Historical writing is largely a literary discipline. Therefore, many of the conventions of literature are also those of history. However, historical writing is limited by that which can be proven. Unlike a novel, a work of history cannot be fictional. Although some facts have to be inferred from the other evidence, they are nevertheless facts. The opinion of the writer is not valid unless it is substantiated by the facts he or she uses in the paper.
The obvious question that results is: what can we in the Writing Center do to aid student writers in the production of historical writing? I believe that each tutor should examine this project, and copies of good and bad historical writing, along with commentary, should be placed on the web for both tutors and writers to use. In addition, it would be a good idea for the Writing Fellows assigned to history classes to inquire with the individual professor as to which aspects of historical writing.he or she feels are most important, since each faculty member whom I surveyed emphasized different points. Although it is very likely out of print, I would recommend that the Writing Center acquire a copy of How to Study History. I found it to be most helpful, especially for undergraduate historical writing. Perhaps the most important sections of the book could be placed on the web, provided that copyright law is not violated.
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