H 202

Guide to writing essays

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This is a guide to some of the basics of essay-writing, written for students in the University of Botswana History Department course H202 (Modern European History).

Course lecturer: Dr B. S. Bennett (email: bennett@mopipi... [Click here for full email address])


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An essay is a piece of formal written composition. Essay-writing is an important part of most humanities subjects. Although different subjects may have different conventions, rules and styles for essays (and these conventions should be carefully followed), the basic skills of essay-writing are common to all these subjects. Essay-writing is taught directly in English classes, and you should try to apply what you learn in these classes when writing essays in other subjects, including history.

Part of the importance of essay-writing is that you are learning how to study information, analyse it in terms of specific questions, and present coherent logical answers. A humanities graduate is not merely someone who knows facts about history, literature, etc., but a person who has been trained in skills of analysing and dealing with problems. Essay-writing is an important part of this training.

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Answering the question:

Essays are marked according to how well you answer the question. It is no use giving an answer to some other question, as this is irrelevant. For example, if you are asked about the causes of the First World War, it is not relevant to describe the effects of that war. Marks may be deducted for irrelevancy, so it is not merely useless but actually harmful to include irrelevant material. You must answer the specific question. Read the question carefully, and think what it means. There will probably be key words which limit the subject and tell you how to discuss it. Do not simply interpret it as "Write everything you can think of about..." By answering the question you will show that you understand the subject.

Concentrate on analysis rather than narrative. The point of the essay is for you to interpret and explain events, not to narrate them. A narrative of events will usually show very little about your understanding; what the marker wants to discover is what you have to say about these events. Sometimes you may need to narrate events in order to answer the question, but be very cautious of giving long narratives. Ask yourself "Is this really necessary in order to answer the question?" You may assume that the marker is already familiar with the events.

One type of question which sometimes confuses students is the question which gives a statement, in quotation marks, and then asks you to comment on it. For example:

"The unification of Germany in 1866-71 was essentially a Prussian takeover." Discuss.

The statement is intended as a starting point, and you are supposed to comment on it. In this example, it means approximately the same as "How far would it be true to say that 'The unification of Germany in 1866-71 was essentially a Prussian takeover'?" It is important to note that the statement is not necessarily a good one. Sometimes it will be a valid historical statement, but sometimes you will be given a statement which is incomplete, or only partly true, and you will have to explain why it is unsatisfactory. In answering a question of this sort, you must decide how far you agree with the statement. By giving your assessment of the suggested statement, you will show your understanding of the subject.

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Plan your essay:

It is very important to plan the structure of your essay. Write a plan of the essay before writing the first draft. This will help ensure that you include all the points you need, and that they are arranged in a logical order. An essay is not simply a list of separate ideas and facts, it is a piece of communication and argument. Students sometimes imagine that as long as they know the vital facts, the way these facts are presented is not so important, but this is a serious mistake. The discipline of history is not so much about knowing facts as about making sense of them, and so it essential that your essay is a clear, coherent, and unified presentation of a case. (Of course, you have to know the facts in order to make sense of them! Knowing the facts is necessary, though not sufficient.) Make use of what you have been taught in English courses about essay-writing.

This applies also to examination answers. In examinations and tests time is short, but even so it is essential to spend a few minutes drawing up a plan for your answer, to ensure that it is complete and follows a logical order. Of course examination answers are inevitably less well-planned than essays, but you should try to achieve as well-organized an answer as possible.

To summarize: ORGANIZE! Two students may write essays using the same information, but one will get a mark of 62 whereas the other will get 82. The difference is that one has just repeated data while the other has organized the material to produce an argument. Writing good essays could greatly improve your academic record.

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An essay is a piece of formal academic writing, and should be written in complete, formal sentences. Contractions such as "don't", "wasn't" etc. are informal and should not be used. Take care with your spelling and grammar. Check the spelling of unfamiliar words and names.

