Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo

Writers' Guidelines

 Back to top

I. Choosing an Entry Topic, Category, and Era
II. Selecting an Entry Level
III. Evaluating Available Resources
IV. Writing the Entry’s Body Text
V. Creating Additional Entry Components
VI. Associating Necessary Metadata
VII. Summary of Necessary Encyclopedia Entry Elements
VIII. Style Notes
IX. Submission Process
X. Permissions

Thank you for becoming a contributor to MNopedia! This guide is intended to walk you or your chosen writer/researcher through the process of putting together an entry, from start to finish. As you work, you may also want to consult our editorial policy and citation formatting guide.

I. Choosing an entry topic, category, and era

The first step is to identify what you want to write about. The topic you choose must be of lasting significance to the state of Minnesota.

Topics
MNopeda entries are arranged into twenty general topics. They are:

  • African Americans
  • Agriculture
  • American Indians
  • Architecture
  • The Arts
  • Business and Industry
  • Cities and Towns
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Exploration
  • Health and Medicine
  • Immigration
  • Labor
  • Politics
  • Religion and Belief
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • War and Conflict
  • Women

Categories
All entries must belong to one of six categories: people, places, events, structures, things, and groups. At this time we are not accepting entries on people who are living.

Eras
Writers are further asked to associate their entries with an era in Minnesota history. Not all entries will fall cleanly within just one era, but we ask that you choose the era in which the most significant parts of your subject’s story occurred. The eras we use are tied to the Minnesota State Social Studies Standards and may change over time as standards are redefined. They are useful, however, because they provide a way for users to find the content they want within the encyclopedia. The eras are:

  • Before European Contact: Pre-1585
  • Colonization and Settlement: 1585–1763
  • Revolution and a New Nation: 1754–1800
  • Expansion and Reform: 1792–1861
  • Civil War and Reconstruction: 1850–1877
  • Development of an Industrial United States: 1870–1920
  • Great Depression and World War II: 1920–1945
  • Post World War II United States: 1945–1989
  • The United States in a New Global Age: 1980–Present

II. Selecting an entry level

At this time, MNopedia accepts C- and D-level entries from writers. These entries are similar in structure but vary in scope and length. Decide which is appropriate for the subject you’ve chosen:

C-level entries provide a look at a well-defined subject rather than an individual entity. For example, a C-level entry would examine the phenomenon of bonanza farming in Minnesota. A specific bonanza farm, such as Oliver Dalrymple’s, would be written about in a D-level entry. Be careful in choosing C-level entries so as not to make the subject matter too broad. C-level entries are limited to 1000-1200 words of body text (including the summary paragraph).

D-level entries have a more specific focus--for example, a particular person, place, thing, event, group, or structure. Groups can be the subjects of D-level entries if they are treated as single entities (e.g., the Northrup King Seed Company). D-level entries are limited to 300-700 words of body text (including the summary paragraph).

III. Evaluating available resources

Once you have identified an entry subject, assigned it to a topic, category, and era, and selected a level, double-check the encyclopedia to see if a writer has already published an article on your subject. If not, begin to evaluate whether enough resources exist to support research into your subject.

  • Is there sufficient source material, preferably both primary and secondary, to construct a well-researched, historically accurate and reliable text?
  • Are there contextual materials that you have the rights to use that can be packaged with that text, such as audio and video files, and images, including images of objects or maps? Your entry is not complete if it does not include contextual materials.

If the resources and contextual materials you need for your chosen entry are available, review them before you begin writing. It is good to have a broad base of knowledge on your subject before approaching the text. Intriguing facts often need to be left out due to space considerations, but you will not know which facts those are in advance. Therefore, it is best to approach the writing process with more knowledge rather than less.

The resource evaluation step of the entry-writing process is usually the most time-consuming, taking between a few hours to as many as twenty depending on the subject and the resources available.

IV. Writing the entry’s body text

Once you feel confident about your research and knowledge, begin writing your entry’s body text—the main narrative section of your entry. The first two sentences of your body text should summarize your subject’s significance. For example:

Founded in 1882, the Schubert Club is one of the oldest existing arts organizations in the country. It has had a significant impact on the cultural life of St. Paul, supporting music education and hosting concerts featuring well-respected local, national, and international musicians.

These initial sentences will appear with your entry title in search results, so aim to catch the attention of the casual reader—someone who may not be familiar with your subject or is encountering it by chance.

After your summary of significance, proceed in chronological fashion or take another approach to your body text. Whatever your chosen structure, make sure your subject’s story is told clearly and the key facts are presented. List the sources that you used while researching your article in the bibliography section using Chicago style. Do not use footnotes or endnotes. Sources that you did not use directly in your research but that provide additional information on your topic should be included in the related resources section.

As you work, avoid references to “today.” Do not write, for example, “Today, the association’s offices are located on Nicollet Avenue.” Instead, rephrase the statement so that it is rooted in a dated event—for example, “In 2015, the association moved into offices on Nicollet Avenue.”

