Required Guidelines for
Preparing and Formatting
Term Papers and Essays

P. A. Piccione

© 2015. All rights reserved

N.B.: Papers will be graded according to how well they conform to these guidelines. Please take the time to read this document. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the instructor in class, or come see him in his office to discuss any of the issues below.

I.Thinking Issues
II.Formatting Issues
III.Using Quotations Properly
IV.Writing Issues
V.Grammatical Issues
VISeeking Help

I. Thinking Issues

1.Read the paper assignment carefully, and follow all instructions. Be sure to read the instructor's topic for the paper and understand his intentions and guidelines completely before starting to work. If you have any questions or uncertainties, check with him for clarification and personal direction. Do not assume you can research and write on any topic you desire. No matter how accurate is your work, your grade can be quite harmed, if your subject does not conform to the specified paper topic.
2.The paper must have a specific focus or theme that you devise. Think of this theme as a fundamental issue or a question on the topic which the paper will seek to answer. The paper must also have a specific title which reflects this particular theme. Never title a paper merely, "Term Paper" or anything similar.
3.Understand the difference between interpretation and opinion. An opinion might be based upon intuition; it can be formed through personal impression or as a gut reaction to a set of circumstances; opinion need not result from rigorous thought. On the other hand, historical interpretation is a rational conclusion reached through use of the historical method, including objective study and comparison of historical evidence (i.e., documents, inscriptions, artifacts, data, etc.). Ask specific questions of primary texts, look for comparisons and contrasts and implications. Historical interpretation includes an impartial analysis of both primary and secondary sources. Anyone can have an opinion--even an informed opinion, but not everyone can have an historical interpretation. Formulate and write interpretations, not opinions.
4.Do not romanticize your material, and do not gush emotionally about it. Avoid becoming enamored with your subject or its culture, so that you over-generalize, or you lose your sense of objectivity. Similarly, refrain from hyperbole, i.e., do not exaggerate or overstate an issue for effect.

II. Formatting Issues

5.Follow all prescribed styles and formats as indicated in K. Turabian, Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. It is based on The Chicago Manual of Style. If necessary, consult Turabian by checking the index at the rear for whatever format you are searching. You are responsible to have and to know whatever it takes to complete your paper in the proper style and format. There can be no excuses.
  1. Your paper should contain a formal cover page, including: paper title, your name, course number, professor's name, and actual submission date. It is unnecessary to copy Turabian's specific cover-page format.
  2. The cover page and the bibliography do not count toward the required number of pages for the paper.
  3. The main text of the paper begins on the page immediately following the cover page. A simple term paper does not include any introductory pages such as: table of contents, preface, acknowledgements, or introduction.
  4. In larger papers only, if the material is complex and includes a variety of issues, the paper can be divided into sections and subsections, each with its own heading and subheadings. See Turabian, 1.37, for the format.
  5. The paper must include citations, i.e., traditional footnotes plus a separate bibliography. Place the bibliography on its own separate page after the main text.
  6. Every page of the paper, except the cover page and page 1, must have a page number--typewritten or printed--not handwritten.
  7. The main text of the paper should be typed or printed double space. Use single space on the cover page, in multi-line headings or subheadings, and in footnotes. However, use double-space between each note.
  8. Leave at least 1-inch margins on all sides, top and bottom (except for page 1 and the bibliography-page, which take a 2-inch top margin). Do not use running heads at the top of each page.
  9. Type or print your paper only in 12-point type (the equivalent space of a Times-Roman or Courier font--nothing larger). Do not employ Arial, Helvetica, or any ornamental fonts. Use black ink. Please do not employ differently colored inks for any reason.
6.Document all specific details and facts. You must note the source of all factual information that is not general knowledge, including all data, ideas, and notions that are not your own. Document these sources in footnotes, and list them in the bibliography. If you quote something, footnote it! If you paraphrase it, footnote it! Do not be caught short without citing all your sources.
7.Follow all prescribed formats for footnotes according to Turabian's Manual.. Footnotes occur at the bottom of each page. Footnote numbers always occur in a single series in a paper beginning with note number 1 and continuing to the end. Each note takes its own unique number in series that is never(!!) repeated. Notes never share the same number (see Turabian, 8.7-16 for details).

