Term Paper Guidelines
- All paper topics must be approved by the professor. Any student handing in a paper without prior approval will have his/her paper returned as unacceptable. A good paper, even a short one, requires several weeks to produce from inception to delivery.
- A term paper is a piece of research, not a description copied out of a secondary source. Your paper must pose and then answer a question. It should not contain too many quotes of other people's prose. Write it in your own words.
- The evidence you use to prove your case must rely as heavily as possible on primary sources. To the extent that they are available in the VMI Library, you will be expected to have consulted the relevant documents and have them listed in your bibliography.
- Encyclopedias and text books are not considered scholarly sources for use in writing term papers. Use them as starters, but other sources must be consulted. Under no circumstances will I accept the Internet as a source.
- Consult not only books but also the periodical literature. Check Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, Humanities Index, etc. Ask the librarians about reference works you might have missed. And don't forget about books on the reserve list.
- Prepare a paper that directly addresses the question asked. Make sure that you illustrate your general points with specific examples. Develop your answer further with reference to modern scholarship.
- I expect that your essays will be well organized and coherent. I insist that your writing be free of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar; papers that have too many errors will be returned to you ungraded. In order to receive a grade, you will have to eliminate the errors and resubmit the paper. I also insist that you document your references to ancient writers and to the modern works in proper footnotes or endnotes. Your papers should also have a standard bibliography in proper form.
- Once you have drafted your essay, do a critical self-assessment of your work. Strengthen the weaker portions of your essay in light of this assessment. Then do a thorough and careful editing, eradicating all errors in English. Only at this point are you ready to submit the final copy.
- Your papers must be typed and follow the style of the attached Style-Sheet. Proofread your work carefully, even compulsively. It is a good idea to make a copy of your paper before you turn it in.
- If you hand in your paper before the deadline, you will be allowed to rewrite it in light of my comments. Re-writes are due by class time, the day the paper is due.
- Title page with your name, class, date, and the title of the paper.
- Body of the paper should be typed, double-spaced, with 1" margins. Ten point type is preferred. 8 1/2 x 11", white paper.
- You may use footnotes or endnotes, but I will not accept notes in parentheses in the text. They should be numbered consecutively throughout the document, and appear in standard historical footnote form:
Book: Author's first name, last name, title of book (underlined), place and date of publication (in parentheses), page number of citation.
Francis Dvornik, The Origins of Intelligence Services, (New Brunswick, NJ,1974), p. 55.
Article: Author's first name, last name, title of article (in quotes), title of journal (underlined) volume number, date, page numbers.
Rose Mary Sheldon, "Tradecraft in Ancient Greece", Studies in Intelligence 30,1 (1986), pp. 39-47.
A list of all works used should be listed at the back of the paper. This is a separate listing from the footnotes. The books and articles should be in alphabetical order.
Books: Author's last name, first name, title of book (underlined), place and date of publication.
Articles: Author's last name, first name, title of article (in quotation marks), title of journal (underlined), volume number, date, page numbers.
Sealey, Raphael, A History of the Greek City States, Berkeley, 1976.
Sheldon, Rose Mary, "The Roman Secret Service", Intelligence Quarterly 1(1985), pp. 7-8.
Ancient authors get cited by book, chapter and verse in the footnotes. For example, Plutarch, Caesar 13. Or Tacitus Annals, 2.13.5. In the bibliography they must appear with name of author, name of work cited, the translator, publisher, year of publication and place of publication.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR RESEARCHING AND WRITING A TERM PAPER
A term paper is an essay that discusses and analyses an historical problem. The paper must first pose a question , and then answer it. At its best, a good term paper will communicate, in good English, solid, accurate information and analysis of a subject in an intelligent and original way.
A term paper should certainly rest on the best, most authoritative works written about a given subject. A term paper in ancient history should show that the author is familiar with and has used well primary sources -- contemporary documents, speeches, and other first hand evidence. These should be cited correctly: author, work, book number, chapter number, line number.
III. Controlling the Idea or Message
Like any piece of exposition, a term paper should have a controlling idea or message. Without thematic unity, a paper may easily become a mere "tour through miscellany". Like a well-built house, a term paper should have a structure. An introduction; an Exposition, a Conclusion. Each of these parts should, in its own way, contribute to the development, analysis and elaboration of the idea that constitutes the paper's central message.
IV. Footnotes and Bibliography
Footnoting is an indispensable part of a term paper in this course. Footnotes function as signposts to provenance, as indicators of the research that undergirds the paper. Readers want to know, "where did you get that statement?" "how do you know?" "is this your own idea?" The footnote helps answer these questions. The footnote should clearly show where you, the researcher and writer, got the information and data and ideas that form the substance of the paper (the book itself, the letter itself, etc.) Sources, either primary or secondary, that you have not personally consulted and used must not be cited because the rule is cite only what you have directly and personally used. (One exception: if you quote from a secondary source, do as follows: Lucretia Mott to Elizabeth C. Stanton, 10 January 1849, quoted in John Doe, The Seneca Falls Convention, (New York: Widgit Press, 1978), p. 19). The bibliography should list only those books, articles, primary sources, that you have personally found helpful. Do not pad your bibliography with citations you haven't seen yourself.
V. Plagiarism and Parallelism
Anytime you use someone else's words in your paper, those words (phrases, sentences, paragraphs) should be rendered in quotation marks, and cited by a footnote. If you decide to use someone else's words in any form, you must use quotations in order to show that you are borrowing the same. But not only words and phrases and sentences require footnotes. If you borrow someone else's ideas, you must also acknolwedge the fact by a footnote. If you do not use quotes when taking another person's wording, if you do not cite another person's ideas with a footnote, this constitutes plagiarism.
"PLAGIARIZE: TO STEAL OR PURLOIN AND PASS OFF AS ONE'S OWN IDEAS, WORDS, WRITINGS, ETC. OF ANOTHER." Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.
VI. Quotations and Voice
Keep quotations to a minimum. Strive to write the paper in your own voice. Too much quotation partakes of "scissors and paste" history. You should strive, in fashioning a term paper, to be original and creative within the standard canons of the historical discipline itself. Quotations, in my opinion, are most effectively used to buttress points (best made in your own language; don't use quotation to convey information), to illustrate points, and to furnish emphasis. Again, keep them to a minimum and then they will be more effective.
Be sure your term paper is well nourished. A good essay in history should consist of solid, concrete, well-stocked paragraphs (5 to 6 sentences to the paragraph, not 1 to 2 sentence telegrams). The strong paragraph has unity (signalled by a topic sentence) and enough factual and analytical substance to make it "a building block of concrete ideas." Try to make your writing graphic, particular, and accurate. Strive to write in literate, grammatical English.