Dr. Gesink's Study Aids

Exams | Guidelines for Concise Written Assignments | Common Spelling Errors | Cultural Enrichment Projects | Recommended Films and Reading


Exams: Types of Questions You Might Encounter

  • First, consult the study guide for your exam.  If I have told you in class that there is a study guide, or your syllabus says so, it should be one on the Blackboard site for your class; if it is not there, let me know right away.  If there are no study guides for your course, I will tell you in class what to expect, and you can still use this web site.  This web site tells you what to expect for the different kinds of questions I ask on exams. 
  • You will probably not find the exact same questions on your actual exam; most of these questions are from old exams and will not be used again.  But you may find the same type of questions. 
  • Use your study guide to determine what kinds of questions I will ask on your exam, and then if you want more information on them, see the sections below:

Map labeling 

Your study guide should tell you in general what information I expect you to be able to label on a map.  There should also be a sample blank map available on Blackboard, so you can practice.  Use the Atlas I assigned you, maps in your textbooks, or maps provided on Blackboard to study.  On the exam, I will give you a list of terms and a blank map.  Make sure to clearly identify what you are labeling.  Dots for cities should be circled or have lines drawn to them; if you have to label an empire (the borders of which change over time), draw an outline around the general area and try to write your name as near to the capital city as possible--that way you at least get credit for knowing the central area of the empire.  If you don't clearly indicate what you are labeling, and you write your label half-way in between two city dots, I will assume you are trying to hedge your bet and will not give you credit.  Likewise, if you are supposed to label the Aztec Empire and you write "Aztec" up in Texas somewhere, I will not give you credit for it.  Also, if I ask you to label a certain number of items, do not label more.  I will not give extra credit for extra terms labeled, and if you get an extra term wrong, it will still count against your score.  (Say the exam asks you to label 10 items, and I provide you with a list of 12 terms from which to choose.  If you label all 12, and get 11 of them wrong, you will get 11 points off even though the section is supposed to be worth only 10 points.)  Part of doing well on exams is following instructions!

Multiple Choice

Some people believe that multiple choice exams are easy because the correct answer is always one of the choices provided.  That is not always true.  Multiple choice questions can require you to use critical reasoning skills as well as identify facts.  For example, my questions may have answer options that all seem correct, and you may have to choose the "most appropriate" one.  I may give you the option to choose "all of the above" or "none of the above" (meaning that the correct answer is not there at all).  I will have a certain number of questions that are hard to figure out on every test.  The best strategy is simply to read the question and each answer carefully.  If you can identify at least two of the answer options as correct, then the answer will be "all of the above" (I don't usually give options such as "both a and b" or "both b and c").


1. Which of the following is true of Hitler?
   a. he was a founder of the Nazi Party
   b. he was in the German army in WWI
   c. he committed suicide rather than be captured by Soviet troops
   d. all of the above

2. The five basic ritual actions of Muslims are known as
a. the shahada
b. the five types of jihad
c. waqf
d. none of the above

3. Which of the following inventors is matched incorrectly with his invention?
a. James Hargreaves: spinning jenny
b. James Watt: steam engine
c. Edmund Cartwright: spinning mule
d. all of the above are correct

The answer to #1 is d, because all of those things are true of Hitler.
The answer to #2 is d; the five basic ritual actions of Muslims are called "the five pillars."
The answer to #3 is c, because Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom, not the spinning mule.


True/false questions can also appear deceptively easy.  There's a 50/50 chance that you will get it right if you guess, no?  (And a 50/50 chance that you will get it wrong.)  There is no contextual information in the question to help you figure it out; you simply must know whether the statement is true.  Any part of the question may be false, which would make the entire question false.  In some courses, I require students to correct false statements so that they become true.  This demonstrates that you are not guessing.  Read the directions to the section carefully; if I expect you to correct false statements, I will write it on the exam.  If you believe that part of the statement is false, mark it false, and even if I don't ask you to, tell me why.  That way, if the question is written in a confusing way, or if you interpret the question differently than I do, I can still figure out whether you deserve credit for your answer.


1. France and Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. (True)

2. France and Britain declared war on Germany in 1938 when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.  (False--to correct it, you must change the date to 1939 and the country to Poland.)

3. France and Britain declared war on Germany in 1938 when Hitler invaded Poland.  (False--to correct it, you must change the date to 1939)

4. Upper-caste Hindu women were allowed to study Hindu scriptures and receive religious education.  (This is a confusing question.  It is false for most periods of Indian history, but true for very early Aryan Hindus and true for reformist Hindus in the 20th century.  Answers to questions like this require justification--I try not to use them, but sometimes I make mistakes.)


Most of the matching questions I use take the form of multiple choice, like the #3 multiple choice example question above.  Sometimes I use matching questions like these:

In the section below, match each Arabic name for the Five Pillars of Islam with its definition.  Write the letter for the definition in the appropriate blank.

1. _____ sawm

A. The testament of faith: "There is no god but THE God
and Muhammad is His Messenger.

2. _____ shahada B. prayer, five times a day at prescribed times, facing Mecca
3. _____ hajj C. charity or alms giving,  in some countries a tax of 2.5% of one's annual income
4. _____ salat D. fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan
5. _____ zakat E. pilgrimage to Mecca, performed once during one's lifetime (for those who are able)

The correct answers are 1=D, 2=A, 3=E, 4=B, 5=C.

Skills Questions

I use a lot of different kinds of skills questions for different courses.  Your study guide should tell you whether to expect skills questions on an exam and what kind.  Skills questions may ask you to tell the difference between a primary and secondary source, determine whether inferences derived from a primary source are valid or false, paraphrase a paragraph or tell whether a summary of a passage is plagiarized, identify whether an argument is supported with evidence or unsupported, or construct a limited interpretive generalization (AKA an analythical thesis) from a series of facts.  If you have never heard of these things, don't freak out: if I haven't taught them in your class, they won't be on your test.


