Smarthistory essay style checklist


Xu Bing, Book from the Sky, c. 1987-91

Contributors should refer to the checklist below when preparing essays for Smarthistory.

    • ❒ Essay length: 800-1200 words (this can be modified in some cases)
    • ❒ Writing is engaging, conversational, and at times even experiential
    • ❒ Starts with a “hook” to draw the learner in and make them want to continue reading
    • ❒ Makes the case for why the reader should care about this topic
    • ❒ Content is object-based. Biography, historical context, and other information flows from the discussion of the object or monument
    • ❒ Time is spent on formal analysis that invites the reader to carefully examine the work of art by making reference to details that we can illustrate
    • ❒ Short engaging subheadings (1-5 words) are included that organize the content into easy-to-read sections and to invite the reader to explore further (this is essential for web-based text)
    • ❒ Specialized terms (geographic, religious, political, and methodological) are defined in parentheses (we will often turn these into pop-up definitions)
    • ❒ Only essential dates are included in the text (we generally do not include birth and death dates or the dates of the reign of a ruler unless it is absolutely necessary)
    • ❒ Footnotes are included for direct quotes and for some other circumstances, but are kept to a minimum
    • ❒ A succinct but compelling conclusion is included (just a few sentences)
    • ❒ A list of additional resources (both online and print) is included below the essay (the first link should be to the institution, or site where the object can be found). A short bibliography can offer direction for further study, but need not be exhaustive. You can find information about citation style on our “contribute an essay” page.
Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Naraelle Hohensee, "Smarthistory essay style checklist," in Smarthistory, July 21, 2017, accessed December 11, 2017, https://smarthistory.org/essay-checklist/.