on the author’s part. And while referring to an earlier era in this manner often reflects a fondness for the past (produced in large part by nostalgia) it ironically also exudes (even if unintentionally) a condescending attitude toward the people of the past – for it treats them as lovable but naïve simpletons for not having either our hindsight knowledge or our supposedly more complex experiences. And while *you* may have been “innocent” in your childhood years, it does not follow that society in those years was innocent.
• Adhere to the principles of academic honesty. Do not cheat; do not plagiarize; do not submit the same or highly similar research paper in more than one course. While on the subject of plagiarism, I will use this occasion to thank my colleagues Joe Austin and Joseph Rodriguez for sharing with me many of the points in this guide, even as I have adjusted them to my own liking. As I mentioned in the syllabus, read the “Academic Ethics” document, located in the Course Materials module of the D2L course site’s Content page.
Stylistic and Grammatical Issues:
(Some of the following points apply only to papers; others apply both to papers and online discussions.)
• All papers must have a title page.
• All pages of a paper, except the title page, are to be numbered.
• The marginal space on the top, bottom, and sides of papers must not exceed one inch in height or width.
• When writing a paper, use a font size no larger than 12 pts. or 10 cpi.
• You may use either footnotes or endnotes in papers, but choose one or the other (not both).
• Research papers must have a bibliography. Book reviews do not require a bibliography unless you are citing books or articles in addition to the book being reviewed.
• In general, when writing a paper, follow the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style, especially as it relates to how one should cite sources in footnotes or endnotes, and how one should list sources in the bibliography.
• Spacing within sentences: one space after a comma, a semi-colon, and before and after parentheses; two spaces after colons and periods.
• Line spacing in papers: Double-space your text in the body of the paper. For block quotations (those which are longer than five lines), single-space the text. Do not indent block quotations, and do not put quotation marks around them. Single-space, as well, the text of your footnotes/endnotes, as well as your bibliography.
• It is conventional for the comma or the period to go inside the quotation marks. I’m not a stickler about that rule, but be consistent in your usage.
• Italicize book and journal titles, as well as non-English phrases; use quotation marks for articles.
• Do not use sub-headings in the text of a paper; write transitional sentences instead to tie sections together.
• Do not use "firstly, secondly, etc." If you must number your points, write "first, second, etc."
• Make sure your sentences are logical and sensibly structured. For example, "the worker stuffed and mounted the animals" makes sense; "the worker mounted and stuffed the animals" does not.
• When listing three nouns or adjectives, use two commas: "He bought black, brown, and blue coats."
• Do not confuse "its" (which indicates possession) for "it’s" (the contraction for "it is").
There is no word "its’." Also, know the difference between "affect" and "effect," "prophet" and "profit," “to” and “too,” “prey” and “pray,” “waive” and “wave,” "accept" and "except," and "their," “there," and "they’re."
• Try not to use the same word twice in one sentence or three times in one paragraph.
• In general, paragraphs are four to six sentences long. This is not an iron-clad rule, but I do not like to see "laundry lists" (a series of one-sentence paragraphs) or, at the other extreme, two-page paragraphs.
• Give an individual’s full name and position upon first reference, just the last name in later references. Do not include credentials (Ph.D., for example) unless those titles or ranks are essential to your interpretation.
• If you are citing a court case, write out the name of the case upon the first reference, and then use an appropriately unique abbreviation upon later references. Court cases should always be italicized.
• In formal prose, one should write out all words. Do not write "ad" for "advertisement" or abbreviations such as e.g., etc., or vs.
• Wherever possible, avoid using contractions (for example, "couldn’t").
• If you use an acronym, such as SCOTUS for the Supreme Court of the United States, upon first reference write out the full title or name, followed by the acronym in parentheses.
• Eliminate all asides such as "it is interesting to note," which implies that the comment is a throwaway observation that is not central to your interpretation. Use transitional phrases that tie the comment to your argument.
• Avoid using clichés, melodramatic phraseology, and sports metaphors.
• To link paragraphs, use transitional words such as moreover, on the other hand, finally, yet, although, even though, sometimes, rarely. Do not begin a sentence with the word "however" if followed by a comma. Instead put "however," in the middle of the sentence.
• Watch out for redundancies. For example, "influential and important" mean roughly the same thing so eliminate one of them.
• This is a history course, so write in the past tense whenever you are writing about the past. You may use the present tense when referring specifically to an author in the context of his or her book or article, but do so consistently. You should use the present tense when writing about time-neutral phenomena–such as the Mississippi River empties (not emptied) into the Gulf of Mexico.
• Ellipses (". . .") appear in the middle of a quotation only, not in the beginning or end.
• Do not "stretch out" your paper–either by cheating on the spacing, fonts, or margins, or "filling" the paper with text that is redundant or lacks substance. Your professor, just like anyone else, prefers not to have his intelligence underrated, and your real problem, if you take this assignment seriously, will be that of not exceeding too greatly the required number of pages or words.
• Eliminate use of the passive voice whenever possible. For example, do not write: "Andrew Jackson was driven by Nicholas Biddle to veto the bank bill.” Instead, write: "Nicholas Biddle drove Andrew Jackson to veto the bank bill.” In other words, let the subject perform the action. Using verbs that are prefaced with "is," "are," "was," or "were" often indicates the use of the passive voice. You will find that the active voice results in more forceful, elegant, and economical prose.