1. The following passage is from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.  Is this a primary source?  Why/why not?  Write your answer in the space below.

"If at any time [the supply of an item] exceeds the effectual demand, some of the components parts of its price must be paid below their natural rate. . .The quantity brought to market will soon be no more than sufficient to supply the effectual demand. All the different parts of its price will rise to their natural rate, and the whole price to its natural price."

(There are several clues that will tell you whether the passage is primary or secondary.  You may be able to identify the author or text as a primary or secondary source that we used in class, or the author as a participant in a historical event.  More importantly, you should remember that a primary source is produced by an observer or participant in the event/person/thing you are studying, and a secondary source is an account of that event/person/thing by someone who was neither an observer nor a participant, even though the author may quote primary sources.  Physical artifacts, such as artwork, buildings, furniture, etc. may also be primary sources.  So, if you are studying Adam Smith or capitalism, etc., the above would be a primary source.)

Example of inference question: This passage is from Father Simon's description of the Safavid Shah-Abbas, in which he explains why Shah-Abbas stopped tolerating the Augustinian Christians in his realm. Abbas had wanted the King of Spain to ally with him against his enemy, the Ottoman Turks.  Identify the statements below as valid inferences (V) or false inferences (F).

". . .people attribute [Abbas's expulsion of the Augustinian monks] to. . .the king of Spain not having kept the word they had given to various ambassadors that they would make war on the Turks, when they exhorted him himself to do the same, as he in fact has done. . .to the [king of Spain] having agreed to a treaty of peace between himself and the Turks, without giving him notice. . . .Certain it is that the mullahs this is the name they give in their tongue to the learned men of their belief went to the Shah, and told him to reflect on what he was doing that he knew very well that the [Ottoman] Sultan was the head of the Muslim belief; if he should bring about the destruction of the latter in this warfare, the Christians would do the same to him, and to all of their belief. . .It would be better to make peace with the Turkish Sultan, and then both of them together to attack the Christians. . . ."

2. _______People believed that Abbas expelled the Augustinians because the king of Spain violated a promise to Shah-Abbas, which was that he and Abbas would ally with one another to attack the Ottoman sultan.

(This is a valid inference based on information in the first sentence.  Furthermore, in my World Civs course, this passage is an assigned reading, and if you are in that class you might remember that 'Abbas tolerated European Christian missionaries as long as he believed he might get the king of Spain to ally with him against the Ottomans, but when Spain allied with the Ottomans instead, he expelled the Augustinian missionaries.)

3. _______It is fact that the mullahs told Shah-Abbas to ally with the Ottomans and attack the Christians.

(This is a false inference.  You cannot tell from the passage whether this is fact or simply Simon's opinion, and you may also remember that the Shi'a mullahs (religious scholars) would be unlikely to tell 'Abbas to ally with the Ottomans, who had been persecuting the Shi'as and warring against the Safavids for generations.)

4. Paraphrase the following paragraph: "The rise of industry, the growth of cities, and the expansion of the population were the three great developments of late nineteenth century American history. As new, larger, steam-powered factories became a feature of the American landscape in the East, they transformed farm hands into industrial laborers, and provided jobs for a rising tide of immigrants. With industry came urbanization the growth of large cities (like Fall River, Massachusetts, where the Bordens lived) which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade" (Joyce Williams, et. al., Lizzie Borden: A Case Book of Family and Crime in the 1890s, 1).

(First, here's an UNACCEPTABLE paraphrase that is plagiarism: The increase of industry, the growth of cities, and the explosion of the population were three large factors of nineteenth century America. As steam-driven companies became more visible in the eastern part of the country, they changed farm hands into factory workers and provided jobs for the large wave of immigrants. With industry came the growth of large cities like Fall River where the Bordens lived which turned into centers of commerce and trade as well as production.

What makes this passage plagiarism?

  • the writer has only changed around a few words and phrases, or changed the order of the original's sentences.  Try not to use any of the same words unless you put quotation marks around them; at the very least try not to use more than two distinctive words in a row.
  • the writer has failed to cite a source for any of the ideas or facts.
  • If you do either or both of these things, you are plagiarizing.
  • NOTE: This paragraph is also problematic because it changes the sense of several sentences (for example, "steam-driven companies" in sentence two misses the original's emphasis on factories).

Here's an ACCEPTABLE paraphrase: Fall River, where the Borden family lived, was typical of northeastern industrial cities of the nineteenth century. Steam-powered production had shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing, and as immigrants arrived in the US, they found work in these new factories. As a result, populations grew, and large urban areas arose. Fall River was one of these manufacturing and commercial centers (Williams 1).

Why is this passage acceptable?  The writer:

  • accurately relays the information in the original source.
  • uses her own words. 
  • lets her reader know the source of her information.

If you are uncertain about what plagiarism is or how to paraphrase, please see the definitions and examples at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml, which is where I got the above question and answers.)

Supported and Unsupported arguments: Each of the following excerpts presents an argument. Some of them are validated by specific supporting points; others are not. Mark supported argument with an S and unsupported arguments with an NS. There may be unsupported statements within an otherwise supported argument, so you should focus on the topic sentence and determine how well it is supported. Remember, it does not matter whether you agree or disagree with the opinions expressed, whether they are "true" or not, only whether they are supported or not.

5. _____Senator John Kerry, speaking at the first presidential debate, 2004:

"The world has become more dangerous since we invaded Iraq. Thirty-five to forty countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein. And while he's been diverted, with 9 out of 10 active duty divisions of our Army, either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or getting ready to go, North Korea's gotten nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Darfur has a genocide."

(This is a supported argument; Senator Kerry offered evidence to back up his claim that the world is more dangerous since we invaded Iraq.  This does not necessarily mean that his statement is "true"--that depends on whether his evidence is valid.)

