Writing in the humanities can be challenging because of the diversity and vastness of the discipline. Humanities covers human culture, which is rather hard to pin down. It covers anthropology, history, languages, laws, politics, literature, performing arts, philosophy, religion, and much more. Despite the extensive nature of this discipline, there are several essentials that you should keep in mind while writing papers about humanities subjects:
- Having focus. Since the humanities is a wide discipline, drawing attention to specifics is key. Say if your topic is “life as a working poet” it would be good to make it more narrow. It could be something like, “Working as a poet in Seattle in the 1980s.” The humanities is about digging deep into human nature and behavior, and decoding it for your readers. If you take only a surface look at a certain phenomenon, you aren’t doing your job.
- The format. Commonly, humanities papers run in this sequence: thesis, evidence/counter evidence, conclusion. The thesis is made in the introduction, and is usually a statement of one or two sentences that is the foundation of our paper. In the evidence/counter evidence section, you must present the appropriate research you have found on a certain phenomenon and make sure that the evidence backs up the claim in the thesis. In the conclusion, not only do you summarize your main points, but you also synthesize those findings and derive something important for your readers to think about from it.
- Though most academic papers require proper documentation of ideas and quotations, in the humanities, it is essential to building a proper argument based on your thesis and for your claims to be viable in the eyes of readers. Textual evidence, from books, journals, and so on, are more likely to be featured in humanities papers. Also, making footnotes is quite common in humanities papers, and you should be aware of how to use them and how to correctly format them.
- Okay, it is still an academic paper, but a paper based in the humanities can appeal to both logic and emotions. Writers try to capture the imagination of readers through their writing, and not just write dry text to impress textbook writers. The phrasing of the writing is key to appealing to readers. In the humanities, academic papers should be enticing and engaging to read, rather than a simple report. The emotions expressed should not explicit, but rather implied, however.
- Having a balanced discussion. Humanities papers should not lean towards one side too strongly. They are not persuasive essays. They try to report on the truth of a matter in a comprehensive, holistic way that is focused. If your essay becomes too preachy, know that something is wrong. Present both sides of the issue you’re examining, from a neutral point of you. Give sufficient evidence for both spectrums of your topic.
Writing a paper in the humanities can be a real trip sometimes. However, if you follow and integrate the above points in your writing practice, writing humanities papers can be a lot easier.