Comparative Essay Tips
Frequently Asked Questions have led to the following tips for writing and submitting essays for publication on this hyperhistory.net web site.
How do I find a topic to write about?
You may design your own or select your essay question from those provided on the list of Comparative essay questions as instructed there. The question you choose is not constrained to any particular week and there is no particular order. This flexibility is to allow for you to choose an area of interest or weakness that you wish to improve. In fact, you are encouraged to propose a question of your own to be answered.
What about essay content?
Upon designing or selecting an interesting topic, you will begin researching sources you have available and exploring Internet links. If your research leads you away from the presenting question, you may pursue your interest and simply rephrase the question to match. [Of course, you would never do this on a AP exam upon which you would stick closely to the essay topic.] After gathering sufficient data to establish and understand your comparative essay question, you will be able to form a thesis statement.
Essay content is driven by your thesis. Your thesis should be supported by something other than the obvious similarities and differences of two cultures. By mentioning, and then going beyond the historical stereotypes, you can demonstrate your understanding of the matter(s) being compared. This needs to be an essay, not a paraphrased or regurgitated encyclopedia article. An essay between 800 and 1600 words is usually enough to support your thesis. Be concise. Don't be a sophist who practices hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianism (the tendency to use excessively long words). The thesis itself may be one or two sentences. You can reveal your thesis statement in the introduction and then support your position in the body of the essay. You may instead conceal your thesis until the conclusion but make sure it is more than just an afterthought. The goal is to prove the specific ideas of your thesis in your essay. A specific thesis is easier to target with support rather than an ambiguous thesis. Check the organization of your essay to make sure each point of your thesis is covered.
To help you remember to address all aspects of your thesis, you might want to memorize the acronym "SPRITE" which stands for "Social, Political, Religion, Intellectual, Technology, and Economy". While your essay might address all the SPRITE topics, you will focus on two or three which support your thesis. A more comprehensive acronym is "GRASPED IT" which stands for "geography/environmental, religion, arts, social, political, economic, demography, intellectual, technology".
How can writing this essay help prepare me for the AP exam in May?
In order to experience what it is like to write within the time constraints
set out by the CollegeBoard, students are advised to follow this plan with every
essay they write.
1. Carefully read the question to be answered and review the essay rubric.
2. Think of a possible thesis, and begin your research.
3. Once you have completed a first reading of your research, put your notes away.
4. Set a timer for 40 minutes and write your essay without notes.
5. Ignoring mechanics, spelling, and even incorrect information, score your timed essay using the rubric.
6. Return to complete your research and make improvements to your essay.
7. Upload for the final revised essay.
How can the "Biblical Perspective" be included?
To receive full points in this class, the essays need to be written from a Biblical perspective.
Ask three questions of the historical event or person.
1. Did this help to gather or scatter the Jews?
2. Did this help to promote or hinder the spread of the Christian gospel?
3. Did this help to affirm or violate principles or direct scriptures in God’s word?
When entering search terms it is sometimes helpful to narrow the results by adding “Christian”, “Bible”, and/or “Jesus”.
For more insight see, “World History in Biblical Perspective”.
Here is an example of appropriate Biblical integration, taken from the opening
paragraphs on archaeology in World Studies for Christian Schools, BJU
Press, 1993, pg 3.
"From this evidence, people who believed the biblical account to be wrong have had to admit to the Bible's accuracy. Christians, however, do not believe that the Bible is true just because of archaeology or any other science. As II Corinthians 5:7 says, "We walk by faith, not by sight." The Bible is true because it is God's Word, not because man has found ancient objects mentioned in Scripture.
The Old Testament tells us that Abraham lived in Ur (Genesis 11:31). The discovery of Ur is just one example of how archaeology lends support to Scripture. Until the early twentieth century, few non Christians believed that the city of Ur had ever really existed. But in 1922 Sir Leonard Wooley, a British archeologist, began digging in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern Iraq). He discovered the location of Ur and learned that it was a city in the ancient land of Sumer."
However, taken from the same text on page seven, here is an example of what NOT to do. See if you can find a convoluted application of scripture in the passage below.
"The Sumerians kept
careful records of all their business dealings. Every sale was written down
by a scribe. He did not use pen and paper but a reed stylus and a tablet made
of soft clay. Each mark stood for a word, a syllable, or a number. After he
recorded the transaction, the scribe wrapped the tablet in another piece of
clay that served as an envelope. When the tablet dried, it was stored in the
temple with other legal records. From these careful records we have learned
much about Sumerian economics. These records also provide us with a good example
of how to conduct business, for the Word of God tells us to be "not slothful
in business" (Romans 12:11).
When two merchants finished a business deal and the scribe put his last marks on the tablet, each man had to sign it. They did not use the scribes stylus to write their names. Rather they used clay seals shaped like cylinders. The cylinder seal was small, ...It had carvings on it that identified the owner. The carvings included plants, animals, gods, ..."
Please smoothly integrate your scriptural quotations into your subject while
holding to the integrity of the scriptural context. Do not simply tag on a verse
in the last paragraph. A clever interpretation of a historical event will be
supported by a well developed argument. Your essay may even win a debate against
a non-Christian. Just remember that a heart is transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Pray that God will use your essay to graciously bring others to the cross of
"Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God" (1 Pet. 4:11)
“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (I Corinthians 2:13).
How are essays scored?
The scoring guide provides a checklist for your essay. Essays total to 20 points by doubling the 9 point scoring guide and adding a point each for Biblical worldview and source citation. Published essays remain open for revision, particularly if someone like Samual Johnson comments, "Your manuscript is both good and original. However, that which is good is not original, and that which is original is not good."
