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Writing as an Historian and adding authority to your work

Monica Fernandes, Academic Skills Adviser


Objectives • This workshop is going to address – How should Historians write? – How can you add authority?


1. Take time and prepare • know what you have to answer • Create a rough outline – Use your note made from readings

• think about the structure of your work and the best way to make the points you’d like.


2. Know what your specific stance Be mindful of the ‌.. 1. Time period 2. Themes 3. Historiography 4. Context


3. Language 1. Language used by Historians isn’t… 1. 2. 3.

Pretentious Colloquial Gender specific language- keep it neutral’ everybody, anybody, etc.’, use plurals (historians say…) or replace with ‘one’ if appropriate.

2. No clichés… 1.

If you’re unsure if you’re writing a cliché, remove the last word and if the reader can fill it in automatically, then you know you’ve done it! Eg: Einstein burnt the midnight…

3. Don’t write in the passive voice but rather the active voice


Passive vs. active voice • In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. • In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action. • Active: The dog bit the man. • Passive: The man was bitten by the dog. • Active: I now understand the active voice! • Passive: The active voice is understood by me now!


4. Know their audience • Will you be writing an assignment, book review, book chapter? • Regardless who you write for, be clear about people, organisations, etc.


5. Support their view point 1. Create analysis 2. Use evidence 3. Add authority- References- question your sources and have occasional direct quotes.


Develop authority • Role of resources – Have you referenced the work used? – Are you using credible sources – Are ideas being synthesised? – Is your argument strong enough and clear? – How are you supporting your argument?


Develop authority cont. • Structure – Does your assignment unfold to support your argument – Have you included the context

• Make your assignment your own – Is your academic opinion included in your assignment? – Have you synthesised information from other work? – What is your tone and style?


Why do we need references? • • • • •

Acknowledge knowledge created by others Engage with existing research on your topic Become part of the academic community Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about your topic Create authority and reliability to your work


When should we use references? • References are generally used as evidence to support a claim. • Consider how a reference supports the point you want to make. • What does it add to it? • Beware of the ‘floating quotation’ • References and quotations don’t speak for themselves! Make them relevant.


Know (and vary!) your evidence Indirect quotation (paraphrasing) • Demonstrates broad knowledge and understanding • Distils ideas and conserves word count • Allows for sophisticated synthesis of ideas

Direct quotation (in speech marks) • Brings ‘punch’ and interest to a point • Demonstrates ability to integrate others’ ideas grammatically • Should only be used if you couldn’t have said it better yourself


Practice… • Most education researchers agree with Goodlad (1984) that…. • As Bridges (2009) argues…. • Among the more surprising findings of Bickmore, et al’s study is the fact that many teachers ‘were often not aware that their stated beliefs were at odds with their teaching practice’ (2005, p. 25).


Referencing tips... • Use first author and ‘et al’ only for sources with more than four authors • Alphabetise by author’s surname • Italicise book titles and journal names (NOT article titles) • Include as much information as you can (sometimes this is hard – website articles often don’t have a listed author, etc.) • Be consistent • Be consistent with your references – Choose ONE style and stick to it throughout your work


Avoid.... Over-referencing • It can undermine your authority • Examiners can infer that you don’t have any of your own ideas • It affects your style of writing with sophistication


For more help: • Contact: monica.fernandes@brunel.ac.uk • Or attend a consultation time either on Monday 11:00-12:00 or Wednesday 14:0015:00 at MJ 243

Writing as an Historian and adding authority to your work  

Writing as an Historian and adding authority to your work

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