Class of 2022 Bulletin Board

FYI — 

Winter online residency
  • January 9-14, 2022.
… is scheduled for May 26, 2022 in Halifax.

Notes on Sources Essay

Complete a 1,500-word narrative “Notes on Sources” essay, explaining the research, writing, ethical and other issues and challenges related to the development of your project. 
As nonfiction writers, we sometimes reconstruct scenes and/or incorporate dialogue we didn’t personally witness. Unlike daily journalists, we don’t always attribute every fact or source of information within our text since, to do so, would slow down the narrative. And, unlike academics, we also prefer not to footnote every scrap of information within the text.
So how can readers decide whether to trust that the information we have presented as nonfiction is as accurate as we can make it? Many nonfiction writers use a “Notes on Sources” essay at the end of their book to explain how they’ve handled their research and attribution. Was that scene reconstructed from participants’ journals or contemporary news accounts? In cases where recollections of events differ, how did the writer decide which view was more credible? Are you basing dialogue on available transcripts, a report in the newspaper, interviews with the participants, or your own recollections? Is material in quotation marks reproduced verbatim from interviews, court records or other documentation?
A Notes on Sources essay is usually placed before specific endnotes (if used) that document, in detail, the sources used within the manuscript. The essay allows you to focus on the narrative flow in your storytelling while still providing readers with insights into how and why you did what you did, with transparency about your sources of information and the choices you made.
 What we’re looking for in this assignment is that overview — 1,500 words explaining your effort to tell the truth as best you can. Your manuscript isn’t complete, of course, so work with what you’ve done. You’ll likely incorporate some or all of this assignment into the Sources/Endnotes section of your book. 
 (Sample Essays)
  • An Afterword that addresses sources and some language issues
  • two footnotes on specific scenes and "A Note on the Text" at the end
  • Student essays:
Read five of the essays submitted by your fellow students, then respond to each one in 300 words, primarily as a reader. Address the following questions:
Does the essay make clear how the writer gathered and evaluated key information used in the book and/or the writer’s approach to any factual issues raised by the book?
Is the essay written in an engaging way that goes beyond simply providing information about sources?
Does reading the essay intrigue you enough that you’d like to read more? 
Given that most readers come to Sources and Endnotes sections after they’ve read the book, we’re at a disadvantage reading these as standalone essays. There’s nothing to be done about that, except to acknowledge reality and do our best to be helpful to you, the writer, by raising any questions we think readers might have.  
  • Due midnight Nov. 29. Submit a list of the students whose work you have responded to (names only – I’ll access and review the responses online)

We've launched a series of tip sheets for students and alumni, geared to helping create and maintain momentum on your projects. Check out our evolving collection of tips related to building your platform, establishing your authority in your subject area, connecting with editors and agents, and much more. You’ll find them here.

Meet the family

MFA Community

Registration process: