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Gordon DesBrisay, History Faculty


Do you have any advice for a student struggling with a History essay?

If you think... It's a hard call to make. If you think the problem is you were given insufficient instructions then, you know, ask. Ask your professor for clarification. [It's] much better to do that than to stomp off and assume that this doesn't make any sense. Maybe they need to clarify things. If they just tell you to write an essay and it's gonna be that long and it better be on my desk that day, maybe you're entitled to more guidance than that. On the other hand, sometimes students are quick to assume that something's maybe more complicated than it really is and if they just sort of calm down and think about it a little more... One of the difficulties sometimes is people will say, 'Discuss such and such'. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to ask as long as the recipient understands what 'discuss' means, which is an odd word when you think about it, because when you're writing you're not generally talking. If 'discuss', I certainly mean 'analyze'. It presumes that understanding what happened or knowing what happened is just a platform on which you erect a real argument, make a case like a lawyer might about why something happened and why it mattered and how it went that way and not why rather went that way and not someother way from some range of alternatives you give.