• My experience is that students over-quote in their papers and in online discussion posts–possibly because it fills up space. Quote only the quotable.
• With respect to papers, in most cases it is not advisable to write about your sources in the body thereof. Relegate your sources (including points worth making about them) to your footnotes or endnotes.
• In most cases, it is considered poor syntax to end a sentence or even a clause with a preposition. Instead of "Lincoln had important allies he could turn to" write “Lincoln had important allies to whom he could turn."
• As stated in the Book Review Guide, when writing a book review or a review essay, do not write blow-by-blow summaries of events or of the books you’ve read. Characterize rather than summarize the author’s arguments. Your discussion should be functional to the exposition of the author’s (or your) arguments. It should not exist just to help you fill up space.
• Eliminate rhetorical questions, such as "but what else could he do?" They are condescending toward your readers.
• Remember that there is a distinction between literal and figurative language. In an effort to emphasize a point, people sometimes conflate the two styles of language. For example, a statement such as "in 2008, the American people literally stood on the brink of a new depression" makes no sense unless one thinks that the American people were gathered around a large crater. A statement such as "things literally hung in the balance" makes no sense unless one is referring to an actual scale with weights or objects on each side. A statement such as “John C. Calhoun literally took Robert Barnwell Rhett under his wing” makes no sense unless Calhoun actually had a wing. In short, don’t add the word “literally” to a figurative expression.
• Plainly, there is no excuse for any more than one or two spelling errors in either a paper or an online discussion post, especially today with the spell-check functions that come with any word-processing software and which are included among the D2L system options. These errors result from laziness and a failure to proofread.
• To avoid confusion, do not use the word "1800s" as a synonym for the nineteenth century, for "1800s" often refers to the decade between 1800 and 1810.
• Write economically and strive for conciseness–making every word "tell."
• Do not use the split infinitive. Do not write: "Douglas allowed Lincoln to easily outmaneuver him." Write: "Douglas allowed Lincoln easily to outmaneuver him."
• Use semi-colons correctly. They are not interchangeable with commas. Semi-colons are used either to separate items on a list or to separate two independent clauses that are usually short in length and could stand as separate sentences if necessary – but “sound” like they belong in the same sentence due to a shorter, comma-like pause in between them than what one usually finds between two sentences.
• With very few exceptions, all sentences must have a subject and a verb.
• Use commas in natural pauses. Do not use commas in between nouns and verbs, such as "Ulysses S. Grant, now advanced toward Richmond." Do not use commas to separate independent clauses unless a conjunctive (for example, "and") begins the second clause.
• Do not use dangling participles. A participle is a verb ending in “ing,” and it is called a dangling participle when that verb does not correspond to the subject of the sentence. Here’s an example: "When discussing race and gender, sensitivity is necessary." In this sentence, the subject is “sensitivity,” and the verb is “discussing,” but sensitivity is not doing the discussing. A better way to write this is: "When discussing race and gender, the student should be sensitive." Now, the student is doing the discussing. There are other examples of sentences in which the subject and the verb do not correspond with each other, but a dangling participle is the most common example of this grammatical snafu.
• Watch out for faulty parallel structures in your writing. Let’s take, as an example, the following sentence: “Ways of discouraging immigrants from voting included the English literacy requirement and imposing a complex voter registration system." In this sentence, a noun (“requirement”) is in a series in which a verb ("imposing") corresponds only with the other noun (“systems”). Re-work your sentence so both nouns correspond with that verb, as in “To discourage immigrants from voting, lawmakers imposed an English literacy requirement and a complex voter registration system.”
• Avoid using the word "obvious"–which many readers treat suspiciously.
• Avoid using colloquial expressions or intemperate language (for example, in one paper a student wrote: "Pierce kicked Scott’s ass in the 1852 election").
• Do not use gendered pronouns for nations or inanimate objects.
• Use the first person sparingly. It is unnecessary to write "in my opinion" where I know that it is your opinion. In general, avoid personal digressions.
• Do not assume that your meaning can be deduced from incomplete or incoherent sentences. Clarity is critical in good historical writing. Be as precise as possible and do not assume that your reader knows what you mean. Re-write any phrase or sentence that is ambiguous in its meaning.
• Do not substitute what you "feel" for what the evidence supports.
• Do not cast doubt on your own abilities. Sometimes students begin papers or discussion posts by telling me that they know nothing about the subject. Imagine the effectiveness of such a tactic in a job interview!
• When analyzing a source (whether a secondary source like a book written by an historian, or a primary source like a Supreme Court justice’s written opinion), do not make criticisms such as "I didn’t understand this book," or "the opinion of the Court is boring and too long." Even if true, these are not terribly interesting points to make.
• Finally, good writing, whether in history or any other subject, requires re-writing. Good writers actually have fun thinking about what they have written and considering ways in which they can re-write and improve their prose. Even winners of prestigious awards write, re-write, and re-write again drafts of their essays, articles, and books. Moreover, they eagerly ask others to read their drafts and provide feedback. A fresh set of eyes will notice your awkwardly constructed phrases, run-on sentences, and ambiguously framed arguments – and sometimes more quickly than you will notice them yourself.

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