Frequently Asked Questions about the 460
Kelly Roark, Fall 2005
Do we have to do
Answer: Yes. BUT, remember
that your place is your most important source. You should be “reading” the landscape. The foundation of this assignment is to write your own speculative
environmental history. Your job is to
explain how a place came to be. You
should use *some* research, preferably including primary sources. Solely focusing on library research, however,
will miss an essential part of the assignment. Look at the papers on-line to see how other folks balanced research and
their own interpretations.
What is the difference between a primary
and a secondary source?
Primary sources are informational sources from the time of the event. Examples
of primary sources: autobiographies, diaries, letters, objects from the time, oral
histories, photographs, historic maps. Primary sources are from the past.
Secondary sources are informational sources that analyze the event. These
sources often use several primary sources and compile the information. Secondary sources are about the past.
I have never used
citations. Do we have to use them?
Answer: Yes. Please
use a standard, professional citation format. I would prefer that you use the Chicago Manual of Style format with
footnotes or endnotes, but any professional citation format will work (MLA or
APA, for example). Use quotation marks
and citations for all sources, including lectures, books, pictures, maps,
interviews, newspapers, etc. If you
still aren’t sure what to do, go to the writing center and pick up one of their
guides to using citations. Or, you can
get citation information on-line: http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/Documentation.html
I have selected a place, but what should I
Answer: Whatever you want. Creativity and originality will be rewarded. Be careful not to try to cover everything that is special or
interesting about your place. Look at
the papers on-line for inspiration. Also, this assignment is about showcasing your writing style and your
ability to tell an interesting and persuasive story. Think about what questions you want your
place paper to answer. Think about what
themes of the course you will engage in your paper. Think about how you can structure your paper
around cool sources you found. Also,
read and re-read the very lengthy description of the paper assignment in your
syllabus. It is full of suggestions and
ideas for how to go about writing your place papers, how to structure an
argument, and how to get an “A” on the paper.
Your silly page limit is cramping my
style. Can I go over it to demonstrate
my prowess as a writer and my mastery of the environmental history of my place?
Answer: No. The page
limit, while not a strict absolute, is designed to force you to be clear and
concise. It is also designed to prevent you from
covering too much in your paper. Focusing on a few things – rather than many unconnected things – will
make your paper better. Exceptions: if
you are including pictures, maps, or other such sources in your paper that push
your paper over the page limit, we will make an exception.
I’m more of an “ideas” person. Are you going to grade my writing?
Answer: Yes. Unlike
the blue book exam format, you actually have time to spell check, construct
grammatically correct sentences, and give significant thought to the structure
of your paper. Presenting your ideas in
a clearly organized manner is part of the assignment.
Avoid passive voice. Examples:
Mistakes were made. The railroad was
Edit your paper carefully: to avoid misused words like
there, their, and they’re.
Use the past tense when talking about things that happened
in the past.
What is the
required format of the paper?
Answer: Your paper must be typed. It must be DOUBLE SPACED. Please use an easily readable font – no
smaller than 12 pt size. Please feel
free to include pictures, copies of maps, or any other materials. I cannot accept electronic versions of your
Make sure you have a solid thesis statement
and build your argument throughout the paper. If you want more information on this topic, try one of the following web