History majors can plan on doing a substantial amount of writing over the course of their four years at Colby.

Historical research depends heavily on the writing that people in the past left behind for us to read and interpret. The written word is also the primary means by which historians communicate the findings of their research to others. Good, clear, precise, and concise writing is an essential component of the discipline.

History faculty regularly assign a variety of different sorts of papers in their classes, including response papers, journals, short essays, longer essays, book critiques, historiographical analyses, research proposals, research projects, and so forth. History faculty also evaluate student writing thoroughly. Be sure that you pay close attention to, and make a point of learning from, the comments your professors make on your papers. Doing so will significantly improve your writing.

Good writing takes time, hard work, careful planning, and a willingness to spend time revising and editing your drafts. Polished writing is the final product of a process that may begin with something as simple as jotting down your ideas in a random way. But the benefits of working your way steadily through this process are great: your ability to write well will make you a much better communicator, and will be a great advantage to you when you head out on the job market, in whatever field you choose to pursue.  

Commit to learning how to write well!

Here are links to some guidelines from Colby’s History Department faculty that you may find useful (click to download files)

Writing Guidelines (Josephson – Microsoft Word)

Writing Guidelines (Scheck – Microsoft Word)

Writing Guidelines (Taylor – Microsoft Powerpoint)

Writing Guidelines (Leonard – Microsoft Word)

When in doubt, please consult the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the style guide for the American Historical Association. You can consult it online through the Library here.

The History Department faculty take an extremely dim view of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, and are vigilant about uncovering them. For the College’s statement on plagiarism and academic honesty, please go here. Go to this page for the Library’s guidelines on information literacy. For individual faculty policies on plagiarism and academic dishonesty, please consult your professors personally.