Writing is a long process and sometimes you can get stuck with the terrible affliction known as writer’s block. If you are so stuck, then you might need to walk away from the computer, perhaps grab a drink or walk around, and then come back. You also can make an appointment with a Writing in History tutor, who can help you get back to work. They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm. Learn more and make an appointment on our website.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando
The Writing in History program is proud to announce the 2015-2016 Undergraduate Writing in History Essay Contest.
All FIU undergraduate students, who are currently enrolled in history courses are eligible to submit one essay for the contest. We are accepting entries that are works of historical scholarship (research-based and historiographical essays) and between 12 to 25 pages. Please see the attached flyer for more precise details, Writing Contest Release (2015 – 2016).
One important way to develop your writing is to read. In a college history class you will, of course, do quite a bit of reading. Trying to balance that reading with all your other commitments can be tough, but there are skills to learn that will help. It is important, for instance, not to treat all college reading as if it is a novel. You may not have to read an assigned history monograph word-for-word and cover-to-cover to understand its contribution. For example, an article in the Harvard Business Review on How to Read a Book a Week outlines a five-step process to understand a book, even if you do not read every word. In this article, Peter Bregman suggests that you “start with the author” and learn a little about them, and then “read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents” to figure out the overall scope of the book. Next you “read the introduction and the conclusion” to focus in on the author’s main argument, and next “read/skim each chapter” to examine how they support the argument. Finally, Bregman recommends that you should “end with the table of contents again” to make sure you have summarize the major points of the book.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando
Writing is a very frustrating process for many students. The writing process has a lot of ups and downs, as we see in this cartoon, and as we see in the Writing in History’s motto, “Beyond One and Done.” For most people who want to do well with their academic work, writing out a paper and handing it in will not be enough. One of the many benefits of the FIU Writing in History program is to help avoid a good deal of frustration that occurs during writing. While the tutors might not be able to help with avoiding the feeling after grades that more needs to be done, the tutors are here to help with avoiding pitfalls and addressing difficulties when writing a paper. Visiting with a tutor is an ideal opportunity for discussing ideas, getting an opinion on a thesis, and many other topics. Schedule an appointment as soon as you are able, and let us all work toward more of those, “I rock” moments in writing.
Clichés are best avoided in academic writing. They are unclear, not specific, and generally can lead to reader confusion. Clichés often only have very general meanings, if indeed they mean anything, and thus do not help support your paper’s argument with any specificity. If, for example, you are describing historic trends in the consumption of various meats, you do not want to say “from the beginning of time people have always eaten meat.” All this phrase does is leave open questions about when, and what meat and people. Rather, you should state the time period, a particular century perhaps, and include the meats and people under study. Thus, a more specific sentence is “US consumption of red meat decreased over the last three decades of the twentieth century, with a correlated increase in poultry evident.” Then, of course, you could analyze potential historical factors leading to these changes.
To learn more about clichés and how to avoid, visit The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center: Clichés. Finally, remember to avoid clichés like the plague.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando
For your writing to be successful, it must be grounded on substance. In the discipline of History, substance is derived directly from the evidence provided by the historical sources assigned. These sources are the key to your argument. Consequently, it is imperative that you read all of the assigned materials that apply to the essay assignment in question. This may seem rather obvious – and of course it is. Yet some students do otherwise.
Instructors can usually tell whether or not a student has read the assigned material by the amount and quality of the evidence put forth. Broad, sweeping statements of personal opinion on a given topic or discussions of events and people outside of the historical era assigned demonstrate that the material was not read or was lightly skimmed. Not good. On the other hand, an essay that provides plenty of specific examples as evidence from the assigned readings will likely also provide in-depth argumentation – in other words, substance. So the lesson is: read all of what has been assigned. Only then will your writing and analysis be able to fully engage the historical topic at hand.
Good luck going forward,
René J. Silva
The spring 2016 Writing in History motto is “Beyond One and Done.” Far too often, we treat our first finished draft as our one “final” draft. Rather, we should treat that first “final” draft as nothing but a pencil sketch, showing the lines and contours of our work. Put that draft aside for a few days. Come back to it, read through it again, and make edits that add a wisp of color between those lines. Then, after feedback from friends, colleagues, tutors, and the professor’s dreaded red pen, make more edits and thus add splashes of paint. Finally, after reading over the paper again, do not forgot to run spellcheck one last time. You would be surprised how many papers are turned in with spelling and grammar errors that spellcheck will catch.
Do you want help with coloring in the lines of your paper? You can make an appointment with a Writing in History tutor. They are available Monday through Friday, usually 9am to 5pm. Learn more and make an appointment on our website.
Best, Dr. Ferdinando