6. _____Michael Moore describing President Bush's reaction to hearing that "our nation is under attack" while visiting an elementary school on Sept. 11, 2001. Transcript from Farenheit 9/11:

"When the second plane hit the tower, [the president's] Chief of Staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush the nation is under attack. Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read 'My Pet Goat' with the children. Nearly seven minutes passed with nobody doing anything. As Bush sat in that Florida classroom, was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up to work more often? Should he have held at least one meeting since taking office to discuss the threat of terrorism with his head of counter terrorism? Or maybe Mr. Bush was wondering why he had cut terrorism funding from the FBI. Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes. . .Was he thinking, 'I've been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Which one of them screwed me? Was it the man my daddy's friends delivered a lot of weapons to? Was it that group of religious fundamentalists who visited my state when I was governor? Or was it the Saudis? Damn, it was them. I think I'd better blame it on this guy (video of Saddam Hussein smoking a cigar, dancing)."

(This is an unsupported argument, or rather, it is a series of speculations about President Bush's reactions to the first reports of the 9/11 attacks.)

7.  Write one limited interpretive generalization for the following series of statements:

  • Iraq had consistently claimed, ever since its independence in 1932, that Kuwait had been illegally created by the British and should have been part of Iraq.
  • Saddam Hussein had taken out billions of dollars of loans from various Persian Gulf countries to pay for his eight-year war with Iran. After the war, most countries forgave the loans, but Kuwait did not.
  • At a meeting of the Arab League on May 28, Iraq accused Kuwait and other Gulf countries of exceeding their oil production quotas selling more oil to benefit their own countries, which glutted the market and caused the price of oil to drop. This was true: they regularly over-produced by 1 million b/day. Saddam declared that overproduction of oil was equivalent to declaring war on Iraq.
  • The US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam on July 25, a few days before Saddam invaded Kuwait. When Saddam pressed her on the US position and made clear to her that he thought Kuwait's overproduction of oil was an imperialistic attack on Iraq's standard of living, she replied "I think you know well that we as a people have our own experience with colonialists" implying sympathy with his views. She then said that the US had "no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreements with Kuwait."

(A limited interpretive generalization is an analytical thesis.  It is a statement that goes beyond mere summary or description of information to offer a hypothesis that requires proof and is limited enough that such proof could conceivably be found.  In this case, you are going backward from proof (offered in the statements above) to thesis, as you might do when writing a research paper.  An example of a correct answer would be "Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was a consequence of Iraq's long-standing and recent grievances against Kuwait."  Another would be "Although the US ambassador to Iraq in 1990 appeared to agree with Saddam's complaints against Kuwait, this in itself was not enough to 'cause' Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; rather, it was Saddam's perception that Kuwait was a product and promulgator of imperialism that made him invade.")

Short Answer

Short answer questions may require a few words or a mini-essay.  If I leave you a big space in which to answer a short answer question, then you may assume I am hoping for a detailed response.   Read the question carefully and make sure to answer all of its parts.  Answer as specifically as you can, with as many details as you have room for.  I do not give full credit for vague answers.  Some questions may ask you to answer using information from a specific reading or film--in that case, the an answer derived from my lecture only would be insufficient for credit, or I might be asking you to state a point of view that contrasts with what I said in class.  Also, pay attention to the command in the question: does it ask you to describe, define, list, explain, analyze, or give an opinion supported by evidence?  See the examples below.

1. Analyze the significance of the bathtub to Atahualpa and his decision to meet Pizarro's men for the first time in his bathhouse.  (This question is from my World Civ class, so if you are taking that class, you should know the answer.  But how well do you know it?  What details from the story of Atahualpa's confrontation with Pizarro's men can you summon up to answer this question?  First and most basically, the bathtub was a symbol of Atahualpa's power.  That will get you partial credit.  For full credit, you might also tell why it symbolized power: because no one but the Sapa Inca and his wives was allowed to have a bathtub.  You might also say that Pizarro's men, seeing Atahualpa in his bathhouse, thought they had caught Atahualpa at a bad time and would have the advantage, but that Atahualpa had chosen to meet them there to demonstrate his authority and intimidate them--a good example of cultural misunderstanding.)

2. According to the Oslo plan for a Palestinian state, what are Areas A, B, and C? (This question is from my Arab-Israeli Conflicts class.  This question is specific: you must define areas A, B, and C according to a specific set of treaty maps used in class.  Area A is land in the Palestinian West Bank territory under complete Palestinian control.  Area B is land under joint Palestinian/Israeli control, in which Palestinian civil authorities rule but Israel's military controls water and security.  Area C is land under complete Israeli control.  You might also state that in 1995, Area A was only 3% of the West Bank, Area B was 24%, and Area C was 73%, meaning that Israel controlled security in 97% of the West Bank. When the peace talks broke down in July 2000, Area A was still only 18.3%, Area B 21.7%.)

3. List three reasons why the Chinese practiced footbinding.  (This question could be from several classes.  When answering questions like this, make sure to clearly state THREE answers--or however many the question requires.  1. The Chinese considered bound (small) feet beautiful. 2. Bound feet made women unable to walk much or do manual labor, so originally, only upper class families could afford to bind their daughters' feet.  It became a symbol of status.  3. Later, as the practice spread to other social classes, girls with unbound feet were considered unmarriageable.  Be careful that you don't state versions of the same answer twice, as in "Bound feet were considered beautiful; bound feet were considered sexy.")

4. What was satyagraha, whose idea was it, what was it intended to accomplish, and how was it supposed to work?  (This question, from World Civs, asks you to answer four questions.  Satyagraha was non-violent or passive resistance, it was Gandhi's idea, it was intended to accomplish revocation of laws that were unfair or treated a group of people as second-class citizens [alternatively you could say Gandhi used it as a part of his campaign to expel the British government from India], and it was supposed to work by forcing the oppressor to acknowledge the humanity of the protestor.  The protestor would not commit violence but would have violence committed against him; he would suffer, and the oppressor would see his suffering and recognize their common humanity.)