To see a large list of samples of Turabian's styles for almost any type of research publication, see chapter 11 of her Manual. Unfortunately, Turabian's printed book does not contain styles for the most common electronic and Web-based sources. However, you will find these included in various treatments of her list at the following Web addresses (n.b.: these are not replacements for Turabian's Manual!):

Bridgewater State College: "Turabian Style: Sample Footnotes and Bibliographic Entries (6th edition)"
Ohio State University: "Chicago Manual of Style Form Guide"
University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Writer's Guide (Chicago Turabian Documentation)"

  1. Notes should not be overly long.
  2. Each footnote must begin at the bottom of the same page where it is mentioned in the text; it cannot begin on the next page! If necessary, insert a page break a few lines up from the bottom of the page, and free the space below it, so the footnote can automatically can shift forward again to its own starting page.
  3. While the text inside each note is single-spaced, the note itself is separated from the notes above and below with a double space.
  4. For duplicate citations, use shortened references. The first time a reference occurs, type the full citation for it (author, title, series, volume no., publisher, date, pages, etc.--see Turabian, ch. 11). However, when it occurs again in a later note, use the abbreviated form (i.e. a "short reference") instead of retyping the entire citation, e.g., author+page no. (see Turabian, 8.88-98). If it recurs immediately in the next footnote, you may use the Latin, "ibid." (+ page nos.) in place of the full or short reference (see Turabian, 8.85-87, for details).
8.Do not cite encyclopedias in footnotes or bibliography. Do not quote from the course's textbook in 100-level courses. Encyclopedias and general textbooks contain only common knowledge or are useful for understanding only the most general of issues. Use these texts only to consult their bibliographies to identify their more selective sources and books that you can read and cite.
  1. Do not cite sources found on the Internet or World Wide Web, except as permitted in the course syllabus or the "Paper Requirements" among this course's Web pages.
  2. Avoid earlier editions of a book, when later revised editions exist with more correct information than the former.
9.Do not quote class-lecture notes. As a rule of thumb, do not quote class-lecture notes in the paper. If you want to quote material mentioned in class, you should go find it in published sources among the course readings and quote from there. If you cannot find the source among the readings, see the instructor for advice.
10.Group related multiple sources into the same footnote. When multiple sources related to a common subject occur in the same paragraph, rather than assign a separate note to each, you can group them into the same note and separate them from each other with a semicolon [;], e.g.:

1Riley, Global Perspective, 87; Lichtheim, Literature, 22-30, 45-50, respectively; Kitchen, Ramesses II, 56-67.) See Turabian for details.
  1. Always end every foonote with a period.
  2. With multiple-source notes, only one note per paragraph is sufficient, except for direct quotations which always get their own notes.
  3. Always place footnote numbers at the end of quotations, never at the front.
11.Footnote style is not the same as bibliographical style. The format of a citation in a note differs from that of the same citation in a bibliography. Read Turabian, chapter 11, closely to see the separate styles of each (i.e., "N" (for Note) and "B" (for Bibliography) in each type of citation.
  1. The first page of the bibliography has a 2-inch top margin, and it begins with the heading, "BIBLIOGRAPHY".
  2. Do not number the entries in the bibliography, merely list them by each author's last name.
  3. See Turabian, p. 281, 14.42, for a model of a proper bibliography-page including multiple works by the same author.
12.Do not plagiarize your sources, even unintentionally. Footnote or identify the source of any(!) thought or idea that you did not think of yourself, or that you found in another book, and which you incorporate into your paper--whether or not you actually quote it exactly. Even if you paraphrase an idea found elsewhere, you should footnote it and provide the source. It is good writing, and it does not detract from your work.

If you quote something, footnote it! If you paraphrase it, footnote it!
13.Follow Turabian's styles precisely for proper spacing, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, etc. All good word processing programs will number and place footnotes automatically; however, you must type them according to the correct style. You might need to adjust the document preference commands of your software to ensure that the format for numbering and placing notes conforms to that of Turabian. There is no excuse for not using proper format. If your software cannot prepare the notes automatically, then change to software that can.
14.Follow prescribed formats for quotations and proper quotation marks. Quotations of sources must be set off with double quotation marks ("Four score and seven years ago. . ."). Quotations within quotations are set off with single quote marks within the double marks (e.g., "Abraham Lincoln wrote, 'Four score and seven years ago, . . .'").
  1. If the quotation of a primary source is more than two lines long, then format it as a block quotation, rather than in-line with quotation marks; see Turabian, 5.4, 5.30-34, for the proper form of block quotations (see below, no. 15 for more information).
  2. Quote from as many primary sources as you require to illustrate your argument, but do not quote more than necessary, especially to meet a minimum page requirement.
  3. Limit the number of direct quotations of secondary sources, which are the synthetical studies of other historians. Except for short quotes directly pertinent to your point, you should, otherwise, paraphrase these sources and footnote them in the text.

III. Using Quotations Properly

15.Use quotations of primary texts and secondary sources to prove specific points that you make, or else to provide specific historical examples as proofs of your assertions. In general, make a point, then use a direct quotation or a paraphrase to corroborate that point. Take care about how you integrate quotations into your sentences and into your words. Avoid starting sentences with your own words and then finishing with someone else's words. Do not do this, unless you explicitly identify the author of the quoted words, e.g.:

POOR:Pope Urban II traveled throughout Gaul working "to free the churches of the East."1
BETTER:Pope Urban II traveled throughout Gaul working, as he later wrote, "to free the churches of the East."1

The papacy was very active in promoting the crusade, so Pope Urban II himself wrote, "we visited the regions of Gaul and devoted ourselves largely to urging the princes of the land and their subjects to free the churches of the East."1

Pope Urban II wrote that he himself traveled all through Gaul promoting the crusade to free the Eastern churches.1 (as a paraphrase)

Quotes are better used as nuggets of ideas that are physically offset from your text to exemplify or prove your assertions. Beware of integrating a quote-fragment into the flow of your own words, without explicitly identifying the author there. It is often best to frame each quotation with an introductory sentence or clause. In this case, always provide the name of the author of the quote, either in the sentence itself or in the reference note, e.g.:

POOR:The Christians asked Saladin if they could remain in their houses, "and he granted them this."1
BETTER:Saladin permitted the Palestinian Christians of Jerusalem to remain in the city unharmed, so Ibn al-Athir wrote:

The latter [i.e., the non-Frankish Christians] had asked Saladin's permission to remain in
their houses if they paid the tax, and he granted them this, so they stayed.1

The last example employs a block quotation (see above no. 14a). According to Turabian's Manual, 5.4, block quotations are required when a quotation includes at least 2 sentences running 8 or more lines of text.. However, Turabian also allows a shorter quotation as a block for comparison or emphasis. Therefore, for the purposes of this paper, use a block quotation for a quote that is two lines or longer. A block quote is double indented; i.e., it is indented one-half inch from both the left and right margins. Alternatively, the block may be indented one-half inch from the left margin only (and flush with the right margin). BEWARE: Never center the individual lines of a block quote on the page!
16.Always place footnote numbers at the end of quotations never at the front. Footnote reference numbers always occur at the end of a quotation, whether it is an in-line quote or a block quotation (e.g., see below, no. 33, c).

IV. Writing Issues

17.Do not write the way you speak. In your writing, try to cultivate a style that is more formal than everyday speech. Writing is not the same as speaking. Spoken ideas can only be reclaimed through memory (without a recording), but written ideas can last indefinitely. Since writing has a longer life than speech, it must be more carefully considered than speech. Styles of casual speaking are often influenced by the ephemeral, i.e., pop expressions and turns of phrases might be understandable only during the short times in which they are in popular use, e.g., "the sailor with his shiner leeched . . ." (meaning what?). Write for the ages; write so that a person 100 years from now will understand you. Write for the future. However, do not be stilted, pompous, or affected in your writing.
18.Historical writing is best done in the third person. Do not write in the second person ("you", "your"), and NEVER(!) address the reader directly. Where possible, avoid writing in the first person ("I", "we", "us", "our"). Instead of saying, "What I want to do is...," or "The purpose of my paper is...," it is better to write, "The intent of this paper is...." Avoiding the first person, except where absolutely necessary, preserves a sense of objective detachment in your historical analysis. Good historical narrative addresses the situation directly without reference to the reader or to yourself as author.
19.A good paper always contains three parts: (1) an introduction, (2) the text [argument and evidence]; (3) a conclusion.
  1. Write an introduction and conclusion. Always include introductory and concluding paragraphs. Usually, they do not contain any citations or references.
  2. The introduction of the paper should always include your thesis statement, i.e., the central issue or assertion you intend to prove or demonstrate in your paper. Hence, the introduction should clearly state the purpose of your paper, the theme and focus of your argument, and what you expect to find. It is helpful also to include a statement on your methodology, i.e., a general description of your method, how you expect to prove your point, the manner in which you will procede, the kinds of sources you will present, etc.
  3. The body of the paper contains the presentation of your evidence, the arguments built around the primary texts and secondary sources, and the analyses associated with them.
  4. The conclusion of the paper should be a summation of your proof, and a statement of its general meaning and significance--tied to the purpose stated in your introduction (your thesis statement).
  5. Never introduce a new idea in the concluding paragraph.
  6. The content of the last paragraph (the conclusion) should mirror the first paragraph (the introduction) in light of the material in between them.
  7. It often workd to write or finalize the introduction only after writing the body of the paper and the conclusion.
20.Prepare successive drafts of your paper. It should always be your habit to write a paper in successive multiple drafts, at least a first draft and a final copy, although two drafts would be better before the final copy. Drafts help to crystallize ideas, get them down on paper, and to organize them in the most effective manner. Ideas need time to percolate and develop! First and second drafts allow you the opportunity to make additions, deletions, and corrections, as well as to reflect on your arguments and make improvements (both textual and grammatical). Do not wait until the night before to write your papers; it always shows! Never-ever submit a copy that you have just printed without reading over it--no matter how hard pressed for time you are!
21.Always proofread your paper before submitting it. If necessary, make any minor, last-minute corrections cleanly(!) in ink. A few clean handwritten corrections can be tolerated, but more than a few are signs of poor planning, at best, and laziness and slovenliness, at worst, which will hurt your grade. If there are more than a few isolated handwritten corrections, then type the corrections and reprint the affected pages.
22.Avoid anachronistic writing. An anachronism is anything incongruous or inappropriate for the time period of your subject, e.g., referring to the "firepower" of Bronze Age armies (since cannon, guns, or Greek Fire did not exist then), or cigarettes in the time of King Arthur, etc.
23.Be consistent in the spelling of foreign names. Often there are different English conventions for transcribing the same foreign names and terms, e.g.: Muslim/Moslem, Qur'an/Koran, Ramesses/Ramses. Each of these pairs of spellings is correct. You should choose one particular spelling convention and stay with it consistently. You should not use two or more variant spellings of any word in your paper.
24.Avoid excessive writing and verbiage. Write only what is required to make your point; do not be verbose (too much writing) or redundant (repetitive), e.g., ". . . close relations from the initial beginning . . ." (ugh!). Do not pile on many words clumsily where only few words, crisply stated, say the same thing. Always proofread your writing with an eye to streamline your wording (e.g., see the samples below, nos. 25 and 26).
25.Use clear straightforward simple declarative sentences. Write in full sentences only, not sentence fragments, e.g., "Because Ramesses II escaped with his life." Avoid run-on sentences. Do not be afraid to break up complicated ideas into several shorter sentences. Avoid obtuse and abstract writing, e.g.:

POOR:An early expectation of the conquest of Carthage was indicated by the Senate.
BETTER:The Senate indicated it expected to conquer Carthage early.
26.Do not use the passive voice, except when absolutely necessary. It is good historical writing to use simple declarative sentences in the active voice. The indeterminate passive voice can be too undefined and indefinite. It indicates fuzzy thinking by the writer; it distances the writer from the material, and it does not engage the reader, e.g.:

POOR:It has often been found that the advice of many educators has been influenced by a religious philosophy. Ties can be related back to religious foundations through which the advisor was inspired
BETTER:Often the religious philosophies that inspired educators have also influenced their own advice.
27.Do not use "like" for "as" and "such as" or "just as" or "as if". One of the worst errors in writing is to confuse the words "like" and "as". They are not the same, and they are not interchangeable. The use of "like" for "as" in colloquial speech is common, although it is a sign of sloppy articulation). However, in formal writing, it is erroneous and can indicate weak thinking.

INCORRECT:"Law codes did exist, like the Code of Ur-Nammu."
CORRECT:"Law codes did exist, such as the Code of Ur-Nammu."
INCORRECT:"It was just like she said." || "He did like he was told."
CORRECT:It was just as she said. || "He did as he was told."
INCORRECT:"He carried on like he was king of Egypt."
CORRECT:He carried on as if he were king of Egypt.

28.Avoid inappropriate compactions of words. Do not abbreviate phrases and sentences by awkwardly compacting words, e.g., "Levant-descended populations," for "populations descended from the Levant." This type of compression is difficult to read and reflects a fear of using words. As a student, your stock in trade is words.
29.Use only the past tense in your writing. Do not shift verb tenses between the past and present or future. There will be almost no instance in which you would employ the present and future tenses to explicate historical processes. However, you might otherwise use the present tense only to make generalizations when drawing a conclusion.
30.Never address the reader in the second person. Historical writing is written properly only in the third person (he/she/it/they/one/his/her). Never use the second person (you/your), unless it is part of a quotation. Avoid referring to yourself as author in the first person (I/me/we/us/our) where possible.
31.Avoid weak phrases and weak words. Do not use weak phrases such as: "it has been found that . . . ," "it turned out that . . . ," etc. Such phrases imply mushy thinking and weak command of your sources. Be concise in your wording. Also, avoid starting sentences with the following words:

"it" ("it was a mistake"), unless it refers to a specific antecedent;
"there" ("there was no reason for . . ."), unless referring to a direction ("There stood Ramesses among the Hittites");
"this/that/these/those" ("This made it a total Egyptian defeat"), unless it precedes a noun to which it refers ("This error accounted for the Egyptian defeat").
32.Be conscious of correct spelling. Proper spelling is a factor in grading your writing. If you are uncertain of your spelling, consult a dictionary. Words often are not spelled the way that they are pronounced, especially if they are pronounced incorrectly(!), e.g.: "purposed" for "proposed," "tenancy" for "tendency," "pichares" for "pictures." Where appropriate, use the spell-check facility in your word processor. Admittedly, it might not help in spelling foreign or ancient names. So you always need to be conscious of your spelling. If you do not catch your spelling mistakes, your reader will!
33.Do not use any abbreviations or contractions. In formal historical writing, it is incorrect to write abbreviations, e.g.: St., Jan., 2nd, and so forth (except those specifically recognized for academic writing, so: A.D., B.C., ca., e.g., etc., ibid., i.e., p., and so forth--see Turabian). Likewise never write contractions, e.g.: it's, doesn't, didn't, wouldn't, hadn't, etc.
34.Be conscious of proper punctuation, spacing, and spelling conventions. See Turabian for all the proper conventions and formats of punctuation, spacing, spelling numerals, etc.

  1. Place periods at the end of all sentences and, according to American convention, inside all quotation marks, e.g.:

    CORRECT:"Saladin captured Ascalon."
    INCORRECT:"Saladin captured Ascalon".
  2. However, place the question mark inside a quotation only if the quoted clause happens to be the question. If the sentence containing the quote is the question, then place the question mark outside the quotation:

    Quote is the question:The queen enquired flatly, "where is the king?"
    Sentence is the question:Did the queen really say, "the king has departed"?

  3. Footnote-numbers go outside of periods and quotation marks, not inside, e.g.:

    CORRECT:Nero married Octavia.12 -- or -- "Silence gives consent."12
    INCORRECT:Nero married Octavia12. -- or -- "Silence gives consent"12.

  4. Never put a space before periods, commas, colons, semicolons, footnote-numbers, dashes, etc.
  5. Separate sentences with two spaces after the period, not one space.
  6. Spell out all cardinal and ordinal numbers up through 100 and whole numbers above 100, e.g.: two, fifty-five, thirty-third, six hundred (not 2, 55, 33rd, 600). For all other numbers above 100 and for numbers in series, write them numerically (see Turabian, 2.29-43, for rules and details).
  7. Always write "ca." (abbreviation for circa, "around") before all year dates that are not precisely known, as well as all ancient dates B.C., e.g., "Ramesses II ascended the Egyptian throne ca. 1279 B.C."

V. Grammatical Issues

35.Do not employ the comparative without including what you are comparing it against. In a statement of comparison, always include reference to what it is that the subject is being compared to, otherwise the statement is incomplete, e.g.:

POOR:"Caesar was a greater commander." (question: than whom?)
BETTER:"Caesar was a greater commander than his contemporaries."
36.Avoid splitting your infinitives, except where appropriate. An infinitive is formed by prefixing the preposition "to" before a verb, e.g., "to wound," "to open," etc. One splits an infinitive by placing an adverb between the preposition and the verb, e.g., "to mortally wound," "to quickly open." Although split infinitives are common in casual speech, they are undesirable in formal writing, unless not to split results in ambiguity or is clearly artificial, e.g.:

POOR:Parliament's desire was to mercilessly suppress all opposition. [split]
BETTER:Parliament's desire was to suppress all opposition mercilessly. [unsplit]
BETTER:The minister's desire was to further cement political relations. [split]
POOR:The minister's desire was to cement political relations further. [unsplit]
37.Do not dangle your participles. A participle is an adjective form of the verb that modifies a noun and which can take objects and qualifiers just like a verb. A participle can be present or past tense (e.g., signing = present participle; signed = past participle), so: "hastily signing the confession, he sealed his fate," or "having signed the confession, he sealed his fate." The participle is signing/signed, and it modifies he, which performs the action of signing. Participles must always modify the one performing the action of the participle. When a participle is improperly separated from the noun or substantive it modifies, it becomes a dangling participle. Dangling participles usually occur at the beginning of sentences, where they result in great ambiguity (i.e., for everybody except the writer!) and they betray the writer's fuzzy thinking and uncertainty, e.g.:

POOR:In researching the data, the information became clear that . . . . [= a dangling participle]
BETTER:In researching the data, the scientist discovered that . . . .
BETTER:Researching the data clearly revealed that . . . .
In the first example above, information is not performing the research. The writer must mean the person who performed the research, although that person is unmentioned, and is, hence, detached from the participle. The sentence is clumsy and unclear, but it can be repaired by stating who is performing the research ("the scientist," and that is the subject of the sentence). In the third example, researching the data is a noun clause standing as subject of the sentence.

VI. Seeking Help

38.If you find it necessary, do seek help and advice from competent authorities. Students who have serious difficulties understanding any of the issues above related to writing and formatting (including grammar) should visit the Writing Lab for help and advice.

The Writing Lab also distributes a number of informative handouts that History students might find useful, including:

  • "Writing a History Paper: Transforming Facts into Evidence and Evidence into Argument"
  • "Writing Effective Titles"
  • "Framing Quotations"
  • "Coherence and Flow: Making Your Writing Readable"
  • "Turabian Guidelines" (n.b.: not a replacement for Turabian's Manual!!)

Questions related to thinking issues, research direction and methodologies should be directed to the instructor.

updated: 12/10/2015