Abbreviation Abbreviations such as "USSR", "RAF" may be used, but do not use the sort of abbreviations which are used in taking notes. In particular, the practice of writing a number inside a large "C" (see illustration) is an informal abbreviation, which is useful in making notes but which should not be used in essays. Write "nineteenth century" or "19th century".

An essay should communicate clearly and directly to the reader. Apply what you have learnt in English classes. For example, pay attention to paragraphing. ("The paragraph is essentially a unit of thought, not of length." - Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words (Harmondsworth: Penguin, rev. ed., 1983) p. 258.) Try to write simply: in English, the use of simple language to convey difficult ideas is regarded as a mark of superior ability.

It is not usually appropriate to write "I think", "in my opinion" etc. The entire essay is by definition your opinion. What is important is the reasons you have for your statements. Present an argument, using evidence, to support a conclusion.

Figures: use words for small numbers, figures for large numbers. Do not write a number in both words and figures, i.e. do not write "He had a force of five hundred (500) men". The use of both words and figures is normal only in commercial writing, or other cases where it is extremely important that a number is read correctly (e.g. when writing a cheque). It is not normal in historical writing (or indeed in ordinary English).

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Spelling etc.:

Take care with spelling, especially with unfamiliar or foreign words. A few words which are often spelt wrongly:

privilege (NOT priviledge)

integrate (NOT intergrate)

dominant (NOT dorminant)

in fact (two words, NOT infact)

in spite of (NOT inspite of)

Kaiser (NOT Kaizer, unless you mean the football team rather than the German Emperor)

Use British rather than American spelling. If in doubt about usage, ask for help.

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A length limit will be stated, and should not be exceeded. Excessive length is likely to be penalized.

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Use of books:

Students sometimes imagine that they must consult as many books as possible so as to produce a long bibliography. In fact, however, what is important is how well you can answer the question. It is good to read widely, but first you should make sure you understand the basic books. Apart from the textbooks, books will be recommended to you and in most cases placed on reserve. Of course you are not limited to these books - the whole library is there for your use - but remember that the recommended books have been chosen to help you gain a good grasp of the subject, and you are expected to use them. Generally you should start with the textbooks and other basic sources, before looking at difficult, specialized, or controversial works. You should indeed read widely, but it is better to read a few relevant books and understand them than to use more books superficially.You should aim to read both widely and deeply.

Think about books which you use. Not all books are necessarily of equal value for any particular subject. For example, look at the date of publication. In some cases, old books may be less useful because historical research has discovered new evidence since they were written.

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Care of books:

Books are expensive and must be treated with care. If looked after well, they will last for many years. Many of the books in the Library are "out of print", which means that they are no longer available from publishers, and therefore cannot easily be replaced if lost or damaged. It is very important that you take care of library books, so that they will continue to be of use to students in future years. Protect them from rain, food and drink, etc. Never write in a library book or mark it in any way.

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Taking notes:

Your notes will be the basis of your essay and of your later revision for examinations, so it is important that they contain all the essential information. If you take complete notes, you will not need to refer back to library books (which may be difficult to get close to the exams). Even in the case of your textbooks, it is better to make notes from the book and use these rather than working directly from the textbook. Many people find that the act of making notes is a powerful way of fixing the information in your mind - merely reading a book without making notes is less effective.

When you take notes, begin by noting the book's full bibliographical details, that is, the author, title, place and date of publication etc. As you make notes, write down the page number you are working from, in the margin. You need the page numbers for two reasons: firstly in case you need to refer back to the book, and secondly in case you need to make a footnote reference. In general, try to avoid copying down the words of the book: note down the main relevant points briefly and in your own words. You may find it helpful to read a page or a few paragraphs at a time before trying to "boil it down" into your own words. If you do copy down the exact words (for example if you intend to quote them), mark this clearly so that you will not mistake them for your own words. Failure to do this is a common cause of accidental plagiarism (see below). For example, one way of marking such an extract in your notes is to draw a box around it, labelled "QUOTE". Decide on a way of marking direct quotations and stick to it.