5. In discussion, I explained Marx's and Engels's theoretical explanation of how class conflict leads to changing economic systems, which is called dialectical materialism. What three terms did they use to describe the phases of dialectical materialism that referred to the existing state of society, the challenge to that state of society posed by the workers, and the new state of society that results from the challenge? (This is a complicated question with a simple answer--it really asks you for just three terms: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  Make sure to indicate you know which terms is which--list them in order or define each one.)

In-class essays

  • Consult the study guide for your exam.  I may list an exam question on your syllabus, in which case you should prepare a detailed essay before class and try your best to memorize it.  Or your study guide may list three to five questions, two of which will appear on the exam. Of these two, you must choose one (1) to answer. Suppose there are four questions on the study guide: your study strategy should be to prepare at least three of the four essays and to write them out as you intend to write them during the exam. Why three out of four? Because then, out of any combination of two essays that appear on the exam, you will have prepared at least one. However, I suggest preparing all four, and then ranking your prepared essays from strongest to weakest so you do not have to think about which one to choose during the exam.
  • You may think I am letting you off easy by giving you the essay questions ahead of time, but this is far from true. You will spend a lot of time preparing for this kind of essay exam. However, you will be spared the anxiety of wondering whether you have studied the right things.  The exams themselves, in addition to being methods of testing student progress, are also learning tools that force you to review and assimilate class material. I think you will find that in ten years you still remember some of your essays from this class (so make them good).


Constructing the essay answer

  • A good essay is concise and informative. Remember that you may have only about 20-30 minutes in which to write your essay. Master the art of the one-sentence introduction. The one-sentence introduction should sum up your answer to the question and set out its various parts. For example, if the question asks you to "List and describe in detail the Five Pillars of Islam," then your introduction should say: "The Five Pillars of Islam are (1) the declaration of faith, (2) prayer, (3) almsgiving, (4) fasting during the month of Ramadan, and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca." (I do not care whether you use English or foreign-language terms, as long as it is clear what you mean. And I do not care whether you use numbers to designate the parts of your answer, as long as your answer is well-organized.)
  • Pay careful attention to the wording of the question: Does it ask you to list, discuss, analyze, or evaluate?  Does it ask you whether, how, or why?
  • If the question requires you to use an abstract term, say for example, "identity," or "successful civilization," then you must define how you will use that term in your essay.  Defining your terms will also help you build a better, more concise essay.
  • Take a few minutes of time during the exam, before writing the essay, to sketch yourself an outline. Sometimes your one-sentence introduction can serve as an outline, as in the Five Pillars question above. Using an outline during the exam can help prevent memory blocks caused by anxiety and time pressures, and it can also help you to organize your essay. A well-organized essay is easier to read, easier to grade, and thus more likely to get you a good score.
  • If the essay question has more than one part (Ex: "(a) List the 5 pillars of Islam and (b) discuss their relevance to the idea of communal unity.") you must answer both parts, and make it clear in your essay which answer belongs to which part of the question! I have seen several students blow an entire essay by forgetting to answer one of its parts.
  • Sum up your answer with a concluding sentence. (Ex: "In short, all Five Pillars of Islam can serve as reminders to individual Muslims that they belong to a larger community, thus contributing to communal unity.")
  • If you are worried that you will run out of time to write your essay in class, write your essay first, and then do the objective section.


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Guidelines for Concise Writing Assignments

Basic rules for writing history papers:

  • Read the question carefully and make sure to answer all its parts. Part of what you are learning to do is analysis, so start by analyzing the question itself.  What is it really asking you to do?  Does it contain more than one question that must be answered?  Does it require you to define an abstract concept (such as "civilization" or "rights") in order to justify your answer?
  • All of the questions in my classes require you to derive your answer from the evidence in your primary readings, so examine the assigned primary sources carefully before coming up with an answer. As we go throughout the semester, you should develop a degree of skill in analyzing different kinds of documents. 
  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. A primary source is an original document (such as Juan Gines de Sepulveda's argument for the enslavement of native Americans) or an eyewitness description of an event.  A primary source is produced by a participant or observer of the event/time period/thing you are describing.  Artifacts, images, and recordings can also be primary sources. A secondary source can be a summary of an original document written by someone who was not an observer or participant (the editors' introductions in your sourcebook), or a description of an event based on other people's reports about it. For a more detailed definition of the difference between primary and secondary sources, see
  • Do not use sources out of context. For example, if you are writing about interfaith toleration in the Mughal Empire,  your evidence must be from sources on the Mughal Empire. A quotation about interfaith toleration in the Ottoman Empire is not evidence for an argument about the Mughal Empire, unless you want to compare the two empires. You must also make sure you do not misinterpret the author's meaning. 
  • Take a critical approach to your sources. Who is the author? How old is the book or article? Does the information appear to be presented from a balanced perspective, or is there reason to believe it may be biased in some way? You should evaluate all sources (primary or secondary) to determine the author's perspective before deciding whether or how to use them.
  • Define abstract concepts. If you are dealing with an abstract concept, such as "identity" or "civilization," define what the concept means to you and how you will use it in your paper. As Stephen Ullman said in Principles of Semantics: "Terminological uncertainties have the same effect on research as fog has on shipping. They are the more dangerous as people are usually unaware of their existence."  What is true for research is equally true for writing.
  • State your thesis and your evidence clearly.


The importance of well-organized writing:

  • Always write an outline before you start writing any essay or paper. Plan your introductory paragraph to include your thesis or a brief statement of your answer. Your outline should list all the evidence you have gathered to support your answer. If you think your argument is controversial, or if you argue against a perspective supported by some of your readings, you may want to include responses to possible objections in your essay.
  • Part of your grade will be based on your ability to communicate your ideas in writing. Thus you must present your ideas in a well-organized manner. (The degree of your intelligence is irrelevant if you are unable to present your ideas in a way that makes sense to others.) Your answer must respond to all parts of the question and give relevant details.
  • Assume you are explaining your point to someone who does not know much about history. Do not skip any steps in the logic of your argument, but don't include any information that does not immediately support your thesis. 
  • Your paper should begin with an introduction and end with a concise conclusion that summarizes your answer.