How can I help people better understand my essay as it is published on line? What is the "Quick Quiz"?
In order to increase reader understanding of your main points, you are to include a "Quick Quiz" of four multiple choice questions over your essay. Preferably, these will be submitted in the same file as your essay using interactive HTML (for extra credit!). Please include the questions at the end of your essay, just before the HTML "Endnotes".
How should the essay be formatted? What about preparing it for publication?
All COT and CMP essays need to follow the same structure laid out for the SUM essay revisions with the provided examples.
Please single space, and make no indentations. There are a few simple HTML
tags that will assist me in the publication of your essay on the Internet. For
example, place a paragraph <p> tag in between all paragraphs like this:
Book, journal, magazine, or film titles should be <i>italicized</i> rather than underlined.
Breaking your essay into smaller sections with headings (placed inside <b>bold</b> tags) is a good idea as it offers readers a more manageable document. Avoid ALL CAPS, underlining, or other em b ellishments
Do not add graphics in the same file as your essay. Send them separately as appropriately sized .gif or .jpg type files. (No bitmap files!)
DO NOT use the "save as web page" in MS WORD. Doing that adds too much extraneous code.
DO NOT use the automated footnote feature in MS WORD. Doing so requires all in text footnotes to be removed and manually recoded. Instead place the text citation number in brackets  if you choose not to use HTML throughout you essay.
How should the claims of the essay be documented?
If the thesis was that the problems in East Timor are the result of Muslim's persectuting the Christian minority. Cite the sources and inlcude <blockquote> for longer quotes. For example,
Between 1974, when Indonesia invaded East Timor, and 1999, when East Timor voted for independence, the United Nations has documented at least 120 massacres, with many involving hundreds of dead in this small Catholic country. After independence, Indonesian troops slaughtered over 1,000 East Timorese in rage over their decision to break free of Jakarta.11Buchanan, Patrick J., August 9, 2004, A New Era of Christian Persecution,<http://www.lewrockwell.com/buchanan/buchanan10.html>
How should sources be cited in the bibliography?
Avoid Plagiarism. Although the MLA citation method is widely used in the humanities, the field of history predominately uses the Chicago Manual's guidelines. The Chicago style simply numbers citations within the text to endnotes which contain all the relevant bibliographical information. Kate Turabian's manuel is based on the Chicago Manual of Style which contains samples to follow. Since so much research is now done over the Internet, check out Footnoting Electronic Sources in the Chicago Style. Although a separate bibliography list is not required, you may separate your bibliography into primary and secondary sources with an annotated bibliography that lets the reader know how useful the source was. Rather than list every source you looked at, include only those sources that were helpful.
The Citation Machine will do the work for you if you use MLA and APA formats.
Do NOT send me a document containing automatically inserted MS Word reference footnotes! Instead, follow these instructions for extra credit...
In the body of the essay, superscript endnotes1 rather than parenthetical
citations (like this) are used. To make HTML superscript endnote numbers, place
the corresponding number between these tags:
<a name="#1text"></a><sup><a href="#1end">1</a></sup>
Copy and paste this code for each reference in the body of the text, then go
back and change the digits accordingly. For example, the second endnote will
<a name="#2text"></a><sup><a href="#2end">2</a></sup>
After the "Quick Quiz" (the 4 multiple choice questions over your essay), comes the list of endnotes. In front of each corresponding endnote, copy and paste this code:
<a name="#1end"><sup><a href="#1text">1</a></sup></a>
In the text, no space should precede the endnote number. In the endnotes, no period or space should follow the endnote number.
A web page endnote would normally be cited like this:
1Creator's name. Web Page Title. Institution or organization. Date of publication <web page address> (Date of access)
However, I would like you to make the endnote an actual HTML link. For example:
<a name="1end"><sup><a href="#1text">1</a></sup></a>
Frank Smitha. "The Sumerians." World History. 10 Jul. 2003.
<<a href="http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch01.htm">www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch01.htm</a>> (March 10, 2004)
Here is an example of a biography that uses clickable endnote numbers and return to text links. Don't feel obligated to use all this HTML, it just makes publication easier for me and therefore, it is worth extra credit for you. Here is a sample of simple Endnotes. To view the codes, select VIEW then SOURCE from the dropdown menu in an IE browser.
Do students need to pay an extra fee for the opportunity to learn some HyperTextMarkupLanguage (HTML)?
Not at this time. ;-) Thanks for asking.
May I use a spell checker? Sure...
Owed To The Spell Checker
- Author Unknown
Eye halve a spelling checker
Eye strike a key and type a word
As soon as a mist ache is maid
Eye have run this poem threw it
How should the files be named?
Having about 100 essays coming to me each month would be a little scary without a standardized system of naming files. Please use:
rayj _h500_cmp3d_nilesilk (for Jill Ray in NSA HIST500, submitting their third Comparative essay, draft version, Nile River trade vs. Silk Road trade)
smithk_p3_cot2f_africatech (for Ken Smith in TPS section 3, submitting their second Change over Time essay, final version, technology in Africa)
If you have a graphic to enhance your essay, please use an associated naming
structure, for example,
There is no formula for the last part of the file name, just give me a hint about what is in the file. Don't sweat the little details of the file name. I don't care if you use underscores, dashes, or commas. With whatever you send me, start with your last name, then course, assignment #, and file content. If you ever finish a draft early enough to enlist my feedback, please tell me the subject of your essay draft in the subject line of your email along with your name.