Style Guide

Fundamentals: Planning & Time Management

As a university student, you will inevitably experience one or two weeks each term when it seems everything is due at once. The time crunch each term is intimidating on its own, but it can be even more trying if you have never written an essay before, or are out of practice. But you can prevent the worst of the time crunch by planning ahead!

Remember to give yourself sufficient time to do enough research and write the essay without resorting to an all-nighter when the paper is due. All-nighters may seem like something fun that all university students must suffer through, but they ultimately compromise the quality of your work.

Make sure you understand the assignment you have been given. This might help eliminate some of the panic that can set in at essay time. What is the assignment asking you to do? Generally, professors aren’t expecting a PhD thesis, but are seeking proof that you can do the research necessary for a scholarly paper.

They are often trying to get students to identify what other scholars have said about an issue or topic in their discipline, to think independently and evaluate the issues at hand, and to then express the result clearly in an organized fashion. In addition, they are seeking a paper that reflects the themes of the course and is presented clearly with proper attention to grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. 

Don’t wait until a week or two before the paper is due to head off in search of sources. A host of students, all with papers due at the same time, means resources in the library get snatched up quickly! The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead and allow yourself enough time to work on the essay, without worrying about the other papers you have due. You are given a syllabus for each course, so use them to plan a work schedule for the term.


Selecting a topic is one of the most interesting parts of essay writing, but it can be frustrating to have a great idea thwarted by a lack of sources. This is where patience and some good detective skills can really pay off.

Halifax has the advantage of multiple university libraries located within the city, which means there are plenty of stones to overturn in the search for sources on your essay topic.

The list below includes some basic research and reference tools. While not proper sources for your paper, they can help you get a quick overview of a historical topic and provide you with a starting point for your research.

Research Aids

North America  
Encyclopaedia of the North American Colonies Ref E 45 E53
Encyclopaedia of North American Indians Ref E 76.2 E53
Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of America Ref E77 N62
African American Culture and History Ref E 185 E54
Encyclopaedia of the US in the Twentieth Century Ref E 740.7 E53
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Ref F 1005 D49
The Canadian Encyclopaedia Ref F 1006C37
Canadian History: A Reader’s Guide Ref F 1026 C35
Encyclopaedia of American Social History Ref HN 57 E58
Changing Women, Changing History Ref HQ 1453 P42
Guide d’Histoire du Québec du Régime Francais à nos Jours  
Africana Ref DT 14 A37435
UNESCO General History of Africa Ref DT 20 G45
Encyclopaedia of Africa South of the Sahara Ref DT 351 E53
Macmillan Encyclopaedia of World Slavery Ref HT 861 M24
Chronology of World History Ref D 11 M39
Dictionary of the Middle Ages Ref D 114 D5
The New Cambridge Medieval History Ref D 117 N48
The New Cambridge Modern History Ref D 208 N4
Historie de la France Contemporaine Ref DC 110 H57
Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Russia Ref DK 14 C35
Cambridge Economic History of Europe Ref HC 240 C3
 Modern Germany: An Encyclopedia of History, People, and Culture, 1871-1990  Ref DD 14 M64
Cambridge Ancient History Ref D 57 C252
Middle East/Asia  
Encyclopaedia of Asian History Ref DS 31 E53
Encyclopaedia of Islam Ref  DS 35 E53
Encyclopaedia of Mexico Ref F 1210 E63
Encyclopaedia of Latin America History and Culture  Ref F 1406 E53
Cambridge History of Latin America Ref F 1410 C1834
Women’s History  
Discovering Women’s History: A Practical Guide to Researching the Lives of Women Since 1800 HQ 1121 B37 1998
Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopaedia Ref HQ 1115 W6 1999
Historical Dictionary of Feminism Ref HQ 1115 H57 1996

Electronic Databases

(Available through “Quicklinks” on the Killam Library website).

America: History & Life
Indexes and abstracts articles, book reviews and dissertations from international journals on the history of Canada and the U.S. from prehistoric times to the present.

Canadian Research Index
Comprised mainly of federal, provincial and municipal government reports, the CRI also indexes and abstracts Canadian theses from 1992 forward.

CBCA Fulltext Reference
Indexes and provides full text of many articles in Canadian magazines and journals, best used for specific article or journal retrieval rather than topical searching.

Digital Dissertations
Citations for materials ranging from the first U.S. dissertation, accepted in 1861, to those accepted as recently as last semester. Those published from 1980 forward include 350 word author abstracts. Records for master's theses from 1988 forward include 150 word abstracts. Dalhousie users can download the PDF digital image of all Dalhousie (including Sexton) dissertations since 1997.

Early Canadiana Online
Provides an online collection of more than 3,000 books and pamphlets documenting Canadian history from the first European contact to the late 19th century. The collection is strong in literature, women's history, native studies, travel and exploration, and the history of French Canada.