  • When you use information from a source other than your notes from class (including the class texts and outside sources), you must cite your sources.  If you are in World Civs or a 200-level course, I may allow you to use MLA-style parenthetical references for your concise essays, for example: "Burckhardt said the Renaissance contributed the concept of individualism to modern Europe" (Burckhardt 311).  Note that periods and commas go after the parentheses and that there are no commas inside the parentheses.  Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks, with a period after the parentheses.  Ex: "...what alternative can I have but to put them all to death!" (Jahangir 102).  For research papers, I require Chicago Manual of Style footnotes. For formatting of Chicago-style footnotes, see the relevant section of your St. Martin's Pocket Guide or Diana Hacker's Pocket Manual of Style or Chicago Manual of Style.  I do not allow students to use web sites as sources for concise essays; if you want to use any outside source, you must consult with me ahead of time.
  • Yes, you need a works cited page (if you are using MLA format) or bibliography (if you are using Chicago style). I am training you to practice professional standards, and professional standards require a list of sources used in an essay or research paper. Even if your only source was the class textbook, I would still require a works cited page.
  • I will not tolerate plagiarism.  Plagiarism is the copying of material from another source and presenting it as if it were your own idea, without a citation.  Plagiarism also includes the use of paragraphs, sentences, or phrases directly from the source without putting quotation marks around them.  Even if you change a few words per sentence, but you do not significantly change the sentence structure, you are still plagiarizing.  Students who are proven guilty of plagiarism will receive a failing grade on the paper and will be reported to the administration.  For definitions of plagiarism and strategies for avoiding it, see http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/wts/plagiarism.html


Length problems:

  • Papers should not exceed the length stipulated in your assignment. I will return all papers that exceed length limits--even if it is just a few words.  Most business, government, and technical writing must be done within a single, single-spaced page, so you should get used to writing short, concise, information-packed essays. 
  • If your paper is too long, reconsider your answer.  Have you included any information that is unnecessary for your argument?  Have you repeated the same point twice in different words? Is your organizational order as efficient as it could be? Is your writing style overly wordy?
  • If your paper is too short, add more evidence. Try to be as comprehensive as possible in your use of sources--try to use as many sources as are relevant to your argument. Make sure at least one of your sources is a PRIMARY source!
  • Please stick to standard font sizes--no smaller than 12cpi.  Those of us who have to wear reading glasses might get headaches while reading essays written in fine print.  Also, since my essay assignments are limited by word length rather than page length, there's no need to shrink your fonts.


When you think you are done....

  • Use the computer's spell-checkers and grammar checkers. In this age of computer editing devices, some kinds of spelling and grammar errors are absolutely inexcusable.
  • Re-read your paper to yourself at least once. Look for spelling errors that spell-checkers do not catch. Do not trust grammar checkers either; they are notoriously unreliable. Use them, but use them with scepticism.
  • Ask yourself while you are going over your paper whether the main ideas are clearly presented, whether you have included all the evidence you need to support your argument, and whether you could do anything to improve the flow of the argument, the transitions, or the sentence structure. Some people find it useful to read the paper out loud as if explaining it to an audience.
  • If you know that you have problems with spelling or grammar, or if you have read your essay and you are not sure that it will make sense to anyone other than you, ask someone else to check it over with you.  The Writing Center in the basement of Marting Hall can help you with your paper, but you should plan to bring them a draft at least a day before the paper is due.
  • If you find something wrong, take the time to fix it. Your future employers will not be impressed with spelling errors and scratched out words. A professional attitude towards editing can significantly improve your grade.
  • Do not procrastinate.


Evaluation of papers:

  • The guidelines listed above are suggestions for an acceptable paper. To receive a grade of C, your paper must provide a reasonably intelligible answer to the question, based on evidence from your primary source readings.
  • To receive a grade of B, your paper must be reasonably well-written, and it must demonstrate that you considered your question or topic carefully and exercised some critical thinking in evaluating your evidence and constructing your answer.
  • To receive a grade of A, your paper must in addition demonstrate a high degree of professionalism in clarity of statement and organization, and it must suggest a degree of original thinking. Though you may find this list of instructions discouraging at first, many of my students have gone from producing D or C level work at the beginning of the semester to producing B or A level work at the end.

GOOD LUCK!  Questions? E-mail igesink@bw.edu | Top | Home


Common Spelling Errors that Elude Spell Checkers

The following common spelling errors were taken from previous student papers.

  • affect/effect: Affect is usually used as a verb meaning "to influence," such as in "the industrial revolution affected every aspect of European society." Effect is usually used as a noun: "The widespread acceptance of clock-time in Europe was an effect of factory work schedules."
  • do/due: I shudder every time I see this mistake. Do is a verb: "We need to do our papers, or else Dr. Gesink will set up a guillotine in class." Do not substitute do for due, as in "Those who do not turn in their papers are due to be executed today."  Likewise, "Due to the invention of computerized spell checkers, Americans feel they do not have to learn how to spell simple words."
  • further/farther: In general, farther refers to distance: "The Jesuit missionaries brought Christianity to regions farther away from Europe."  In general, we should only use further to refer to deepening or widening something, pushing it to a greater or wider extent, as in "I want to further my education in non-western cultures."
  • its/it's: Its is a possessive pronoun: "That culture has its own value system."  It's is a contraction of "it is" or "it has": "It's (it is) time to learn how to write well." 
  • lead/led: Led is past tense of lead: "England no longer leads the world in manufacturing textiles."  This becomes in past tense: "England once led the world in manufacturing textiles."
  • quote/quotation: Quotation is a noun: "We may sum up Utilitarianism with the following quotation from Jeremy Bentham..." Quote is a verb: "Here I quote Jeremy Bentham..."
  • then/than: Then describes a relationship of time: "John Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Civil Government before the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688; then the English Parliamentarians used what Locke wrote to justify their actions."  Likewise: "The English re-issued Locke's Two Treatises then." Than describes a relationship of comparison: "Thomas Hobbes held a generally more pessimistic view of human nature than John Locke did."
  • there/their/they're: There describes a place: "The statue of Napoleon is over there." Their is a possessive pronoun: "That is their statue of Napoleon"; "That statue is theirs." They're is a contraction of "they are."
  • though/although: Though is not a substitute for although. Avoid it.


