Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student in the field of History, chances are, you will have to write. And write. And write! Incoming students to the discipline sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount they are expected to communicate through writing.
One of the first questions you may have is how can you handle the workload? And beyond that, how can you excel at writing as a history student? Each student develops their own systems and methods to achieve effective writing. To get you started, here are some fantastic writing tips from History faculty and students from the University of Central Florida.
- When you are writing, “you have different audiences. You have to address these audiences. Are you writing these things for the specialist in your field who knows you are using jargon? If you have a wider audience, you have to be as open as possible.” – Dr. Hakan Özoğlu
- “Do more writing. The best thing you can do if you’re struggling with something is to revise, revise, revise…Don’t be afraid of your writing issues. No one is a perfect writer.” – Dr. Daniel Murphree
- “My advice is to think of writing as a process. The only way to become a good writer is continue writing, revising, and re-writing…There are many self-help books but my favorite two books about writing are William Zinsser, On Writing Well and Joseph Williams, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace.” – Dr. Yovanna Pineda
- “Do what I can a ‘boiler plate.’ Almost the minute a student starts a paper, they should set up a draft of it, with the main things they have to have in a paper…You’re writing as you go along.” – Dr. Barbara Gannon
- “Graduate students should read…Elements of Style by Strunk and White, On Writing Well by William Zinsser…and Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. These three works are a good introduction to how to think about your writing objectively and how to edit your papers.” – Daniel Bradfield, Graduate Student.
- “Go to the writing center, they will give you great advice and help.” – Daniel Velasquez, graduate Student
- “Communicate with your professors. If your grades do not meet your expectations, ask your professors if there is something that is missing…Professor feedback will be the first step in understanding where to find the weaknesses.” – Drew Fedorka, Graduate Student.
- “Learn how to plan well. I use the program XMind (a mind-mapping program, which is free) and I organize every single paper on there…By organizing, it makes it much easier to actually write.” – Leanne Wiggins, Graduate Student
- “Cite as you go, never afterwards or “later.” Learn how to use Zotero early on.” – Kendra Haze, Graduate Student
- “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Utilize the skills built during undergraduate work and then build upon those practices to accommodate for the demands of graduate school.” – Meghan Vance, Graduate Student
If you are looking for more tips, check out this guide on reading, writing, and researching for history.
The University of Central Florida’s Writing Center also has some great resources for students new to university-level writing. Visit the writing center today!
How about you? What writing tips and suggestions would you have for other history students? Leave your comments below!