Historical Abstracts
Indexes and abstracts of articles and dissertations on the history of all parts of the world except for Canada and the U.S. from 1450 to the present.

Historical Statistics of Canada
Statistics, based mainly on census data, showing change over time in a wide array of economics, demographic, medical and government matters. A great source of data to illustrate or test an idea.

Iter: Gateway to the Renaissance
Covers the cultural aspects of the Renaissance in Europe from 1300-1700. Includes over 200,000 records from more than 300 scholarly journal titles, published from 1843 to the present.

JSTOR is a digital archive of scholarly journals - some dating back to the 18th century. As well as direct access to journal images, you can search the accompanying fulltext database for relevant articles. Hint: narrow the scope to include only the History journals at the bottom of the search screen.

Research Library
Indexes and abstracts over 1,000 scholarly journals in all subject fields and includes the full text and/or image of many articles. This database is a significant source for electronic journals in history going back as far as the late 1980s in some cases.

Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals 1824-1900
Provides access to printed sources of Victorian thought and opinion. Articles written cover literature, religion, politics, social science, political economy, women's writing, archaeology, science and the arts.

Royal Historical Society Annual Bibliography
Lists every article published in British History, widely conceived, in a volume published annually. Topics are divided into specific historical periods and includes references to Irish, Welsh and Scots. There are comprehensive authors and subject indexes. Also available online at

Book Reviews

Book reviews can help you determine the lay of the land in a book quickly, by identifying central arguments, weaknesses, strengths or flaws that make it a good (or dismal) source.

Locating book reviews can be done through some electronic databases (America History and Life, Historical Abstracts, and JSTOR) but can also be done through the Book Review Index. This will not give you the book review itself, but will tell you where book reviews on a particular book can be located (i.e. journals, magazines, etc.).

You must know the year of publication of your source and can search in the Book Review Index by the author’s last name. Check the edition that corresponds to the source’s year of publication, as well as up to four years afterwards (academic reviews can take a long time to get into print).

For more information and assistance, consult a reference librarian at the Dalhousie Learning Commons.

Ready, Set... (Accessing Works)

Novanet Express can ship books, articles, and theses from other University libraries across the province for a nominal charge. Document Delivery service at Dalhousie can also help you locate works in other libraries across Canada and help you secure them for loan.

Reference librarians will have helpful information on researching a topic in history. You can also contact Roger Gillis, subject specialist for history at the Killam Library at 902-494-3315 or via e-mail at


Getting Started: A Brief Overview of Essay Writing

If you are new to writing essays or out of practice, don’t panic. The Writing Centre in the Killam Memorial Library provides non-credit writing classes as well as one-on-one tutoring for students, and offers an array of specialized services for students who have learned English as a second or foreign language.

Visit the Writing Centre offices on the ground in room G40C of the Killam Memorial Library to get more information. Speak to someone at the offices, or phone 902-494-3379 to book a one-on-one tutorial, or to register for a class. For more information, you can also contact


Plagiarism - using another's work without proper attribution - is not just unethical, it's an academic offence. 

Alleged cases of plagiarism and other breaches of academic discipline are not judged by the professor or TA. They are automatically forwarded for evaluation to the Dalhousie Senate Discipline Committee.

It's important for all students to realize plagiarism can occur through carelessness, even if there is no demonstrable intent to plagiarize. Go to Dalhousie’s web page on plagiarism and familiarize yourself with the university's policy on intellectual honesty. If you are still uncertain about how to avoid committing plagiarism, consult with your instructor before turning in any written assignment.  

Doing original work is basic to the historian's craft.  Language is the primary tool of historians, and is therefore treated as an instrument of knowledge and power. Writers select and order words to express their views or explain something in their own way; they strive for precision and exactitude in their writing to try and express exactly what they want to say. Their written words and phrases are consequently considered to be their "intellectual property." Paraphrasing them in essays - changing the original words just a little bit - is thus unacceptable.

Here are some examples:

Original text

As soon as the Pilgrimage of Grace had been suppressed, the government of the north was reorganised, probably by Cromwell, on a permanent basis. A new council was appointed, which was to deal solely with administration and justice and, unlike its predecessors, was not to be responsible for managing the royal estates in the north. (Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain, 1471-1714 [Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1985], 68).


After the Pilgrimage of Grace was suppressed, Cromwell reorganised the government of the north on a permanent basis. Unlike its predecessors, the new council was not to be responsible for managing the northern royal estates, but was to deal solely with matters of administration and justice.

If you compare the two passages carefully, you will see obvious differences in the way they are constructed, and a couple of differences in diction (word choice). But those differences are outweighed by the similarities between the two. Some of the grammar has been played with slightly, but the second paraphrased passage still contains Lockyer's perspective and his language. In other words, the same words have been used to express the same ideas.