Other Helpful Hints

  • that/which: That is the defining, or restrictive pronoun; which is the nondefining or nonrestrictive. In the sentence "the revolution that happened in 1789," that tells us what revolution we are talking about (not the revolution of 1830, but the revolution of 1789). The clause "that happened in 1789" defines the revolution. It is necessary information to distinguish the revolution from others. In the sentence "the revolution, which happened in 1789," which tells us additional information about the revolution. The clause, "which happened in 1789," simply adds a fact about the only revolution we were talking about.
  • religion vs denomination: Christians are divided up into various "denominations" over issues of church hierarchy and theology. Catholics belong to a different denomination than Lutherans; they do not belong to a different religion.
  • Avoid informal language, such as slang expressions and colloquialisms: "Well,..." "You know...." "power trip" "sort of" etc.
  • Avoid contractions in formal writing (Do you confuse its and it's? Make it simple. Never use it's at all!)
  • Do not attribute feelings or beliefs to inanimate objects. For example, we cannot say that Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, "hated the Jews." Only people can have feelings; books and other unthinking objects cannot.
  • Periods and commas go inside quotation marks. See example above.
  • Spell out numbers up to 100 and centuries (nineteenth century, not 19th), unless you are using a lot of quantitative data.
  • Do not use your computer thesaurus without checking the dictionary to see if the word you want to use really means what you think it means. Thesauruses do not provide exact synonyms -- many of the words they will suggest have slightly different and highly specialized meanings. It is a good idea to use the dictionary anyway, since it is the only reliable way to build your professional vocabulary.

  Questions? E-mail igesink@bw.edu | Top | Home


Cultural Enrichment Projects

Check your syllabus. Cultural Enrichment Projects are only allowed for certain courses. In those courses, I permit students to explore aspects of cultures, personalities, and events related to the course. These projects are intended to allow you to investigate subjects they are interested in that we don't have time to cover in class, and to encourage independent exploration of the facets of culture that are difficult to bring into a tightly-structured class, such as film, cooking, and worship. By doing reports on these projects, you may earn a maximum of five (5) extra credit points to be added to the final grade. Each assignment is worth one-half to five extra credit points. If you want to do a Cultural Enrichment Project, see me first.

What you have to do to get extra credit:

  • All extra credit is earned by doing a Cultural Enrichment Project. That is, you must do something that exposes you to a cultural experience or perspective relevant to your class, or something that adds to your historical knowledge of the cultures, events, people, or theories relevant to your class. To recieve credit, you must write a 1-2 page review of your Cultural Enrichment Project. The review should include a brief summary of what you watched, read, or did, what historical or cultural information you learned from it, and how it added to or reinforced information you learned in class. 
  • For example, you may:
  • Watch videos of films or documentaries at home or in the library and write a review. 
  • Watch a historically-based movie showing in a local theater and write a review (check with me first, and please attach your ticket stub).
  • If you are in History 389I Modern Middle East or HIS 381I Arab-Israeli Conflicts, you may be able to attend the Middle East Film Series, which in the past has included night showings of Pascali's Island, Lawrence of Arabia, Battle of Algiers, Victory at Entebbe, Kedma, and Promises. I will work out a schedule for the Middle East Film Series with your class at the beginning of the semester. 
  • Read a novel, someone's memoirs, or a short story and write a review.
  • Participate in a cultural activity
    • Visit a mosque, a synagogue, or a church of a Middle Eastern denomination, gather informational brochures on services offered, and write a review.
    • Visit a museum exhibit on art or antiquities and write a review.
    • Prepare a recipe from one of the cultures relevant to your class and bring a sample to share with the class. In this case, you do not have to write a review.
    • If you hear of other cultural activities taking place in the Cleveland area that you want to attend, let me know.

Point allocation for Cultural Enrichment Projects

  • I base point allocations on an estimation of the amount of time and effort your project takes. Each review of a video, film, or a short story is potentially worth 1 point added to your final grade.
  • Reviews of videos or films longer than 3 hours are worth up to 1.5 points added to your final grade (make sure you write the number of minutes on your reaction paper).
  • Reviews of books over 300 pages are worth up to 2 points. 
  • Reviews of books over 600 pages are worth up to 3 points.
  • Reviews of on-campus cultural events such as Chinese New Year, or a review of a short internet article, are potentially worth 1/2 point. That's because they require little brain power. 
  • Research papers using multiple sources are potentially worth the full 5 points.
  • Always check with me before viewing or readings something that is not on my list; some books and films are not sufficiently historical and will not count for credit.
  • Keep in mind that if you do not take the review seriously, or if your answer to a film question misses important points or could have been snagged from a web site or e-pinion, you may not receive the full point allocation.  A good review will be well-written, well-organized, and insightful. 

What can extra credit do for your grade?

  • First, let me say that the real point of Cultural Enrichment Projects is to allow you to receive credit for pursuing your own interests farther than we can do in class.
  • Extra credit could potentially improve your final grade by a half-grade. That may not sound like much, but it can mean the difference between a B+ and an A-, a C+ and a B-, or even a C- and a C, which can mean the difference between receiving credit for the class or not.
  • If you are an A student, don't think for a second that extra credit isn't worth your time. There's always the possibility of an A+. I give out very few A+'s, but one of the conditions for receiving one is that A students do consistently superior work and demonstrate expenditure of their utmost effort in the class. A well-done extra credit assignment may help convince me that you deserve an A+.

