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. Summary of Necessary Encyclopedia Entry Elements
VII. Style Notes
VIII. Submission Process
IX. Permissions

Thank you for your interest in contributing to MNopedia! This guide will walk you through the process of putting together an entry. As you work, you may also want to consult our editorial policy and citation formatting guide.

I. Choosing an entry topic, category, and era

MNopeda articles cover at least one of twenty general topics: African Americans; agriculture; Native Americans; architecture; the arts; business and industry; cities and towns; crime and punishment; education; environment; health and medicine; immigration; labor; politics; religion and relief; sports and recreation; technology; transportation; war and conflict; and women. An article may be assigned to more than one topic. For example, an article about the baseball player Toni Stone involves (at least) three topics: women; African Americans; and sports and recreation.

D-level entries must belong to one of six categories: people, places, events, structures, things, and groups. We do not accept articles about people who are living.

Writers should associate their entries with an era in Minnesota history. Not all entries will fall cleanly into a single era; assigning multiple eras is sometimes necessary.

  • Before European Contact: Pre-1585
  • Colonization: 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

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

C-level entries examine a relatively broad 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 not to make C-level entries too broad; they 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, an era, and a category (if necessary), and selected a level, check MNopedia to see if a writer has already published an article on your subject. If no such article has been published, begin to evaluate whether enough resources exist to support research into your subject. The resource evaluation step of the entry-writing process is usually the most time-consuming and can take several hours, depending on the subject and the resources available.

  • Is there sufficient source material, preferably both primary and secondary, to construct an 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.

IV. Writing the entry’s body text

Once you feel confident about your research, begin writing your entry’s body text—the main narrative section of your entry. The first 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 (no more than three total) 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.

After you write your summary, tell the story of your topic in chronological order. Make sure your subject’s story is told clearly and the key facts are presented. Keep track of the sources you use so you can cite them in your bibliography (see "Bibliography and Related Resources," below).

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 2018, 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.

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 article's subject. The turning point in our 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. They are written in the present tense.

We ask all writers to create a short chronology (fifteen events, maximum) of key dates directly related to their entry subject and to attach a one-sentence explanation of the event 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. Like the turning point, chronology points are written in the present tense. Facts not included in the body text may be mentioned in the chronology.

To compose a chronology point, note the year (and month and day, if known) of the event before describing it. If you are describing a series of events that occurred in the same year, include the month and/or day (or season) in the descriptive text:

1879: In June, Ole Olafson opens a general store in Faribault.

1879: Olafson marries Elvira Knudsen on November 15.

1882: The Olafsons move to St. Peter in the spring.

Avoid date ranges (e.g., 1950–1980, 1860s) when you can. (The thinking behind this is that each chronology point, like each turning point, should describe a single event. Range dates inevitably refer to multiple events.) 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
Bibliographies should list the sources you 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 your subject. Rich resources help make the encyclopedia valuable, so please seek out and cite relevant contextual materials—primary, secondary, and web-based—where possible. This is a chance to make the public aware of unique materials.

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 casual readers and encourage them to read more. Contributors must have rights to any images they included with an entry. We ask that images be submitted as JPEG files of at least 640 pixels on the long dimension. Images selected should be directly relevant to the subject matter of the entry. Writers should choose one of the group to be the lead image for the entry, and the others should be arranged in chronological order.

VI. Summary of necessary encyclopedia entry elements

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 article as a whole. These include its title, creator, creator's biography, contributor, source, and address/location.

Title: Subject of entry.

Creator: Your name.

Creator Biography: One or two sentences describing your professional experience, current institutional affiliation, if applicable, and qualifications.

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

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.

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 fifteen in total) directly related to the entry with a one- or two-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 to create the text should be cited 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. If a published article is accessed through a website, it should be listed under primary or secondary sources, as appropriate, with the URL included.

VII. 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 should be spelled out rather than written with numerals. All numbers over and including 100 are written in numerals (in this, we go against Chicago Manual of Style 9.5). When writing French names with articles, please capitalize the first letter of the first article if the last name is used alone. For example: De la Barre, William de la Barre. When providing approximate dates, use the circa abbreviation (e.g., "ca. 1850”)

When citing multiple works by one author in a bibliography, please use three 3-em dashes ( ——— ) in place of the author's name after the first citation.

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.

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 Native American rather than American Indian. Ojibwe, not Anishinaabe, and Dakota, not Sioux, are also preferred terms. When possible, cite specific tribes and bands or (i.e., Mdewakanton Dakota, Bois Forte Ojibwe). When writing about a specific Native person, present his or her name in this format: Native Name, (English Translation, also known as English Name). A common example is Ta Oyate Duta (His Red Nation, also known as Little Crow). This format should be used in the first mention of the name. However, if your article title is the name of an Native American person, 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”).

VIII. Submission Process

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

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

IX. Permissions

The majority of writers allow MNopedia to share their entry text by sub-licensing it under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. If you do not want your work to be licensed via Creative Commons, you must inform the encyclopedia editor at the time of your article assignment.

If your entry contains copyrighted text written by others, you must seek written permission from the copyright holder(s) and include that/those permissions with the entry when you submit it.