Another example:

Original text

On 12 July 1922 the German government requested the Reparations Commission to agree to the suspension of the remaining payments due in that year, and also declared that Germany could make no cash payments in 1923 or 1924. In November 1922 the government went some steps further. The "fulfilment" phase was for the time being at an end (Eberhard Kolb, The Weimar Republic [London: Unwin Hyman, 1988], 42-43).


The government of Germany requested on July 12, 1922 that the Reparations Committee agree to suspend the remaining payments for that year. It also announced that Germany could make no payments in 1923-24. The government went some steps further in November 1922. It appeared that, for the time being, the "fulfilment" phase was over.

Again, notice the differences between the two passages. In the paraphrase some of the words have been moved around, a phrase in the original has been turned into a sentence, and some of the words have been changed. Yet they are essentially the same ideas, expressed in the same words. This is unacceptable practice in academic writing.

One of the safest ways to avoid this difficulty is to be careful that the words of the author don't creep into your notes as you are reading. This is the most difficult form of plagiarism to watch for because it is so easy to do. Get into the habit of consciously changing the words of the author when you take notes. If you can, just take down the bare bones, the facts or essence of what the author says. Avoid copying down words that the author uses in special ways. Put the books away completely when you write.  That way, you can't help using your own words. Or, if you must, make certain that words and phrases of the author are copied exactly, word for word, and that you indicate for yourself in a clear way where you've done this.

Making Your Point: Have a Thesis

Your own personal thoughts and musings on a topic do not make a first-class scholarly paper. An essay should have an argument and must try to prove a point by using the evidence you present from your research.

Gathering such evidence normally entails some rereading of your sources with your questions in mind. You may find that as you read your sources and test your thesis against what other authors have said on the subject, your thesis may need to be revised. Be prepared to adjust your conclusions as your research progresses.

For more information on how to write essays, you can consult the following resources:

  • The Craft of Research – Wayne Booth
  • The History Student Writer's Manual – Mark Hellstern, Gregory Scott, Stephen Garrison
  • Writing History: A Guide for Students – William Kelleher Storey
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab


There are two kinds of citations you must include in your essay: footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography. A footnote or endnote is made by placing a number directly following a passage, idea or quote from a source you are using in your paper.

In a footnote, the number that appears in the text of your essay will also appear at the bottom of the page you are typing and will provide a space for you to enter the specifics about your quote or passage – where it came from, who wrote it, etc.

An endnote works in the same way, except the corresponding reference information is placed at the end of the paper, on a separate page. Most word processing programs will perform footnote or endnote functions automatically for you. 

The second type of citation, a bibliography, appears on a separate sheet at the end of the paper. It lists the publication information of all the sources you have used to write the paper. 

Citation styles vary across disciplines and in different countries. The following models and examples follow North American standards of historical writing, established by the University of Chicago Press in what is now a standard reference entitled The Chicago Manual of Style. A condensed version of the manual is by Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. More detailed models, examples, and special cases may be found there.

In footnoting documents located in the Foreign Relations of the United States series you should do as follows: Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense Johnson," May 5, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States (hereafter FRUS), 1950-1955, Vol. 1, No. 2, The Intelligence Community. p. 9. 

In footnoting documents you secure from the Declassified Documents Reference System you should do as follows: "White Paper setting forth the facts about Soviet troops in Cuba and their significance in light of the 1962 missile crisis and the Soviet-Cuban relationship," September 28, 1979, Declassified Documents Reference System, CK31000079157.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Include the author’s name, the title of the book (underlined or italicized), the publication information in brackets (place: publisher, date) and the page number(s) where your passage or idea can be located. Play close attention to punctuation in the following examples.

First full reference

  • Books:

1. Bruce G. Trigger, Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” Reconsidered (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1985), 109.

1. David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley, The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 276-78.

  • Journal articles:

2. Peter N. Moogk, “‘Thieving Buggers’ and ‘Stupid Sluts’: Insults in Popular Culture in New France,” William and Mary Quarterly 36 (1979): 524-26.

  • Chapters in an edited collection:

3. Karen Dubinsky, “’Maidenly Girls or ‘Designing Women’? The Crime of Seduction in Turn-of-the-Century Ontario,” in Gender and Conflicts: New Essays in Women’s History, ed. F. Iacovetta and M. Valverde (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 35.

  • Government documents:

4. Nova Scotia House of Assembly (hereafter NSHA), Standing Committee on Social Development (hereafter SCSD), Debates of the House of Assembly, 10 September 1960, s-6.

  • Unpublished primary documents:

5. Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM), Coroner’s Inquest Reports, RG 49, vol. 110, no. 34.

  • Newspaper articles:

6.“In Your Face, Always,” Globe and Mail, 6 June 2002, sec. 2A, p. 3.

Note number. Author's First name and Last name (and author's internet address, if available), "Title of Work" or "title line of message," in "Title of Complete Work" or title of list/site as appropriate, <internet address>, [menu path, if appropriate], date if available, archived at (if appropriate).

For example:

7. Peter Limb, "Relationships between Labour & African Nationalist/Liberation Movements in Southern Africa," <>, May1992.

The above list is meant as a guideline.  For more specific or complicated citations, check in the latest edition (1996) of Kate L. Turabian, Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

Subsequent references

With history, there are few shortcuts to doing anything – so take them when you can get them.  It isn’t necessary to repeat the entire format of citations every time you refer to them in an essay. The following are a few shortcuts to subsequent references of the same material in your essay:

  • Previously cited books (the author’s last name, a shortened version of the title or a keyword from it and the page number):

1. Trigger, Natives, 150.

2. Blackbourn and Eley, Peculiarities, 173-75.

  • Previously cited articles (keywords from title in quotations):

3. Moogk, “Thieving Buggers,” 530.

  • Previously cited government documents or unpublished primary sources:

4. NSHA, SCSD, Debates, ps-10.
5. NSARM, RG 49, vol. 110, no. 34.

  • A reference to the immediately preceding source, taken from same page as previous reference:

6. Ibid.

  •  A reference to the immediately preceding source, taken from a different page:

 7. Ibid., 11.

(Note that "Ibid." is an abbreviation for ibidem, Latin for "in the same place." It must be underlined or italicized, and requires a period).

Again, if you are unsure, ask – don’t simply omit a citation because you are unsure of the appropriate citation style!

Bibliographic Entries

Bibliographies should be ordered by the last name of the (first) author, or by other elements as illustrated below - not by numbers. Note the differences in format and punctuation: inverted names of (first) author, periods instead of commas, hanging paragraphs. Using the aforementioned sources, your bibliography should appear something like this:

Blackbourn, David and Geoff Eley.  The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany.  Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Dubinsky, Karen. “’Maidenly Girls or ‘Designing Women’? The Crime of Seduction in Turn-of-the-Century Ontario.”  In Gender and Conflicts: New Essays in Women’s History, ed. F. Iacovetta and M. Valverde, 27-66.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

Moogk, Peter N. “‘Thieving Buggers’ and Stupid Sluts’: Insults in Popular Culture in New France.” William and Mary Quarterly 36 (1979): 524-47.

Nova Scotia. Archives and Records Management. Coroner’s Inquest Reports. RG 49, vol. 110.

Nova Scotia.  House of Assembly.  Standing Committee on Social Development. Debates of the House of Assembly. 10 September 1960.

Trigger, Bruce G.  Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” Reconsidered.  Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1985.

Again, the above is meant as a rough guide. For more detailed information, please consult Turabian's Manual.

Evaluating Websites

The web can be a useful resource or a scourge for researchers. Students hit the web to do some quick research on any topic - but few take the time to evaluate the web sites they find before they incorporate the information into their essays. The result is that sometimes sixth-grade class web projects on topics like Louis Riel make their way into university-level scholarly papers!  Before using a website for your essay, evaluate it! Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the intended audience the web site is trying to reach? Sixth grade students? Scholars? General public? You can evaluate this by looking at the content, tone and style of the page.
  • Does the page look complete - or is it still a work in progress? Is there any date to indicate the last update of the website?
  • Is it clear who is responsible for the page? Is the author or producer of the site clearly identified?
  • What credentials or expertise can the author of the site claim on the subject? What are their qualifications?
  • Is there an e-mail link, phone number or address provided to which you can direct questions or comments? 
  • Is the page protected by copyright? Who owns it? 
  • What topics are covered and to what depth are they explored?
  • How reliable is the information?
  • Is credit given to sources? Is there a bibliography attached to the information on the web page?  Are links provided to supporting documents or web pages?
  • Are facts, statistics, etc, clearly cited?
  • Is the page unbiased; or to what extent is it trying to sway your point of view?
  • Is the work up-to-date?
  • Is the page appealing and user-friendly?
  • Who can access the site? Is there a fee for doing so?

Finally: Standards and Precautions

When note-taking and drafting text on your computer, back-up your work frequently; proof-read all texts before turning them in; number the pages of your essay; staple the package together.

Provide a cover page which includes the title of your project, your name and student number, the class number for which this paper is being written; the name of your instructor or (if appropriate) Tutorial Assistant.

Save and retain electronic copies of your paper in its various draft stages (i.e., when it's completed, you should have a number of different electronic files corresponding to your different drafts, from the first to the final). Save all research notes until you have received a final grade for the course.