A Short Guide to Writing about History is a book written by Richard Marius and Melvin page. It stresses on thinking and writing like a historian and helps one frame their concepts while telling their story in history. These renowned writers wrote the fourth and fifth editions of this book with their sixth edition covering more on plagiarism, use of internet technology and evaluating the material used in writing.
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The author expounds more on the concept of history not being a matter of facts and date but that it should be viewed with a historian’s mindset. For any research or historical papers this book is of great help. The author emphasizes on analyzing the sources of material one uses to distinguish the vague from correct ones, and secondary from scholarly works.
The book outlines some of the basic principles for history essays. It gives significance to use of good grammar, cohesiveness, and use of footnotes, especially to new students who are not well acquainted with writing styles. The flow of chapters is well organized enabling one to find subject discussions with ease.
The book addresses more issues of the 21 century writer. “Writing in an Electronic Age”, use of technology has been addressed unlike the previous editions. Owing to the fact that the internet is becoming a dependable source of information the author has explained how to evaluate information online. He has categorical dealt with the challenges as a historical writer and how to avoid plagiarism.
The author has extensively used sample writing to support his argument. He cites the pros and cons in every example thus giving the reader a clear picture of what he is talking about. As a result, this makes it easy for other people including those who are less concerned with historical concepts to relate to it. In “Documenting Sources” he has put in good use of notes and bibliographies.
The author has obtained his primary objective of helping his readers research and compose any historical subject. He has dealt with the planning, formating, layout and presentation of a historical paper. However this does not go well with some people who think that some part should have been left to the English lessons and that the book should have touched more on the core concepts in historical writing.
One weakness I noted I concur with Martin:
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“.. the author advocates the use of paper notes. As has been seen with many professional academic historians lately, the use of paper notes can end up costing the writer dearly, particularly with the use of a large amount of sources. He should have included a section on how to use a data base or other computerized note taking system.”
His sources of materials are extensively researched and are reliable. He has put a preface from his previous third edition to notify the readers who are not acquainted with his previous work, it lays an outline on what to expect on the edition in question.
In summary the book is easy to read and understandable, there is no use of jargon. Historians and other scholars my find it useful in preparation of how to present a historical paper or subject especially to those with no prior knowledge about historical matters.
Marius, Richard & Page, Melvin A Short Guide to Writing About History, 6th ed. New York: Longman, 2007.
Christopher J Martin, “Consumer Reviews”, Short Guide to Writing About History, A ( 6th edition), 2008. Web.