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Writing Across the Curriculum

HIE 305: Golden-Age Spain
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Amanda Wunder

Role of Writing

Historical writing tells stories about the past, explains how and why events took place as they did, and interprets historical sources so that we can understand them in the present day. History is done through writing at all stages of the process. A historian writes informally for him- or herself when taking notes on readings, jotting down new ideas that come up in presentations or conversations, and working through arguments. The professional historian turns those notes and ideas into formal pieces of writing that will be read by an audience, such as a grant application requesting funds to support research or a journal article that presents the findings of that research in final form. When writing books and articles, the historian has a great deal of latitude to develop a personal style but always hews to a common code of professional scholarship. This includes the careful use of sources and the honest attribution of other people’s research and ideas, which are credited in footnotes or endnotes. These citations invite readers to explore the sources firsthand and to contribute to the historical debate through their own writing.

This is a writing-intensive class in which students will be introduced to historical writing through low- and high-stakes writing assignments. Ungraded writing includes responses to readings, drafts of major papers, and in-class writing exercises. These assignments are designed for students to generate ideas for discussion, work through arguments, and keep a record of what they have learned. Students will share drafts of their writing with their peers in writing workshops and will receive feedback from the instructor before they revise drafts for a grade. Final papers submitted for a grade are expected to be very carefully edited and should represent each student’s best work. These papers should demonstrate a convincing argument based on primary-source evidence and are expected to meet the standards of professional historical writing. Students will use footnotes to cite their sources in all of the major paper assignments; this is a technical skill that we will develop in class. We will also work together on avoiding plagiarism when using print and internet sources. Overall, the writing assignments in this course are designed to help all students, whatever their skill level, to improve their writing so that they will be able to complete their college writing assignments with less anxiety (and avoid procrastination); write with greater skill, precision, and style; and express themselves clearly and logically through writing that communicates their original historical arguments based on their own analyses of historical documents.

Disciplinary Writing

There are three major graded paper assignments of increasing length and complexity, which will be based on drafts and shorter, ungraded pieces of writing done in and outside of the classroom. Through these assignments, students will work through the process of historical writing, including the following elements:

  • Analyzing primary source documents.
  • Making connections between primary sources and historical context.
  • Engaging in historical debates.
  • Developing an argument in the form of a thesis statement.
  • Supporting that argument with quotations and examples from primary sources.
  • Citing sources with Chicago-style footnotes.
  • Revising writing in order to improve communication with readers.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

  • Read carefully and take notes on all assigned primary sources prior to class discussions.
  • Participate actively in class discussions about the sources.
  • Complete all drafts and graded paper assignments on time.
  • Work with peers in the classroom to develop, improve, and support each other’s writing through writing workshops.
  • Participate in classroom writing activities (for example, developing thesis statements).
  • Ask for clarification when needed on historical content or assignment instructions.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

  • Discuss writing assignments in class before they are due in order to address students’ questions and clarify the faculty’s expectations.
  • Connect course content to the primary source readings and to the writing assignments.
  • Devote significant class time to discussing primary sources in order to develop students’ analytical skills.
  • Guide writing workshops for students to share their writing with one another.
  • Work with students in class on crafting their thesis statements.
  • Teach students how to avoid plagiarism and how to cite sources with footnotes.
  • Provide written comments on student drafts with specific suggestions for revision.
  • Discuss writing assignments after they have been completed in order to assess the challenges that students confronted and the successes that they achieved.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

  • All work must be original and written in the students’ own voice, with Chicago-style footnotes employed whenever another author’s words or ideas are used.
  • Successful student papers will focus on the primary sources and engage deeply with them.
  • A clear thesis should be stated in the introduction and then be supported by evidence in the body of the paper.
  • Historical terminology learned in the course should be incorporated into students’ writing.
  • Students’ papers should convey their accurate understanding of the historical context in which the primary source documents were produced.
  • Clarity of expression and technical correctness of writing play a critical role in assessment.