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(See more detailed notes on footnotes below).

In essays written for this course, references should be given in the traditional footnote form, as in the following examples:

Books: Author, title (underlined or italics), place of publication (city), publisher, and date of publication, page.

J. Joll, The Origins of the First World War, (London: Longman, 1992) p. 43.

Articles: Author, title of article (in quotation marks), title of journal (underlined or italics), number and date of journal, page.

Paul W. Schroeder, "Did the Vienna settlement rest on a balance of power?", American Historical Review, vol. 97, no. 3 (June 1992) p. 685.

  1. The "author/date" system of reference, in which the first example would appear as "(Joll 1992: 43)" is not usual in political history, and should not be used in this course. Ideally, footnotes should appear at the foot of the page, but in a handwritten essay it is acceptable to put your notes at the end.
  2. Underlining is equivalent to italics, and is used in hand-written manuscript or with typewriters or old printers which can not produce italics. Use underlining in handwritten essays; use italics in word-processed essays.

Apart from direct quotations, footnote references are also used when you are referring to published work, for example after a statement such as "Schroeder argues against the theory of a balance of power." References are also used when you wish to indicate the source of your information. You should give references for statistics,.but you do not need to give references for common historical facts such as "In 1914 the First World War broke out."

In printed books, footnotes are also sometimes used to add extra information which the author did not think was important enough to put in the main text. This use is not normally appropriate in essays.

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At the end of your essay, you should give a bibliography listing the books and articles which you have used, whether or not you have actually quoted from them; that is, those from which you have taken notes. List works in alphabetical order by author, in the same form as footnote references. This is a list of works that you have used; that is, those from which you have drawn your material for this essay. Irrelevant books should not be listed.

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Quotations can be helpful, but many students over-use them. In particular, quotations from secondary sources are often over-used. Quotations from primary sources may provide evidence for your arguments, but quotations from secondary sources are less likely to do so. (The marker wants to read your argument, not the words of some textbook-writer.) Before putting in a quotation, think whether it serves it any purpose. If you were asked why you had included this quotation, would you be able to give a good reason? Copying passages from textbooks without a good reason creates a bad impression on the marker, and suggests that you have not digested the material. If you do have a reason, then use the quotation. One test is to imagine that you were talking to someone about the essay topic: would you pick up the book to quote the exact words?

NB: the usefulness of quotations varies greatly between subjects and even between different courses in the same subject. In some courses you may be encouraged to use quotations, in others discouraged. Your lecturer will have reasons for this - different subjects are different and require different methods. Is this "inconsistent"? Of course not. Would you think it was "inconsistent" if you were told not to use a cricket bat in a soccer game? If in doubt, ask.

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It is very important that your essays are your own work. When you quote the words of another writer (that is, from a book, the Internet, etc.) you must clearly indicate that it is a direct quotation by placing it in quotation marks and give the source in a footnote reference. Long quotations are indicated by indenting the passage instead of using quotation marks, but again the source must be indicated by a footnote.


Copying from a book without indication is PLAGIARISM; that is, presenting another writer's work as your own. This amounts to cheating and is a serious offence which may lead to disciplinary proceedings. The point of an essay is for you to give your analysis. You should take pride in expressing your conclusions.


Plagiarism can occur accidentally due to careless note-taking (see above). You should take great care to avoid this. Strictly speaking, such carelessness is not an acceptable excuse for plagiarism. At best, the accidental plagiarist is in the embarrassing position of having to prove that he or she was incompetent rather than dishonest.

Occasionally students write essays which consist mainly of quotations. This does not actually constitute plagiarism (provided of course all the quotations are acknowledged) but it will be marked as a bad fail. Such an "essay" is not really an essay at all. The student has not submitted an essay of his or her own, but a collection of other people's writing. Students may do this because of lack of confidence in their English or their writing skills, but any essay of your own is better than a collection of quotations. If necessary, ask for help.

