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Reference History Essay Sample


Writing a History essay is not just about writing a narrative, biography or chronology of an event, person or period of time: It requires the construction of an argument in answer to the question posed. During research for your essay you will find that the evidence may suggest several answers to the question. You will therefore form your own opinion through evaluation and analysis of sources and this will be the basis of the argument put forward in your answer.

It is because of the emphasis on evaluation and analysis in the writing of history, that it is essential to acknowledge sources used in your work through the use of a referencing system. In the Department of Modern History either footnotes or endnotes are necessary, using the Chicago referencing style.

Study Abroad students are expected to conform to this system unless otherwise notified.

Why reference?

  • It shows the person marking your work the sources that you have been accessing.
  • It establishes that your argument is one formed by knowledge of a range of authors' opinions - use of this knowledge will make your argument stronger.
  • It allows the reader to quickly identify and verify the sources you have used.
  • Most importantly, it is how you recognise your intellectual debt to others.

When to footnote

  • It is essential to footnote when you are making use of someone else's words, information or ideas as evidence for your argument.
  • Failure to acknowledge this in your own work amounts to plagiarism, i.e., presenting another person's work as if it were your own.
  • It is simply not acceptable to plagiarise, and any piece of work found to contain it will be failed automatically. For more information on Macquarie University's policy on plagiarism go to
  • Plagiarism can be avoided by using sources correctly.

Using sources in your essays
If you use another person's ideas or information in your essay then you need to acknowledge this use through referencing. Such material may be included in the following ways:

  1. Direct Quotation

This is when you use the author's exact words. The authors words must be placed in quotation marks, with a footnote number at the end of the quotation.

  1. Paraphrase (indirect quotation)

This is when you rewrite someone else's ideas in your own words. The footnote number is placed at the end of the sentence, after the full stop.

  1. Summary (indirect quotation)

This is when you make reference to an author's ideas or argument. Again, the footnote number is placed at the end of the sentence, after the full stop.

Quotations of more than forty words should be indented using single spacing, without quotation marks, with the footnote provided at the end of the paragraph after the full stop. For example:

Some sources suggest that Britain was interested in colonizing NSW for commercial purposes; none of the plans for settlement of NSW, official or unofficial, omitted to mention trade or resource considerations.1

To indent a quotation:

Highlight the words you want to indent. Go to the Format menu and select Paragraph. Choose the Alignment - Left. Under Indents and Spacing adjust the Indentation for at least the left by the required length, for example 1.5cm. Check line spacing is set to single, then click on OK. You will need to reinstate normal format settings once you have created the indentation.

Other sources that need to be referenced

  • Images, figures, tables, graphs, maps and diagrams, frame enlargements from films.
  • Information from lectures - the lecturer's words, notes taken during the lecture, information from slides and overheads.

What does not need to be referenced

  • Common knowledge - information that is general and well known, that is, in the public domain. For example, the Second World War ended in 1945.
  • Your own ideas, arguments and visual materials.

Ask the unit convener for advice if you have any doubts about whether to reference or not.

Preparing footnotes

  • Footnotes appear at the bottom of each relevant page of your essay, whereas endnotes are located at the end of the document.
  • Sometimes because of lack of space at the bottom of a page, Word will move footnotes over to the next page. Do not worry if this happens.
  • Titles of books, journals, etc. can either be underlined or written in italics, but not both.
  • Punctuation and the use of capitals are important in footnotes, so pay attention to this in the examples below.

How to create a footnote or endnote using Microsoft Word
Go to the Insert menu and select Footnote (or in the 2003 version click Reference). Choose footnote or endnote. For endnotes you will need click on the options button at the bottom of the box and choose 1,2,3, in the number format, then press OK. Make sure the numbering is continuous and applies to the whole document.

Additional material in footnotes

The Department of Modern History discourages the placing of non-bibliographical material in footnotes, as this indicates lack of editing and an attempt to get around the word limit. An exception is the inclusion of a translation of material included in the main text.


Different sources require different formats when creating footnotes as the examples below will show, but generally you need to include the following information:

Name of author
Title of the source
Name of the city and publisher of the source
Date of publication
Page number(s)

1 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
(Note that book publication details are placed in brackets in footnotes.)

Books with two authors
2 Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941 - 1945 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 30.

Books with four or more authors
3 Patricia Grimshaw et al.Creating a Nation (Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1996), p. 79.

Multivolume work
4 Winston Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples, vol. 2, The New World (London: Cassell, 1956), p. 124.

Translated book
5 Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. R. Brown Grant (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999), p. 48.

Chapter in an edited book
6 Gareth Williams, "Popular Culture and the Historians," in Making History: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline, ed. Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), p. 260.

Journal articles
7 M.N. Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys," Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): p. 127.

