Précis (also called Treatments) of Readings

For certain readings you will be asked to write a Treatment. A Treatment not only lists important publishing information about the reading in a specific format, but also describes and often evaluates the subject and scope of the reading, comments on the ideas the author develops and suggests, characterizes the way the ideas are elaborated, and puts the source in context. We'll be following a quick and rigid format that uses only four sentences and each Treatment usually takes up half a page. All you have to do is plug in the proper information. Each Treatment will be keyed to the readings designated on your syllabus. Always keep a copy of your Treatment for yourself before handing one in.

The Four-Sentence Pattern

Each entry should include publication information in correct Chicago Documentation Style (see Writing from A-Z, "CMS" ) followed by four sentences as explained and illustrated below:

Author's name. Title of work. Other publication information.

Fishel, Leslie H., jr. "Public History and the Academy."  In Public History:  An Introduction, edited by Barbara J. Howe and Emory L. Kemp. Malabar, Florida: Krieger, 1986.
1. One sentence that identifies the article's title, the author's full name, and an interpretive statement about the reading that identifies both the obvious idea (using the word "obvious") within the reading and a less obvious, but equally important idea (using an adjective like "important," or "interesting" or "significant").
In "Public History and the Academy" it is obvious that Leslie H. Fishel, jr. sees public history as a thriving, adaptable profession, but Fishel also suggests another significant idea by stating that the field risks losing its current popularity as it matures.
2. A second sentence that explains how the less obvious idea is developed throughout the selection--how the idea is supported (using the word "supports"), usually in the same order as the support in the text. (Helpful tip: notice how the semi-colon (;) in the example below actually combines two sentences--not required, but one way to elaborate on an idea.)
Fishel supports his idea by arguing that the field's "wide range of potential activity might be considered a weakness" (12); though public history "almost defies definition" (12), public historians need to find an acceptable definition that will make the field understandable to others.
3. A third sentence that offers a statement of the author's effect (answering the question "How does the author's decision to write this way affect the meaning of the reading?") and uses the phrase "in order to" as a way to lead to an encapsulation of the purpose of the reading and its context.
Fishel discusses some of the differences between public history and academic history in order to define public history; one contribution public historians make to the larger discipline of history is reaching out to communities beyond academia.
4. A fourth sentence that provides a specific and decidedly limited description of a possible "target audience," or group of readers who would most directly identify and/or be engaged with the reading. Be specific. Avoid listing several audiences. Even if mentioning only one would be too limiting, for the purposes of this exercise, select only one. Granted, this step is a reductive "demographic" approach, but still it can prove an interesting one.
One target audience for this essay might be individuals considering a career in public history; they would probably find informative the essay's overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the profession.

Adapted with permission from an assignment by UWT Professor John Peterson.

Revised: 30 March 2001