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Library Tutorials: Chronology

Tutorials covering library processes and technology.

How to Produce a Chronology

How to Produce a Chronology

A chronology attempts to depict an idea or concept over time by listing the significant events that occurred. This means that the scope of a chronology and its focus should be carefully developed by the writer of the chronology. A chronology is not just a list of dates and events but a carefully selected set of events which contribute to the development of the concept or idea. Some examples of chronologies include: U.S. engagement in war with Iraq; US involvement in the international effort to combat AIDS in Africa; Recall election of California governor Gray Davis; This history of conflict over water resources.

In the chronology the author will try to present both the important antecedent events that created the needed circumstances or are historical background as well as the must recent steps which demonstrate the most recent aspects. For example a chronology on US engagement in the war with Iraq might start with earlier events in Iraqi history such as the fall of the monarchy and the rise of Saddam Hussein, and the earlier conflicts of the US with Iraq which lead to the war in 1991.

To be an effective chronology the narrative should do more than describe the event. It should also indicate why the event is important to the topic. For example citing the 1991 war between the US and Iraq should mention that while the US easily defeated Iraq the US stop short of overthrowing the government. Furthermore the war lead to the development of sanctions against Iraq and establishment of an inspection program for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

As a scholarly chronology the sources of the entries should be cited. The simplest way to handle the citation mechanic is to either use the author's name with a date (e.g., Levitz, 1999) or a number (e.g., (1) ) at the end of each entry and then include a bibliography at the end of the chronology in either author or number order.

A superb example of a scholarly chronology is the Water Conflict Chronology, created by Dr. Peter H. Gleick of the Pacific Institute. You can't go wrong by emulating this source for your topic.

It is important in writing a chronology that you write an introduction that explains its scope and provides some perspective on its purpose. The Water Conflict Chronology has a good example of an Introduction.

Other interesting examples of chronologies of high quality include:

The last two of these are large projects (not the work of a single person) and are listed here because of the techniques used to organize and cite sources.

Prepared by Tom Kirk

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