History 1301/1302 (Haney)
Suggestions for Studying for and Taking the Second ExamBelow are some more suggestions, based upon what I encountered in the course of grading the first midterm. It would also be a good idea to review the suggestions from the first exam.
1. Make sure that the main theme (as you have defined it with precision in your introductory paragraph) is carried through the rest of the essay. Many essays contain strong evidence of students' thorough preparation for an exam, but the material used in the various paragraphs often stands alone, or is only briefly connected to the topic's main theme (usually at the end of the paragraphs, instead of at their beginnings). Always be sure to target that theme with every paragraph's chosen body of specific evidence. Again, topic sentences are crucial. (See #2.)
2. Avoid narrative descriptions of the course material. Use topic sentences consistently in order to prevent them from happening. This means that you should do everything possible to avoid simply reciting sequences of events, story plots (if any), or extended sequences of developments from the lectures. Instead, start every paragraph with a topic sentence that is related to the topic's main theme, and then carefully select from your available factual evidence that which best supports that topic sentence.
For example, if you were to start a paragraph with the topic sentence, "Thomas Jefferson's policies were thoroughly consistent with republicanism," you would then be in a good position to selecting particular policies of Jefferson's to use as evidence. On the other hand, if you started with examples of those policies, it would be difficult for you to know when to stop, and the reader would wonder what your larger point was.
We've all experienced conversations in which someone embarked on an extended description of an event or experience without giving any indication of how it fits into the conversation as a whole, or how it is related to any issue raised in the conversation. We then feel like stopping the person speaking and asking, "What is the point of all this you're saying?" In every paragraph of your essay, you will avoid this situation by stating the main point of your paragraph at the beginning of the paragraph.
3. Nothing that is important to the building of your argument can be left implicit. Convey your ideas and evidence as though you are doing so for a friend or relative who doesn't know the material. The person grading your essay cannot be certain that you know to apply a certain concept or piece of evidence to your argument unless it is actually on the paper. This doesn't mean that you should plan to write an encyclopedia's worth of factual material, but that you should make explicit everything upon which the strength of your analysis depends. A common tendency is for students to assume that the person grading the exam "knows where the essay is going" and therefore doesn't need the key arguments to be developed as fully as possible. While the first part may be true, the second simply leaves the reader with the sense that the student wasn't sure how to develop the arguments fully.
4. Use the language of the topic in articulating your ideas. Each topic is carefully worded so as to give you a good idea of how to shape your arguments. Take full advantage of this by actually using the terms and phrases within the question to construct those arguments. This approach is particularly important in those instances in which a topic deals with an abstract concept, like republicanism.
5. Define terms, especially if those terms are central to the key issues within the topic. Terms like "republicanism," "federalism," and "nationalism" (HIST 1301) or "cultural vacuum" and "liberalism" (HIST 1302) need to be defined very carefully, in historically-appropriate ways, when they are used in these essays. If they aren't, the arguments they are being used to construct are incomplete, because the writer has not persuaded the reader that he or she has used them correctly. Also, be on the lookout for terms with ambiguous meanings.
6. You can express your personal opinions about the material -- just make sure that you are still addressing the topic as you do so, and that you are supporting your opinions with evidence. There is a difference between analysis and editorializing, and history essays require the former.