It seems that many students are not clear on the issue. In the recent public debate on education (Wednesday 20 September 2000) several students expressed bewilderment about complaints of plagiarism. They said that it was no different from lecturers who quoted sources in books, and expressed unhappiness at the emphasis placed on plagiarism. It seems to me that these comments, which show a serious misunderstanding of academic work, clearly indicate that we lecturers have not succeeded in communicating what the issue is about, and why it is important.

If you are unsure in any way about what plagiarism is, or about why it matters, please see me or another lecturer.

Ultimately, if you commit plagiarism, you are the loser. Although essays count for a small amount as CA, 60% of your final mark is the examination, in which of course you have no books available. Essays are mainly a way for you to practise and get feedback from your lecturer, so that you can learn. Plagiarism may possibly help you get a few extra marks in the essay (which counts for only a very little in your final mark) but at the expense of denying yourself useful practice and feedback which would help you in the final exam. It is like cheating in a soccer practice - not a sensible thing to do if you want to win in the real game.

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A procedure for writing essays:

You may find the following procedure useful as a technique for writing essays, particularly in examinations when time is limited. There are, of course, other ways of planning essays but many students find it helpful to practise a particular technique and be familiar with it.

  1. Read the question carefully and think about what it means.
  2. Write a paraphrase of the question as your opening paragraph, saying what the question means and what is required for an answer.
  3. Write a plan of the essay, as rough notes. Note down the main points you intend to make in answering the question as you have defined it.
  4. Look at the paraphrase again, and think about the plan you have just written. Does it give an answer to the question? If not, start again with writing your plan. If it does, begin to write your essay, following the plan you have worked out.

The point of this procedure is to make sure that your essay is a structured answer which answers the question.

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Practising for the examination:

When you have revised your subjects, get copies of previous years' examination papers from the Library and try answering a few questions. Set yourself an hour (or however long you will have in the examination for each question) and write an answer without referring to your notes, just as you would in the actual examination. This has two purposes. Firstly, it helps you practise the procedure of analysing the question, planning an answer, and writing an essay according to the plan. Secondly, it helps you to see whether you have in fact got a good grasp of the subject.

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When an essay or assignment is set, a deadline will be specified. Essays must be handed in on time. Unless an extension has been granted, late essays will be penalized. This is a matter of fairness: it is not fair to the student who submits his or her essay on time if other students are allowed longer.

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Extensions must be obtained before the due date if possible, and will only be given for exceptional and documented reasons such as illness. Extensions will not be granted simply because you have not finished. It is your responsibility to plan the use of your time, and the fact that you have other assignments or tests is not considered grounds for an extension.

Do not leave your preparation to the last minute, when the reserve books will be in heavy demand. Instead, start reading for your essay as soon as it is set. Read with the essay question in mind, though you need also to gain a general grasp of the subject for the final examination (in which, of course, a different question will be asked).

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Footnotes and bibliography

Notes for H202, March 2000

When you quote from a published source, you must give a citation; i.e. an indication of where the quotation comes from. There are several systems of writing citations. In most types of history the usual form is the footnote system, and this is the system you should use in all History courses unless instructed otherwise.

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"Author-date" references

In many subjects, a system of reference called "author-date" reference is used. In this, a citation looks like this: (Nyrere 1967: 22) The reader looks up the list of books at the end and finds the book with the author Nyrere which was published in 1967. The reference is to page 22.

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Why do we not use this in History?

The author/date system is convenient where all references are to published secondary sources, which can be assumed to be all of similar value. This situation, though normal in the natural sciences and common in archaeology, is not normal in mainstream history. Historical writing often refers to a wide range of different types of source: books, private letters, oral interviews, official records, etc. The author-date system cannot cope with most of these, whereas the footnote system is almost infinitely flexible - it is a far more powerful system. Also, the serious reader needs to refer to footnotes to assess the information being used.

Another way of looking at it is this: in science subjects, the new information in an article will be the results of experiments, etc., and citations are merely to refer to other work on the subject. But in History the new information will be in the form of sources which need to be referenced. Hence the need for a more powerful reference system than the minimal author-date system. Subjects that do not need a powerful system use the simple but limited author-date system; subjects that do need a powerful system use footnotes.

