How to Write an Article for the Quarterly

How to Write an Article for the Southwestern Historical Quarterly

by Editor Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Southwestern Historical Quarterly editor Mike Campbell offers some suggestions concerning how to design, research, and write an article-length manuscript for publication in the Quarterly:

A vitally important first step is to examine five to ten articles that appeared in recent numbers of the Quarterly. Try to determine the characteristics—in terms of design, research, and writing—that these articles have in common. Also, pay close attention to the mechanics, especially documentation form, of these articles.

Design your study by determining exactly the subject that you intend to research and then describe and analyze in your manuscript. You may begin by saying "I want to look at the Republican Party during Reconstruction in Texas," but once you have acquainted yourself with the existing literature and thought about what is unknown or controversial about the subject, you should narrow your focus to a specific and manageable question. For example, the existing literature may show that Texas Republicans during Reconstruction suffered greatly from intra-party factionalism, but the nature of that factionalism may not be fully explained. Thus your research could focus on answering the question: What explains the factionalism that plagued the Republican Party during Reconstruction in Texas?

Research your manuscript by beginning with general secondary accounts (textbook accounts of Reconstruction in Texas), moving from there to more specific secondary accounts (studies of the Republican Party in Texas or of Reconstruction in Texas) to primary sources (newspapers, manuscript collections left by Republican leaders, journals of the constitutional conventions of Reconstruction, etc.) Use your imagination in the search for primary sources.

Write your manuscript with particular attention to the following:

  1. The Introduction has to explain exactly what you are going to do. Use a nice anecdote or an "artistic" setting of the stage if you like ("Two days before the Twelfth Legislature assembled in Austin, Gov. Edmund J. Davis could no longer contain his anger at the petty feuds that threatened his fledgling party. 'Never,' he wrote to his trusted Republican colleague J. P. Newcomb, 'have I encountered such a band of self-destructive fools.'") However, the introduction must provide historiographical context (what has been written on the subject and where your work fits in it) and the question that your article will answer.
  2. The Body of the Manuscript has to do what you promised in the introduction. Above all, it must be organized so that it is easy to follow, allowing the reader to see that it is related to what you promised. Strive for clarity first; then worry about style.
  3. The Conclusion must summarize exactly what you have proven—and nothing more. Do not make claims that you have not substantiated. If you want to speculate, make it absolutely clear that you are speculating. ("This study suggests ....")

The rules for creating a manuscript that is publishable in a scholarly journal may be summarized as follows:

  1. Tell the readers what you are going to tell them
  2. Tell the readers what you have to tell them
  3. Tell the readers what you told them
  4. Stop
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