Do not end your article with a conclusion or a paragraph that summarizes what you have already written. Conclusions are not encyclopedia style. Similarly, do not make arguments or try to prove a thesis. The goal of an encyclopedia article is to inform rather than to persuade.

Because we want encyclopedia text to be accessible to a general audience that includes teachers, students, journalists, and history enthusiasts, we require all entries to be written at a tenth-grade reading level. To measure the reading level of your text, use Microsoft Word's Flesch-Kincaid readability index. Highlight your summary paragraph and body text, do a spelling and grammar check with the readability tool activated, and view the statistical report in the window that appears.

If the Flesch-Kincaid score in the report is 10.9 or lower, your text is at the right level. If the score is higher than that, go back to your text and shorten sentences, break up paragraphs, and replace long words with shorter synonyms. Replacing passive-voice constructions with active ones helps, too. Then re-measure the text and view your new score. Continue revising until your score is 10.9 or lower. Measuring the reading level of article components other than summary and body text, including the turning point and chronology points, is not necessary.

If you haven't used the Flesch-Kincaid index before, consider watching this tutorial.

V. Creating additional entry components

Turning Point
Once your body text is complete and adheres to the given word count, identify a turning point from within that text—one particularly meaningful or essential moment in the story of your entry subject. This turning point provides an entry point for the reader and another kind of summary of what makes your subject important. The turning point in the encyclopedia’s Leroy Buffington article, for example, calls out his 1888 application for a design patent because of its impact on his life and the larger influence of the idea. It reads:

In May 1888, architect Leroy Sunderland Buffington patents his idea for a “cloudscraper,” a revolutionary construction concept that came to be used around the world.

Please note: turning points should describe a single event rather than several events.

Chronology
We ask all writers to create a short chronology (15 events, maximum) of important dates directly related to their entry subject and to attach a one-sentence explanation of significance to each date. This chronology displays in a sidebar, along with the turning point, and functions as an informational supplement to the body text. No more than 260 characters, including spaces, will fit into a single chronology point field.

Avoid date ranges (e.g., 1950–1980, 1860s) in the chronology. Like the turning point, each chronology point should describe a single event. An event tied to a date range can be rewritten so that it focuses on a single date. For example, “1952–1965: Dr. Johnson practices medicine in Mankato” can be rewritten as, “1952: Dr. Johnson opens a medical practice in Mankato.”

Bibliography and Related Resources
All body text must have an associated bibliography. This bibliography should list sources actually used to write the text, formatted according to guidelines for citations in the Chicago Manual of Style.

In a separate related resources section, list other relevant sources—those containing information that you did not include in your entry text, as well as those where readers can learn more. Also format this list according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Under related resources, we break materials down by type: primary, secondary and web. Any websites that are noted should be well-established, reliable and directly relevant to the subject matter of the entry. For example, if a building is on the National Register of Historic Places, it would be appropriate to include its digital Register listing.

Rich resources help make the encyclopedia valuable, so please try to identify and include relevant contextual materials, primary and secondary, where possible. This can be a chance to make the public aware of unique, rare or valuable materials you have care of that might be otherwise overlooked.

A style guide for different types of resources you might wish to include in your bibliography and related resources lists is included within our citation formatting guide.

Images
Images are a key part of each entry. They engage the casual reader and encourage him or her to read more. Contributors must have rights to any images they included with an entry. We ask that images be submitted at a high quality, so that they will look good in the resource. We do not have a minimum size or specific file type needed, but we ask for the highest quality you are capable of providing, with the least compression. Although images will be accessible for download, they will only be available at a size to discourage indiscriminate use. Images selected should be directly relevant to the subject matter of the entry. The writer should choose one of the group to be the lead image for the entry, and the others should be arranged in chronological order. Encyclopedia editors may change the lead image to one of your other selections if your chosen lead image does not fit well within the digital template.

Audio/Video
This is another opportunity to add rich resources to your encyclopedia entry, and to showcase materials you would like to make more accessible. Please submit any audio or video files digitally, again, compressed as little as possible. Audio and video files should be chosen using the same criteria as other related resources and should be directly relevant to the subject matter, either illustrating key points from the text or adding contextual information.

VI. Associating Necessary Metadata

Once your body text is written and you have created your additional entry components, you will need to provide a few more pieces of information about your entry package as a whole. These include: Title, Creator, Creator Biography, Contributor, Source and Address/Location. You’ll also need to provide basic metadata related to any media materials you provide, including: File Name/Type, File Format, Title, Creator, Source, Description, Date/Time, Address/Location, and Rights. Definitions of each of these are included in Section VII (summary of necessary encyclopedia entry elements).

VII. Summary of necessary encyclopedia entry elements

Title: Subject of entry. Please consult already-published articles for naming conventions. For example, for events, include a date in the title. For people, include birth and death dates and list the person's last name first. For structures, list the city in which the structure is located.