Conference papers
8 Tony Dingle and Seamus O'Hanlon, "Space For Your Imagination: De-industrialising and Re-imagining Inner Melbourne c1970-2000," in Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Environment, Proceedings from the 8th Australasian Urban History/ Planning History ConferenceWellington, NZ, 2006, eds. Caroline Miller and Michael Roche, (Palmerston North, N.Z: School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University,  2006), pp. 409-412.

Electronic journal articles
9 Georg Iggers, "Historiography from a Global Perspective," History and Theory 43, no. 1 (2004),, p. 149.

Encyclopaedia and dictionary entries

10 Murray Goot, 'Askin, Sir Robert William (Bob) (1907 - 1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, 17 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007), pp. 35-40.

Book reviews
11 Colin Seymour-Ure, review of World War II in Cartoons, by Mark Bryant, History Today, 55, no. 9 (September 2005): p. 55.

Unpublished manuscript material
12 John David Booth, Papers, 1984-1990, MLMSS7332, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Government Publications
13 Cumberland County Council (NSW), The Planning Scheme for the County of Cumberland, New South Wales/ the report of the Cumberland County Council to J.J. Cahill, 27th July 1948, Sydney, 1948, p. 2.

Statistics from ABS
14 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Labour Market Statistics April 2003, Cat. no. 6105.0, Canberra, 2003,

Information from a lecture
15 Jane Smith, "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century" (Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005).
16 Jane Smith, "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century" (Lecture slide, Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005).

Theses and dissertations
17 Robert Firestone, "The Australian Garden City: a planning history 1910-1930" (Ph.D., thesis, Macquarie University, 1984), p. 12.

Internet sources
References for internet sources must give the author and/or title of the material and the URL (website address) to enable the reader to find the source easily. It is optional to provide the date on which you accessed the source online. Not all website sources are reliable - for guidance on how to assess sources on the internet go to Macquarie University Library's
'Evaluating Information on the Internet' at

18 "Australians at War: First World War 1914-1918," Australian War Memorial, available from

Audio-visual sources
19 Steven Spielberg, Schindler's List, (Universal Pictures, 1993)

Note that the inclusion of the production or distribution company is not compulsory. If you

are engaged in intensive film analysis it will be of great assistance to the reader of your work if you specify the chapter or minute mark.

if you specify the chapter or minute mark.

Newspapers and magazines
20 M. Lake, "The Howard History of Australia," The Age, August 20, 2005, p. 5.

For articles with no listed author:
21 "History with a Raw Edge," Sydney Morning Herald, November 10, 2003, p. 12.

If you access the newspaper or magazine online you must include the URL address.

Citing a source read in another source
22 Paul Keating quoted in Richard Connaughton, Japan's War on Mainland Australia 1942-1944 (London: Brassey's, 1994), p. 11.

Images, figures, maps, and other visual material
Every image, figure or map used should be provided with a caption naming the source of the illustration and title:

From a book:
Map: The Religious Complexion of Europe in the Period c. 1555-8
Source: Euan Cameron, The European Reformation, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

For works of art include the name of the artist and title of the work and source:

Herbert Badham, The Swimming Enclosure, 1941. Source: State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Note that these sources do not need to be included in your bibliography.

Second and later references
After the first, full reference of a source you can then use an abbreviated version in your footnotes or endnotes. In the example below, footnote 25 is abbreviated because the source has already been cited in footnote 23. Similarly, footnote 26 is an abbreviation of the source cited in footnote 24. Note the difference in the abbreviation of a book and a journal article:

23 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
24 M.N. Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys," Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): p. 127.
25 Ryan, The Cartographic Eye, p. 67.
26 Pearson, "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist," p. 131.


Use Ibid in your footnotes when the source you are citing is the same as the one cited in the immediately preceding footnote:  

23 Simon Ryan, The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 45.
24 Ibid., p. 67.


At the end of your essay list all the books, articles and other sources that you have cited in alphabetical order by the author's family name. You can divide the bibliography into sections, i.e. primary and secondary sources.

Note that a bibliography is required in addition to references (footnotes or endnotes). Formats used for bibliographical entries are different from those used for references.

Ryan, Simon. The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers saw Australia. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Books with two authors
Bayly, Christopher and Tim Harper. Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941 - 1945. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.

Books with four or more authors
Grimshaw, Patricia, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, and Marian Quartly. Creating a Nation. Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1996.

Multivolume work
Churchill, Winston. A History of the English Speaking Peoples. Vol. 2, The New World. London: Cassell, 1956.

Translated book
de Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Translated by R. Brown Grant. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999.

Chapter in an edited book
Williams, Gareth. "Popular Culture and the Historians." In Making History: An Introduction to the History and Practices of a Discipline, edited by Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield. Abingdon: Routledge, 2004, pp. 257-268.

Journal articles
Pearson, M.N. "Pilgrims, Travellers, Tourist: the Meanings of Journeys." Australian Cultural History 10 (1991): pp. 125-134.

