Style and Citations

Old School Metadata

Clear writing and documenting sources are the hallmark of good history. This page should be used with the Guidelines for Writing Papers.

Historians tend to favor a style that is straight-forward, expository, with citations in the form of footnotes or endnotes. Appropriately, it can seem a little old fashioned. While formal notes, either footnotes or endnotes, can seem cumbersome, even clunky, they have an internal logic that can make it easier to understand the information.

Historians strive for clear and concise prose and research that others can understand by reading the notes. Another way to think about it is that the citations are where you find the metadata explaining the historians sources. Metadata is data about data. We see it everywhere. For our purposes in a history class, metadata is the information about the primary and secondary materials that allows readers to see your research and, if they wish, to recreate your research by examining the same materials.

Notes are often part of the argument. In the citations, you can see who the historian is arguing with, explanations regarding sources, and other points that don't neatly fit into the prose. Like the introduction to an academic book, citations often reveal a great deal about the historians intent and method.

Historians, as a general rule, have a few classic works to guide them in their research and writing:

  • William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style

  • Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher

  • Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

There are a great many more current books covering these topics, but these classics can frame the way we ask questions, research answers to the questions, and write the answers.

First Stop

Friedsam Memorial Library where you can use Noodle Tools to manage citations and bibliographies

Style Guides

The Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource. It has a section specifically for non-Purdue students that includes citation guides for most styles including Chicago. The Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab has a YouTube channel, including a video explaining the basics of the Chicago Style (see below).

Citation Machine: Write Smarter Cite Accurately is a commercial service on a freemium module. Coates Library at Trinity Citation Machines, with advice and instructions on using software to generate citations.

Calvin Colleges History Department Quick Guide for Writing Papers It contains short examples of Chicago style citations.

How to Write a Research Proposal

Writing a Research Proposal

How to Write a Paper Topic Proposal and Thesis Statement

Citation Tools


Creating a bibliography with Zotero

How to add a citation in Microsoft Word

How to add a citation in Google Docs