What extra credit cannot do for your grade:

  • Extra credit cannot change your grade radically, say for example from a C to a B. If  you get a C on the midterm exam and a C average on your papers, there is no way for your grade to be magically converted into a B at the end of the semester.  Put your effort into studying for the final exam or final paper instead.
  • If you are failing the class utterly (F on the midterm, failing grades on papers), doing extra credit will not help you pass. It is simply not mathematically possible.  And if your grade is on the borderline between an F and a D-, I will not allow you to pass the class by doing one point of extra credit.  It would not be fair to students who pass by studying for exams and doing the assignments well. 
  • Extra credit also does not guarantee an improvement in your final letter grade.  If, for example, your raw grade average is an 83 (B), and you have acquired four points of extra credit, your final grade will be an 87 (still a B).  However, if your raw grade average was an 84 (B), those four points would give you a final grade of 88 (B+).

Questions? Email igesink@bw.edu | Top | Home


Dr. Gesink's Recommended Films and Reading

Please select the course for which you want to earn extra credit from the list below:

World Civilizations II

You may get documentaries from BW's Media Services department, which is located in the basement of the Student Activities Center (the SAC).  The door is on the south side of the building, right by the tennis courts.  You can check these out with your ID card.  To find other videos in your area of interest, go to /resources/infotech/media/videos/catalogue/ .

  • Ice Mummies: Frozen in Heaven (60 mins, Nova special on Inca mummies)  
  • ANY documentary on Incas or Aztecs
  • Book:  Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, by Olaudah Equiano.  The memoirs of an African slave, his capture, his life as a slave in Africa, and his experience on a European slave ship during the 'Middle Passage' to America. Available at Ritter: HT869.E6 A3 1967 
  • Amistad (a film about slaves who rebelled during their passage to America, took over the ship, and were put on trial--available at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video)
  • Book: Shogun by James Clavell (historical novel set in the samurai culture of sixteenth-century Japan; this novel is over 600 pages and is worth three points of extra credit)
  • The Long Search, 5: Islam: There is no god but God (60 mins)
  • Beliefs 8, Islam I or Beliefs 9, Islam II (60 mins each)
  • Story of Islam (120 mins)
  • Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh: The Religions of India (2 videos, 240 mins each) 
  • Book: The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, by Jakob Walter.  (Short, readable memoir of a boy who became a soldier in Napoleon's army and participated in the ill-fated Russian campaign.  Available at Ritter Library in German and in English translation.)
  • The Great War (documentaries on WWI: only volumes not seen in class can be viewed for ex-cred)
  • The Last Samurai (movie set against the Meiji Restoration in Japan; available at Hollywood video and Blockbuster)
  • Joyeux Noel (movie about a true story: a WWI truce during December 1914.  French, Scottish, and German troops ceased fighting for one night-- Christmas Eve--emerged from the trenches, met one another, and played football together)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (movie, beautiful cinematography. Peter O'Toole stars as the English leader of the Arab Revolt in WWI, also starring Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness; available at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video) 
  • The Longest Day (about D-Day and the Normandy invasion)
  • Enemy at the Gates (movie about the role of snipers in the Battle of Stalingrad; available at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video) 
  • Der Untergang ("The Downfall"--a 2004 dramatization of the last days in Hitler's bunker, based on eyewitness testimonies)
  • White Light/Black Rain (documentary about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; interviews with survivors.  Graphic.)
  • 13 Days (movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, available at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video).
  • India After Independence (58 mins)
  • Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Mahatma Gandhi - Soul Force (24 mins)
  • Mahatma Gandhi: The Great Soul Lives (60 mins)
  • Gandhi (multiple academy award-winning movie about the life of Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley.  About three hours long; worth 1.5 points.  Available at Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.)
  • Battle of Algiers (movie about Algerian resistance fighters in the war for independence from the French and Frencha attempts to track down their cells.  Black-and-white, French and Arabic dialogue, subtitled in English.   May be available at Hollywood Video).

Courses on Middle Eastern or Islamic History

Documentary Films


These are the documentaries available at BW's Media Services department, which is located in the basement of the Student Activities Center (the SAC).  The door is on the south side of the building, right by the tennis courts.  You can check these out with your ID card.  To find other videos in your area of interest, go to http://www.bw.edu/resources/infotech/media/videos/catalogue/When choosing a video or book for an extra credit project, try to pick one that is relevant to the time period being studied in your class.  If in doubt, check with me first.

  • Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (David Shipler, 120 mins)
  • Arming of Iraq (60 mins)
  • Beliefs 8, Islam I or Beliefs 9, Islam II (60 mins each)
  • Beyond the Veil: Are Iranian Women Rebelling? (22 mins)
  • Cold War: 20 -- Soldiers of God (1975-1988) on Afghanistan? (60 mins)
  • From Raj to Riches: The New India (60 mins)
  • The Great War, 3 "Total War," segment on the Gallipoli campaign (10 mins--no ex cred)
  • The Gulf War (3 part series, each 60 mins)
  • Gunning For Saddam (60 mins)
  • Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh: The Religions of India (2 videos, 240 mins each)
  • Israel, 1983 (26 mins)
  • Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Ben-Gurion, One Place, One People (24 mins)
  • Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Politics and Oil (24 mins).
  • Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Nasser, the People's Pharaoh (24 mins)
  • The Long Search, 5: Islam: There is no god but God (60 mins)
  • The Long Search, 7: Judaism: Chosen People (60 mins)
  • Mind of Hussein (on Saudi Arabia, 100 mins)
  • The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations (Edward Said criticizes Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of Civilizations' theory and its use in American foreign policy, 55 mins).
  • Out of Place: Memories of Edward Said (Not really a memoir; this is more about dispossession and exile. 138 mins)
  • The PLO in Lebanon (22 mins)
  • The Persian Gulf Crisis: A Middle East Affair (Arab students, 90 mins)
  • The Sufi Way (Listed with "Requiem for a Faith," by Huston Smith, 30 mins)

These documentaries are available at the Cuyahoga County Library.  You can order most of these from any branch, including the Berea branch, which is just behind Bucci's.  Some are available only by request from the Cuyahoga County AV Department: You can order these by calling (216) 398-4404 or e-mailing avb@cuyahoga.lib.oh.us, and asking the AV Department to send the video you want to the branch library nearest you.  You will need a Cuyahoga County Library card or a Greater Access card.

  • 50 Years' War (on the Arab-Israeli conflict)
  • Arab-Israeli Struggle for Peace -- AV Department only
  • The Conflict (on the Arab-Israeli conflict) AV Department only
  • Exodus: the birth of Israel (old, sentimental perspective on Israeli state)
  • The Fundamental Question (on fundamentalism, broadly defined, 65 mins) AV Department only
  • Future Peace, Next War (1998, on the Arab-Israeli Conflict) AV Department only.
  • The People's Army (on the Arab-Israeli conflict) AV Department only
  • The Palestinian People Do Have Rights
  • Struggle for Peace (1991, on Arabs and Israelis who work for peace) AV Department only
  • Tamar (part of a series on children of Jerusalem) AV Department only
  • Yacoub (part of a series on children of Jerusalem) AV Department only
  • Waging Peace (1996, on the Arab-Israeli peace process) AV Department only
  • Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land
Go to:
Documentary Films
Suggested Movies(mostly subtitled)
  • Battle of Algiers (Designed to look like actual footage of the Algerian independence movement in Algiers)
  • Canticle of the Stones
  • A Door to the Sky
  • Dreams of Hind and Camilia (working-class Egyptian women)
  • Dupes (a disturbing fable about Palestinians in Palestine and in exile, based on the novella "Men in the Sun" by Ghassan Kanafani)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (in English, beautiful cinematography. Peter O'Toole stars as the English leader of the Arab Revolt in WWI, also starring Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness.)
  • The Little Stranger (about a young Persian boy)
  • Night of the Jackal
  • Pascali's Island (in English. Ben Kingsley stars as an Ottoman spy on a Greek island in the last days of the Ottoman Empire)
  • The Puppeteer (Starring Omar Sharif as a rural puppeteer in Egypt whose son goes off to school and forgets his roots.)
  • The Wall (about relations between Palestinians and Israelis in an Israeli prison)
  • Wedding in Galilee
Try local video rental stores for these titles, or visit the Middle Eastern neighborhoods of Cleveland.  If there is a movie or documentary that you want to see that is not on the list, please see me.

Go to:
Documentary Films

Books - Autobiography, Biography, Travel (mostly on modern period)

  • Binur, Yoram. My Enemy, My Self. An Israeli journalist goes undercover, posing as a Palestinian.
  • Farman Farmaian, Sattareh. Daughter of Persia. An excellent, well-written book about a woman's life, her childhood as a member of a persecuted aristocratic family under the Shah, her education and rise to prominence within the westernized culture of the elite, and the effects of Iran's Islamic revolution.
  • Grossman, David. The Yellow Wind. First-hand report on the Palestinian dilemma, written before the Intifada by an Israeli journalist.
  • Guppy, Shusha. The Blindfold Horse. Memoires of a woman's childhood in Persia before the oil boom and the Revolution.
  • Heikal, Mohamed. The Road to Ramadan. An inside story of how the Arabs prepared for the 1973 war.
  • Horowitz, Tony. Baghdad without a Map. A comic travelogue. Light reading.
  • Hussein, Taha. The Days and An Egyptian Childhood. Autobiography of a blind man from Egypt, his rural childhood, education at al-Azhar mosque, and his travels to France (1932).
  • Oz, Amos. In the Land of Israel. Conversations with ordinary people by one of Israel's foremost novelists (1983).
  • Sasson, Jean P. Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. Slightly sensationalist biography of a Saudi princess.
  • Tergeman, Siham. Daughter of Damascus. Story of a Syrian woman's youth in the old city of Damascus in the first half of the 20th century.

Go to:
Documentary Films

  • Faqir, Fadia. Nisanit. A disturbing dramatization of the Arab-Israeli conflict as seen through the eyes of a Palestinian guerrilla fighter, his girlfriend, and an Israeli interrogator.
  • Habiby, Emile. The Secret Life of Saeed, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist: A Palestinian who Became a Citizen of Israel.
  • al-Hakim, Tawfiq. Maze of Justice: Diary of a Country Prosecutor. Partly autobiographical account of the trials of a young lawyer assigned to a village in rural Egypt. Imbued with the ideals of his European education, he perceives a world of poverty and backwardness where an imported legal system is both alien and incomprehensible. He also encounters the red tape, political intrigue, and bungling incompetence of state officials (1937).
  • Kanafani, Ghassan. "Men in the Sun," "The Land of Sad Oranges," "If you were a horse...," "A Hand in the Grave," "Umm Saad," "The Falcon," and "Letter from Gaza." Short stories by a Palestinian from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
  • Mahfouz, Naguib. Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, Midaq Alley, and short stories. Tales of Egyptians from the first half of the 20th century, stories of resistance to British rule, of working class neighborhoods, religious fables, westernization, love, scandal....from the celebrated Egyptian Nobel Laureate.
  • Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North. A fascinating novel of cultural misconceptions and delusions, about a brilliant student who returns from England to his Sudanese village amid mysteries of obsession and murder.
  • Shammas, Anton. Arabesques. An exploration of identity by a Christian Arab in Palestine.
  • al-Shaykh, Hanan. The Story of Zahra (A woman's experience of war and sexuality in Beirut) and Women of Sand and Myrrh (story of four women living in a desert nation who are treated to every luxury but freedom).

There are also short stories by various Middle Eastern authors. Ask me about these.
For non-fiction resources, consult me or check the library catalogue.

Go back to:

Documentary Films


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