Conference papers
Dingle, Tony and Seamus O'Hanlon. "Space For Your Imagination: De-industrialising and Re-imagining Inner Melbourne c1970-2000." In Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Environment, Proceedings from the 8th Australasian Urban History/ Planning History ConferenceWellington, NZ, 2006, edited by Caroline Miller and Michael Roche. Palmerston North, N.Z: School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University, 2006, pp. 401-412.

Electronic journal articles

Iggers, Georg. "Historiography from a Global Perspective," History and Theory 43, no. 1 (2004) pp. 146-154.

Encyclopaedia and dictionary entries

Goot, Murray. 'Askin, Sir Robert William (Bob) (1907 - 1981)'. Australian Dictionary of Biography, 17. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007. pp. 35-40.

Book reviews
Colin, Seymour-Ure. Review of World War II in Cartoons, by Mark Bryant. History Today 55, no. 9 (September 2005): pp. 55-56.

Note that for the bibliographical entries for chapters, journal articles and electronic journal articles you need to include the full page range of the text, whereas footnotes and endnotes just require the page number from which you are drawing the cited information.

Unpublished manuscript material
John David Booth, Papers, 1984-1990, MLMSS7332, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Government Publications
Cumberland County Council (NSW). The Planning Scheme for the County of Cumberland, New South Wales/ the report of the Cumberland County Council to J.J. Cahill, 27th July 1948. Sydney, 1948.

Statistics from ABS
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Labour Market Statistics April 2003. Cat. no. 6105.0. Canberra, 2003.

Smith, Jane. "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century." Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005.
Smith, Jane. "Women Politicians of the Twentieth Century." Lecture slide, Macquarie University, NSW, March 7, 2005.

Thesis and dissertations
Firestone, Robert. "The Australian Garden City: A Planning History 1910-1930." Ph.D., Thesis, Macquarie University, 1984.

Internet sources
"Australians at War: First World War 1914-1918." Australian War Memorial.

Audio-visual sources
Spielberg, Steven. Schindler's List. Universal Pictures, 1993.

Newspapers and magazines
Lake, Marilyn. "The Howard History of Australia." The Age, August 20, 2005.

For articles that do not list an author, put the name of the newspaper first:
Sydney Morning Herald, "History with a Raw Edge," November 10, 2003.

For further information on referencing and compiling bibliographies, including sources not mentioned here, the following books and resources will be useful:

  • Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History, 8th edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001)
  • Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (Canberra: AGPS, 1994)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2003)
  • Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide available online at

1. How do I pick a topic?
2. But I can't find any material...
3. Help! How do I put this together? Research Guide and Writing Guide

See also Robert Pearce's How to Write a Good History Essay 

1. How do I pick a topic?

Picking a topic is perhaps the most important step in writing a research paper. To do it well requires several steps of refinement. First you have to determine a general area in which you have an interest (if you aren't interested, your readers won't be either). You do not write a paper "about the Civil War," however, for that is such a large and vague concept that the paper will be too shallow or you will be swamped with information. The next step is to narrow your topic. Are you interested in comparison? battles? social change? politics? causes? biography? Once you reach this stage try to formulate your research topic as a question. For example, suppose that you decide to write a paper on the use of the films of the 1930's and what they can tell historians about the Great Depression. You might turn that into the following question: "What are the primary values expressed in films of the 1930's?" Or you might ask a quite different question, "What is the standard of living portrayed in films of the 1930's?" There are other questions, of course, which you could have asked, but these two clearly illustrate how different two papers on the same general subject might be. By asking yourself a question as a means of starting research on a topic you will help yourself find the answers. You also open the door to loading the evidence one way or another. It will help you decide what kinds of evidence might be pertinent to your question, and it can also twist perceptions of a topic. For example, if you ask a question about economics as motivation, you are not likely to learn much about ideals, and vice versa.

2. But I can't find any material...

No one should pick a topic without trying to figure out how one could discover pertinent information, nor should anyone settle on a topic before getting some background information about the general area. These two checks should make sure your paper is in the realm of the possible. The trick of good research is detective work and imaginative thinking on how one can find information. First try to figure out what kinds of things you should know about a topic to answer your research question. Are there statistics? Do you need personal letters? What background information should be included? Then if you do not know how to find that particular kind of information, ASK. A reference librarian or professor is much more likely to be able to steer you to the right sources if you can ask a specific question such as "Where can I find statistics on the number of interracial marriages?" than if you say "What can you find on racial attitudes?"

Use the footnotes and bibliographies of general background books as well as reference aids to lead you to special studies. If Carleton does not have the books or sources you need, try ordering through the library minitex. Many sources are also available on-line.