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Different systems:

There are a number of different systems for writing footnotes. However, in any one class you will be required to write according to one specified system. This is not a matter of pedantry: it is a part of the process of gaining mastery over the process of writing, which is a key skill for Humanities students. Thus, in this course you must write footnotes as specified below, and not according to any other system.

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Indicating quotations:

A quotation must be indicated, that is, it must be clear which words are quoted. For short quotations, this is done by enclosing the words in quotation marks. For long quotations (i.e. those of about three lines or more), it is done by indenting the passage.

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Giving the source:

At the end of the quotation, you must place a footnote marker. Usually this is a number written above the level of the line. (Never below.) It is acceptable in hand-written essays to write the number in brackets at the same level as the text, e.g. "Here is some text (22)" although this may be better avoided as it can lead to confusion. The number corresponds to the footnote which appears at the bottom of the page (in hand-written essays it is permissible to put the notes at the end of the essay).

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Example of a short quotation:

Tshekedi Khama clashed with Rey in 1933. When Tshekedi reportedly had a white man flogged, Rey "interpreted it as an act of rebellion".5 This led to Tshekedi being temporarily deposed.

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Example of a long quotation:

In 1933 there was a serious clash between Rey and Tshekedi.

When Rey heard about the 'flogging' of a white man in an African court, he interpreted it as an act of rebellion by Tshekedi. British sailors and marine soldiers were rushed up the railway from Capetown to Bechuanaland. South Africa offered troops and even a bombing aircraft to help.5

Tshekedi was deposed, but Rey had to reinstate him only three weeks later.

Notice that, whether by quotation marks or indenting, it must be made clear where the quoted words start and stop. If you do not do this, then you are claiming the words of someone else as part of your essay, which is plagiarism.

The footnote marker here is the small "5" at the end of the quotation. This refers the reader to note 5. Note 5 would look like this:

5. Neil Parsons, A New History of Southern Africa, (Harare: College Press, 1991) p. 263.

To write footnotes and bibliography, you need to get the bibliographic details from a book when you take notes. You will usually find these on the title page of a book and on the imprint page (usually the other side of the title page). For example, consider the following:

[Title page:]

A New History of Southern Africa

Neil Parsons
The College Press

[Imprint page:]

Copyright © Neil Parsons 1982

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without permissiom.

First published 1982.

This edition published and distributed in Zimbabwe by The College Press (Pvt.) Ltd (1984) in association with Macmillan Education Ltd.

Reprinted 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 (twice), 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991. Printed by Mazongororo Paper Converters, Harare.

ISBN 0 86925 537 1 (Zimbabwe)

The information you need is:


  1. The publisher is the company which handles the business of publishing the book. It is often different from the printer, the company which actually produces the physical object. You want the publisher, not the printer. The publisher's name is given in the short form which appears prominently ("The College Press", "Macmillan", etc.), not the full legal title ("The College Press (Pvt.) Ltd ").
  2. The place of publication is the city, not the country.
  3. You do not need the ISBN, which is information for ordering a particular edition of a book from a bookseller. (One book can have several ISBNs, while older books printed before the system was invented have none.)
  4. The library shelf mark (e.g. 968PAR) is not part of the bibliographical details needed for the footnote, and should not appear in the footnote or bibliography. However it is useful to record it in your notes for your own use, to save time next time you want to find it.

The footnote is constructed as follows:


First reference: Author, title (underlined, or italics if available), place of publication, publisher, date, page reference.

Example: J.K.Nyerere, Freedom and Unity: A Selection from Writings and Speeches, 1952-65 (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1967) p. 196.

Subsequent references: Author (surname only unless ambiguous), abbreviated title (underlined, or italics if available), page reference.

Example: Nyerere, Freedom and Unity, p. 50.

