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Writers' Guidelines

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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 field of entry subjects is open, but whatever subject you choose must be of lasting importance in some way to the state of Minnesota.

MNopeda entries are arranged into twenty general topics that you can use as a guide. 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

We have also placed all entries into one of six categories: people, places, events, structures, things, and groups. We ask that any entry you create fall within one of these categories. At this time we are not accepting entries on people who are living.

Writers are further asked to associate their entry with an era in Minnesota history. Obviously, 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 pegged to the Minnesota State Social Studies Standards and will change somewhat over time as standards are redefined, but they are useful because they provide another way for users to find content they want within the encyclopedia. The eras as currently defined 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, we are accepting 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 type of well-defined subject, rather than an individual entity. For example, a C-level entry would examine the phenomenon of bonanza farming overall, rather than one specific bonanza farm, such as Oliver Dalrymple’s, which 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 on a particular person, event, structure or thing. Groups can be D-level entries if you are talking about the organization as a single entity, such as 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 the right level, double-check the encyclopedia to see if anyone else has written on your entry subject already. If not, the next step in the process is evaluating the resources available to construct your entry.

  • 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 without the inclusion of some contextual materials.

If the resources and contextual materials you need for your chosen entry are available, you should then review them in preparation for writing your text. It is good to have a broad base of knowledge on your subject before approaching the text. The final text is limited to a certain word count depending on whether yours is a C- or D-level entry. But you will need to know more than you will have space to share to create a rich, interesting entry. There are always intriguing facts that need to be left out, due to space considerations, but you will not know which facts those are in advance, so it is best to approach the writing with more knowledge rather than less. Choices about what to include might also be influenced by what materials are available to illustrate or confirm points made in the text.

This 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 in 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 be a summary of 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 if you wish, or take another approach to your body text, as long as your subject’s story is told clearly and the key facts are presented. Online readers are easily distracted, so keep them interested by writing concisely in a lively style without detracting from the factual content of your work. Do not footnote and minimize the use of quotations, as you will list the sources you use in your bibliography (see details below).

We want encyclopedia text to be interesting and accessible to a general audience, including teachers, students, journalists, history enthusiasts and others, so we are writing all entries at a tenth-grade reading level. We ask that you also write your text at a tenth-grade reading level. (To check the reading level of your text, use the Spelling & Grammar tool in Microsoft Word.) Bring reading level down by using shorter sentences and more understandable words. Employ short paragraphs, and if you are writing a C-level entry, use subheads.

V. Creating additional entry components

Turning Point
Once your body text is complete, adhering 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 oint provides both an easy 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.

We also ask all writers to create a short chronology of important dates directly related to their entry subject and 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.

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 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, just the highest quality you are capable of providing, with the least compression. We will work with what you send, and let you know if something will not work. 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.

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. We will work with them from there. Any audio or 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 additional 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). Please take care to provide this additional information. It is essential to making your work findable and usable.

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: List of important dates directly related to the entry with a one-sentence explanation of significance for each.

Bibliography: 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

We prefer the use of the term American Indian rather than Native American. Ojibwe, not Anishinaabe, and Dakota, not Sioux, are the preferred terms of MNopedia. 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, electronically via email (until our web-based tool is ready to use).

Encyclopedia editors reserve the right to edit your text after its submission for reading level, clarity, length and general 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.