Guide to writing history essays



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A final point …
ALWAYS PROOF READ YOUR WORK
C. Footnotes and endnotes
1. Basic rules
1.1 When sitting down to write your history essay, you will turn to the material you have collected during your research in relevant books, articles and other sources. As this material is incorporated into your essay—whether in the form of direct quotations, paraphrases or statistical or other data—you will need to provide references to show the reader the sources for your information. These references both acknowledge that the information was first put forth by someone else and provide evidentiary support for the claims your essay is making. A clear reference points the reader to the exact place where the information in question may be found and allows readers to assess the strength of the evidence for themselves. While there are a number of different styles of referencing used in the social sciences, for all of them the critical point is that references must be clear, precise, complete and consistent.
1.2 The most common system of referencing for writing in history, and the one used in the History Program at Murdoch University, is generally known as the ‘Cambridge system’ or the ‘footnotes/endnotes’ system. Your essay should employ either footnotes or endnotes for its references. The difference between the two is simply one of where the references appear. Footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page to which they refer. Endnotes are collected on a separate page at the end of the essay, titled ‘Endnotes’ (not ‘References’ or ‘Citations’ or anything else!).
1.3 Footnotes or endnotes should be indicated by a superscript number placed at the relevant point in the essay. Notes should be numbered consecutively throughout your essay, starting from 1 and should go at the end of the sentence and after the final punctuation—like this.27

It is not good practice to have two citation marks immediately next to each other—like this.21 22 Instead, it is fine to group several references in a single footnote or endnote, if they combine to support the assertion being made in the essay text. These references should be separated by semi-colons.


1.4 All the information in references should be given exactly as it appears in the original source: for example, the names of authors and the titles of books should be given exactly as they appear on each book’s title page. If you have consecutive references from the same work, you may replace the second and subsequent consecutive references with the Latin abbreviation ‘Ibid.’ (which means ‘in the same place’). For example:
1 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 100.

2 Ibid., p. 102.
However, it is worth noting that the use of ‘Ibid.’ is going out of fashion in current historical practice. Thus, the guide below suggests that you employ the more commonly used system, which is to give a shorted version of the author’s name and the title of the source for all references after the first one.


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