Points to note:

  1. In the author's name, the initials of first names come before the surname.
  2. The abbreviation for "page" is "p." (not "pg.") The abbreviation for "pages" is "pp." (In printed books you will sometimes see the "p." or "pp." omitted altogether, but it is included in our format.)
  3. The "place of publication" is the name of the city where the book was published. In most cases the name of the city alone is sufficient, e.g. London, Cambridge, New York, Cape Town, Gaborone etc. Sometimes it is desirable to include additional information such as the name of the country. This may be appropriate
    1. when the name alone would mislead or be ambiguous, e.g. "Cambridge, Massachusetts"; "Hamilton, New Zealand"
    2. when the city may be unfamiliar to readers, e.g. "Metuchen, New Jersey".
    But you should not include it where it is unnecessary, as with Gaborone, London, New York, etc.
  4. The "date of publication" is the date at which the copy of the book you are using was produced. You may sometimes wish to give the date of first publication as well. For example, consider this reference:
    "John Mackenzie, Ten Years North of the Orange River (2nd ed., London: Frank Cass, 1971) (first published 1871), p. 91."
    If you had given the date as 1871 it would mean you were quoting that edition, but the page numbering might be different in that edition, and someone looking up p. 91 in that edition would not find your quotation. So you give the date as 1971, the date of the edition you are using. However, it is worth noting that the book was actually written a hundred years earlier.
  5. Books often have a title in two or more parts, a title and a subtitle. For example, a book by Thomas Tlou has the title A History of Ngamiland 1750 to 1906. Underneath is written the subtitle The Formation of an African State. You should write out the full title, but separate the parts by colons, i.e.: A History of Ngamiland 1750 to 1906: The Formation of an African State.
  6. Underlining is equivalent to italics. Underlining is used in handwritten work, or when a typewriter or word-processor does not have italics available.
  7. Note the punctuation to be used. In our system it is "(Place: Publisher, date)".


First reference: Author, title of article (in quotation marks), title of journal (underlined, or italics if available), volume/number and date of journal, page reference.

Example: A. Nsibambi, 'Some Reflections on the Uganda Independence Constitution of 1962', The Uganda Journal, vol. 39 (1980) p. 288.

Subsequent references: Author, abbreviated title of article, page reference.

Example: Nsibambi, 'Uganda Independence Constitution', p. 288.

Where an article is in a book, the title and bibliographic details of the book should be given, in the format for books:

Example: M. Odell, 'Local Government: Tradition and Modern Role of the Village Kgotla', in L. Picard (ed.), The Evolution of Modern Botswana (London: Rex Collins, 1985). Subsequent references: Odell, 'Local Government'.

Unpublished sources such as dissertations, seminar papers etc:

First reference: Author, title (in quotation marks), description of the document, date, page reference.


Q.N.Parsons, 'Khama III, the Bamangwato and the British with special reference to 1895-1923' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1973) p. 200.

D. Wylie, ' "The Centre Cannot Hold": The Decline of the Ngwato Chieftainship 1925-1950' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Yale University, 1984) p. 254.

P. Monnatsie, 'The Growth and Spread of Religious Sects in Kgatleng: the case of the Zion Christian Church 1933-77' (unpublished B.A. dissertation, University of Botswana, 1980).

Bob Hitchcock, 'The Future of Remote Area Development in Botswana' (unpublished seminar paper, read at National Institute of Research, 2 July 1988).

(Note that the title is not underlined, as it is not a published item.)

Subsequent references: Author, abbreviated title (in quotation marks), page reference.


Parsons, 'Khama III', p. 201.
Wylie, 'The Centre Cannot Hold'.
Monnatsie, 'Religious Sects in Kgatleng', p. 10.
Hitchcock, 'Remote Area Development', p. 3.


Where a book consists of pieces by several authors, it will usually be referred to by the title and the editor's name. The format is the same as for other books, but '(ed.)' is put after the editor's name to indicate that this is an editor rather than an author. For more than one editor, use '(eds)'.