As your research paper takes shape you will find that you need background on people, places, events, etc. Do not just rely on some general survey for all of your background. Check the several good dictionaries of biography for background on people, or see if there is a standard book-length biography. If you are dealing with a legal matter check into the background of the judges who make the court decision and the circumstances surrounding the original incident or law. Try looking for public opinions in newspapers of the time. In other words, each bit of information you find should open the possibility of other research paths.

Learn to use several research techniques. You cannot count on a good research paper coming from browsing on one shelf at the library. A really pertinent book may be hidden in another section of the library due to classification quirks. The Readers' Guide (Ref. A13 .R4) is not the only source for magazine articles, nor the card catalog for books. There are whole books which are listings of other books on particular topics. There are specialized indexes of magazine articles. Modern History Journals are indexed in the Social Studies and Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .R282) before 1976 After 1976 use the Social Sciences Index (REF A13 .S62) and the Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .H85). See also Historical Abstracts (Ref. D1 .H5). Reference Librarians would love to help you learn to use these research tools. It pays to browse in the reference room at the library and poke into the guides which are on the shelves. It also pays to browse the Internet.

3. Help! How do I put this together?

A. Research Guide
B. Writing Guide


A. Preliminary Research:
If you do not already have a general background on your topic, get the most recent good general source on the topic and read it for general orientation. On the basis of that reading formulate as clearly focused question as you can. You should generally discuss with your professor at that point whether your question is a feasible one.

B. Building a Basic Bibliography:
Use the bibliography/notes in your first general source, MUSE, and especially Historical Abstracts on cd-rom in the Library Reading Room (the computer farthest to the left in the front row as you walk past the Reference Desk - or ask there). If there is a specialized bibliography on your topic, you will certainly want to consult that as well, but these are often a bit dated.

C. Building a Full Bibliography:
Read the recent articles or chapters that seem to focus on your topic best. This will allow you to focus your research question quite a bit. Use the sources cited and/or discussed in this reading to build a full bibliography. Use such tools as Historical Abstracts (or, depending on your topic, the abstracts from a different field) and a large, convenient computer-based national library catalog (e.g. the University of California system from the "Libs" command in your VAX account or the smaller University of Minnesota library through MUSE) to check out your sources fully. For specific article searches "Uncover" (press returns for the "open access") or possibly (less likely for history) "First Search" through "Connect to Other Resources" in MUSE can also be useful.

D. Major Research:
Now do the bulk of your research. But do not overdo it. Do not fall into the trap of reading and reading to avoid getting started on the writing. After you have the bulk of information you might need, start writing. You can fill in the smaller gaps of your research more effectively later.


A. Outline:
Write a preliminary thesis statement, expressing what you believe your major argument(s) will be. Sketch out a broad outline that indicates the structure - main points and subpoints or your argument as it seems at this time. Do not get too detailed at this point.

B. The First Draft:
On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps. Keep on writing. If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text with a searchable symbol. It is important that you try to get to the end point of this writing as soon as possible, even if you leave pieces still in outline form at first and then fill the gaps after you get to the end.

Critical advice for larger papers:
It is often more effective not to start at the point where the beginning of your paper will be. Especially the introductory paragraph is often best left until later, when you feel ready and inspired.

C. The Second Draft:
The "second draft" is a fully re-thought and rewritten version of your paper. It is at the heart of the writing process.

First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it. After that break, read it over with a critical eye as you would somebody else's paper (well, almost!). You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative. It is likely to wander; your perspective and usually even the thesis seemed to change/develop as you wrote. Don't despair. That is perfectly normal even for experienced writers (even after 40 years and a good deal of published work!). You will be frustrated. But keep questioning your paper along the following lines: What precisely are my key questions? What parts of my evidence here are really pertinent to those questions (that is, does it help me answer them)? How or in what order can I structure my paper most effectively to answer those questions most clearly and efficiently for my reader?

At this point you must outline your paper freshly. Mark up your first draft, ask tough questions whether your argument is clear and whether the order in which you present your points is effective! You must write conceptually a new paper at this point, even if you can use paragraphs and especially quotes, factual data in the new draft.

It is critical that in your new draft your paragraphs start with topic sentences that identify the argument you will be making in the particular paragraph (sometimes this can be strings of two or three paragraphs). The individual steps in your argument must be clearly reflected in the topic sentences of your paragraphs (or a couple of them linked).

D. The Third or Final Draft:
You are now ready to check for basic rules of good writing. This is when you need to check the diction, that is, the accuracy and suitability of words. Eliminate unnecessary passive or awkward noun constructions (active-voice, verbal constructions are usually more effective); improve the flow of your transitions; avoid repetitions or split infinitives; correct apostrophes in possessives and such. Make the style clear and smooth. Check that the start of your paper is interesting for the reader. Last but not least, cut out unnecessary verbiage and wordiness. Spell-check and proof-read.

--Diethelm Prowe, 1998