You may pick any technology or aspect of engineering in which you might have some interest and write about its history. Your paper ought to define the technology/engineering and give its rich historical significance placing it into a broader context. To do this well you are required to consult no fewer than four quality sources outside the assigned class materials.
Write well. That which is written in haste is read without pleasure. I have provided writing tips to consult below. Assume, since I made the tips, that I will be annoyed if I read your paper and see contractions, first-person pronouns, etc. Remember too that the Writing Center is your friend. Use them. Each campus has one. The paper is to be original to this class – not a recycled paper from a previous class.
Logistics: Eight-page essay (cover page and works cited page do not count towards the eight pages). Double spaced. Pages numbered. Cover page with name. No fewer than four quality non-class material sources. Wiki sites, about.com and encyclopedia sites will not count towards the three needed “outside of class” sources. Craft a strong thesis statement. Write well.
1) Do not use the first-person pronouns- we, I, us. Avoid things like, “I will show that…” or “We can see…” Similarly, avoid using “you.” The author cannot assume anything about the reader that would warrant the use of that pronoun. Remember too that “we” does not equal “Americans.”
2) Avoid contractions at all times. You may say “don’t” and “can’t” in conversation, but ALWAYS spell it out when writing a paper.
3) Write about past events in the past tense, not the present.
4) Provide citations every time you use information or ideas from another author. If you do not, it is called plagiarism. Although historians use the Chicago Manual of Style, I will accept APA or MLA, so long as you are consistent. Or simple parenthetical citations if explicitly stated in the instructions.
5) Avoid using absolutes. Words such as “always” and “never” are sweeping generalizations and there is a good chance that there is an exception to your rule. Also, avoid “obvious” and its derivatives. If something is obvious, then you have no need to state it.
6) Do not use questions in a paper. You are writing to inform your reader, not to ask the reader questions- even rhetorical questions.
7) Do not use “tech report writing” format. Your paragraphs should be indented and there is to be no extra spaces between paragraphs – write just like your history books look.
8) Avoid colloquial language, clichés, and slang terms. You are writing a paper, not graffiti. It is best to leave a conversational style of writing for the email.
9) Learn punctuation, especially the use of commas and semicolons. They are not arbitrary marks to be used at whim.
10) Learn the difference between “there” and “their.” They are not interchangeable. Same goes for “lead” verses “led.” (Look up the history of why Led Zeppelin spelled their band that way.)
11) Learn the correct use of apostrophes, especially the difference between “its” and “it’s.” The second is a contraction of “it is,” while the first is the possessive of “it.” In other words, the following is correct: “The United States Navy used its trained crabs to win the war, and it’s a good thing.” Of course, as per rule # 2, you would not use “it’s” in a paper because it is a contraction.
12) Avoid the passive voice. If you are writing, “would” or “could” you most likely are writing in the passive voice. The active voice makes for a more assertive paper. Something like “The United States Navy used its trained crabs” is active voice, whereas “The United States Navy would use its trained crabs” is passive voice. (See The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. for an excellent explanation of passive and active voice- you can find it on-line if you do not own a copy.)
13) Quotations should be used as evidence to reinforce your points. You should give both a voice to the quote (As the historian Eric Foner explained, “….”) and explain in your words the importance of that quote to your reader. Also, end a paragraph in your own words, not someone else’s. Do not over quote. The reader wants to read your words and voice. Quotes should always be from experts. Don’t quote long passages of your textbook. If you do use block quotes, look up the format.
14) Book titles are in italics or underlined. Articles are in “quotation marks.”
15) Think about AUDIENCE. You are not writing directly to me. Your roommate, your spouse, or another college student should understand your paper. Therefore explain, prove and analyze. Saying things such as, “in the textbook…” or “as we learned on the discussion board…” or “as it was said in class lecture…” will leave the general reader confused.
16) Above all else, organize beforehand and PROOFREAD afterwards. Silly mistakes easily corrected if proofread greatly take away from a well-argued paper and will lower your grade. So never hand in a first draft.
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