First reference: F.Morton and J. Ramsay (eds), The Birth of Botswana: A History of the Bechuanaland Protectorate from 1910 to 1966 (Gaborone: Longman, 1987)

Subsequent references: Morton and Ramsay (eds), The Birth of Botswana.

Works by more than one author: Where there are two or three authors, give all the authors' names.


First reference: R. Molefi, F. Morton and L. Ngcongco, 'The modernists: Seepapitso, Ntebogang and Isang', in F.Morton and J. Ramsay (eds), The Birth of Botswana: A History of the Bechuanaland Protectorate from 1910 to 1966 (Gaborone: Longman, 1987) pp. 11-29.

Subsequent references: Molefi, Morton and Ngcongco, 'The modernists'.

Multiple authors:

Where there are more than three authors, all the authors' names should appear in the first reference, but in subsequent references only the first name, followed by et al. (a Latin abbreviation meaning "and others").


First reference: P. Curtin, S. Feierman, L. Thompson and J. Vansina, African History (London and New York: Longman, 1978), p. 10.

Subsequent references: Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.

All authors' names must be given in the Bibliography.

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Where to put footnotes:

The ideal place for footnotes is, as the name suggests, at the foot of the page. If you are word-processing your essay, then (if you enter the footnotes correctly) this will be done automatically. See our page on word-processing history essays for detailed instructions on how to enter footnotes in MS Word. It is very important that you know the correct method before you start as incorrectly-entered footnotes have to be re-done laboriously one at a time.

If you are writing your essay by hand, then it is acceptable to put the notes as end-notes at the end of the essay. However, there is a fairly easy way of adding them at the foot of pages.

  1. When you mark a reference in the text, write the footnote neatly on a piece of scrap paper to see how many lines it will take up.
  2. Make a pencil mark at the bottom of the page setting aside that many lines.
  3. When you reach the upper-most pencil mark, start a new page and write the footnotes in order at the base of the page just finished.

For example:

Try it and see. This method enables you to write the notes in order at the bottom of each page without wasting space.

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Further points:

Italics versus quoation marks for titles: If a title is in italics, then the item is a separate published work (e.g. a book, or a journal). If a title is in quotation marks, then it is not a separate published item - either it is not published (e.g. a thesis) or it is not a separate publication (e.g. an article in a journal or a chapter in a book).

Op. cit.: The Latin abbreviation op. cit. ("in the work cited") is used in some footnote systems, but is not used in ours. I.e., do not use it.

Ibid.: The Latin abbreviation ibid. ("the same") is used when a footnote is the same as the one immediately before it. Consider this example:

6. Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid. p. 14.
9. Parsons, 'Khama III', p. 201.
10. Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.

Note 7 is "Ibid." This means it is exactly the same as the one before, i.e. it means "Curtin et al., African History, p. 12". Note 8 is "Ibid. p. 14" This means that it is the same as the note before except that the page number is different. In note 10 the note has to be written out again, as an ibid. would now refer to note 9, a different work.

Ibid. is useful when you have a long list of references to the same thing. However it can lead to errors if you are not careful. In essays you can use ibid. if you like, but you do not have to. Thus, the following would also be correct:

6. Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.
7. Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.
8. Curtin et al., African History, p. 14.
9. Parsons, 'Khama III', p. 201.
10. Curtin et al., African History, p. 12.

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At the end of your essay, you should give a bibliography listing the books and articles which you have used, whether or not you have actually quoted from them; that is, those from which you have taken notes. List works in alphabetical order by author, in the same form as footnote references. This is a list of works that you have used; that is, those from which you have drawn your material for this essay. Irrelevant books should not be listed.

Write the entries in the same form that you would use for footnotes, except that the surname comes before the initials; e.g.
Nyerere, J.K., Freedom and Unity: A Selection from Writings and Speeches, 1952-65 (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1967).

B. S. Bennett, 1996 - 2000

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Copyright © 1999 -2000 Bruce Bennett
Last updated 7 March 2001