Creator: Writer of the entry text. Each entry in the encyclopedia has a credited creator and/or a credited source, if the text has been previously published and is being reused with permission in the encyclopedia (see Source below).

Creator Biography: One or two sentences describing the creator’s professional experience, current institutional affiliation, if applicable, and qualifications.

Contributor: Your organization (if applicable).

Source: If your entry text was published previously and is being reused with permission in the encyclopedia, where it was published initially must be indicated here. For example, you might cite a newsletter or magazine, formatting your citation according to the Chicago Manual of Style. If available, a link/URL to the source may also be provided.

Location/Address: The location name and/or street address of the subject, if it is a place or structure.

Era: Choose a primary era from the list of eras above.

Category: Choose a primary category from the list of categories above.

Topic: Choose a primary topic from the list of topics above.

Level: Select C- or D-level.

Summary: A brief (two to four sentences are ideal) summative explanation of your subject and its historical significance. The summary provides the body text of the article with its first paragraph and figures into the total word count.

Body Text: A 1000-1200 word block of text for C-level entries or a 300-700 word block of text for D-level entries, including a two-sentence summary of your subject’s significance. Please see already-published articles for examples of good writing.

Turning Point: One or two sentences that highlight a particularly meaningful or essential moment in the story of your entry subject.

Chronology: A list of important dates (no more than 15 in total) directly related to the entry with a one-sentence explanation of significance for each.

Bibliography: A list of sources actually used to write the text, cited using the Chicago Manual of Style.

Related Resources: List of the three following resource types.

  • Primary sources that are related to the entry subject but not used directly in the writing of the text. Primary sources used for creating the text should be noted in the bibliography. A guide to definitions of primary and secondary sources can be found at the University of Maryland Libraries' Special Collections web portal.
  • Secondary sources that are related to the entry subject but not used directly in the writing of the text. Secondary sources used for creating the text should be noted in the Bibliography.
  • Reliable, web-based resources that are likely to persist over time and are directly related to the entry subject. For example, the encyclopedia’s Schubert Club entry lists the Schubert Club website. Also, if a building is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is appropriate to include its digital Register listing. If a published article is accessed through a website, it should be listed under primary or secondary sources, as appropriate, with the URL included.

Images/Audio/Video: Images that you have rights to use from your collection or other sources, submitted with as little file compression as possible. They will display in the encyclopedia at a size large enough to see well but small enough to discourage indiscriminate use by others. Also, related audio files and/or video files such as film or podcasts that you have rights to use, submitted with as little file compression as possible.

Multimedia metadata will vary depending on whether it is a Minnesota Historical Society resource or comes from an external source. See the citation guide and the image permissions form for more information on how to cite them.

VIII. Style Notes

All entries and their bibliographic materials are to be styled according to the rules described in MNopedia's citation formatting guide and articulated in the Chicago Manual of Style. Merriam-Webster is the preferred dictionary.

Numbers under 100 and over 1,000,000 should be spelled out rather than written with numerals. Numbers under 100 followed by hundred, thousand, or hundred thousand are an exception, and are spelled out (see the Chicago Manual of Style 9.5). When writing French names, please capitalize the first letter if the last name is used alone. For example: De la Barre, William de la Barre. When providing approximate dates use the format,” c.1850.”

When there are multiple works by one author in a bibliography please use three 3-em dashes: ———.

Individual items or folders within primary source collections need not be cited. Instead, use the description field to call the reader’s attention to items of particular significance if desired.

When using a State Archives Collection, cite it specifically, designating the authoring agency when possible. This is done to differentiate a State Archives collection from manuscripts in the Minnesota Historical Society's other collections.

Call Number, if available
Name of Collection, Dates
Authoring Entity (e.g., division or agency), if provided
State Archives Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description.

We prefer the use of the term American Indian rather than Native American. Ojibwe, not Anishinaabe, and Dakota, not Sioux, are also preferred terms. When possible, cite specific bands or groups (i.e., Mdewakanton). When writing about a specific American Indian, his or her name should appear in this format: American Indian Name, (English Name). This format should be used in the first mentioning of the name. However, if your article title is the name of an American Indian, omit the English name from the title. Include it in the first occurrence of the name within the body text.

When citing eras please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style 9.35. MNopedia’s preferred usage is CE (“of the common era”) and BCE (“before the common era”). Do not use AD and BC.

IX. Submission Process

Once you have completed your entry, please submit it, along with all corresponding media materials, via email.

MNopedia staff will edit your text after its submission for reading level, clarity, length, and consistency with other entries.

X. Permissions

The writer retains all rights, including copyright, in the entry text created for the encyclopedia. However, we encourage all writers to share their entry text by sub-licensing it under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. To grant this permission, sign and return the provided Optional Grant of License Form. For more information about this type of licensing, contact the encyclopedia staff.

If your entry contains any copyrighted text of others, you must seek written permission from the copyright holder(s) and include that/those permissions with the entry when you submit it. To obtain the necessary permission(s), use the provided permissions request form.