Most college students believe that being able to write a good history paper is a tiring task. One can not suddenly become a genius and creative enough in one night and be able to write a good history paper. Instead, it requires learning and practice. Meanwhile, you may feel frustrated or overwhelmed when you get a history paper assignment. However, if you choose to approach the assignment as a journey and split it into smaller phases, you will discover that it is more achievable and less frightening. Besides, you will even feel like it is a pleasant task. Hence, roll up your sleeves and start learning how to write a history paper.
What is a History Paper?
Before we start learning how to write a history paper, we need to understand what is a history paper basically. It, in fact, aims to give facts and examine a historical event, people, location, or theory. Regardless of whether you use a map, chart, table, or image in your history paper, you will still rely mostly on your content.
Besides, writing a history paper allows you to share your knowledge and opinions about a historical event or person.
Moreover, a history research paper is more than just recounting historical events. What distinguishes it from other types of college assignments is that, despite the fact that the thing already has occurred, it is seen through the prism of the student’s views.
What Makes a History Paper Different?
Like any other academic assignment, a history paper has its own distinct characteristics and requirements. For instance, if you are taking any history course, you may be assigned a variety of articles that includes book reviews, synthesis essays, research papers, and much more.
Amongst these, research papers, for instance, lets you conduct research and analyze historical facts. Then, you have to develop your own unique thesis. Nevertheless, here is a list of the qualities of a good history research paper. Hence, a historical paper:
Is Based on a Historical Question
The best way to write a good history paper is to ask a relevant and interesting question. So, consider your paper to begin with an issue or question that you will eventually answer as you write. Besides, make sure that it is supported by historical evidence, facts, and figures.
Makes a Historical Argument
Your history paper should not only answer your main historical question. Besides that, consider making a relevant argument by thoroughly observing the material you have used to gather information. The purpose of making a historical argument is to educate your reader about something new that pertains back to the past event. Your argument can be counter to the arguments of other scholars and might illustrate a completely new angle to look at the historical event.
Is backed up by Reliable and Primary Resources
Unlike research papers in the case of other fields of study, a historical research paper depends on the primary resource material. This basically means that the source material is from the date that the subject of your paper is. These resources may include letters, journals, diaries, speeches, and much more.
Makes a Contribution to the Historical Knowledge
Since your history research paper is based on primary source material, make sure that your paper somehow makes a useful contribution to the already existing knowledge. For that purpose, there are three things that you can do. Firstly, try asking questions to provoke critical thinking. Secondly, make sure that you are reading the source material in new and creative ways. Lastly, finding gaps in the existing knowledge or questions that source materials do not answer.
How to Write a History Paper
Now that you what is a history paper and what are some characteristics of a good history paper, it is the best time to start learning how to write a history paper. It is not as difficult or tiresome as it seems for most students. All you need to do is follow each step that we have mentioned in this article and you will be good to go.
Step 1: Make Sure You Understand the Assignment
When you have to write a history paper, the first thing that you need to do is understand what you write in your history paper. For that purpose, your teacher might give you a prompt. So make sure that you thoroughly read this prompt. For instance, the prompt might include some questions and sub-questions.
The purpose of these questions is to help you understand the assignment and find what you need to write about. Besides, you can also use these questions to draft a strong thesis statement. However, make sure that you understand the difference between the main question and the sub-question. Otherwise, there is a probability that you may mix things up.
For that purpose, we recommend you look at the action verbs such as “formulate”, “analyze”, or”investigate”. If there are any, make sure that you circle them. Then, reread the prompt to understand what you need to write in your paper.
Besides, you can write the main question at the top of the paper and come back to it any time you need. Moreover, understanding the prompt will help you cover every detail that your teacher is asking. Otherwise, your assignment may be considered incomplete.
Step 2: Choose the Topic
Besides knowing what you are actually being asked to write in your history paper, it is essential to choose a relevant topic. But choosing a good topic is never possible if you fail to understand the assignment.
Choosing the best topic for your history paper may be difficult. After all, human history dates back millions of years ago. To your fortune, you choose a topic that interests and fascinates you in case your professor has not assigned any topic. There must be a topic that you may have found interesting at some point. Otherwise, there might be something you have heard multiple times and you knew nothing about. Hence, this is the best time to start learning about it and write a history paper on.
There are a couple of steps that you can take to find the best topic for your history paper.
- Determine an area that interests you. After all, if you do not find any interest in your history paper, your readers will not be either.
- Narrow your topic. For that purpose, find out what you find fascinating. Is it the causes, politics, social change, comparison, battles, or biography? For instance, if you are writing about world war II, you can choose to write about a specific area pertaining to world war II. You can choose to write about the causes of world war II or the financial effects of world war II.
To help you ease the process of selecting a topic, here are a few topics that you can take as a reference.
- Economic History
- The Great Depression
- Greek Debt Crisis
- Political History
- World Wars I and II
- Cold War between US and Russia
- Ancient History
- Rulers of Ancient Egypt
- History of Mesopotamia
- Roman Empire
- Religious History
- Origin of Islam
- The Life of Confucius
- The Crusades
- Social History
- Origin of Black History Month
- Women’s Suffrage Movement
- Modern History
- Fall of the Soviet Union
- September 11 Attack
Step 3: Develop Your Research Question
After deciding on the topic of your history paper, the next stage of writing a history paper is to develop your research question. This is a significant step since your topic will be the focus of your work and will serve as the foundation for your thesis statement. To put it into simple words, you can not express an opinion on something about which you are not properly educated.
Therefore, initially working on your question is essential. Besides, you might be more efficient in your research. In addition to that, you can also avoid generic or biased thesis statements if you have a precise and well-explained theme.
For instance, you can choose to write about World War II. However, it is evident that you can not cover everything about world war II in one single history paper. Besides, it will indeed be boring and hard to understand for your target audience too.
Step 4: Determine Your Timeline
Once you have developed your research question, you will have a better idea of where to begin your research from. You can choose to start your research by opting for a chronological list of events. Besides, it can also aid in identifying your history paper’s scope and boundaries.
After all, a timeline is an excellent initial option for your next step. Otherwise, it will be difficult to determine where to begin when trying to find content for your history paper. Nonetheless, recognizing your research issue and beginning with determining your timeframe clarifies how to produce a history research paper.
For instance, you can start writing a history paper on world war II by studying the causes of the war, which countries participated initially, which countries later joined, how the war took place, and how it affected the entire world.
Step 5: Conduct Your Research
Thankfully, the days of actually going to libraries and picking out books from the shelves to conduct historical research are long gone. It is now possible to somehow start by just searching for anything on Google. Then, you will get a list of options that you can choose from.
These might include books, texts published by well-known writers, journals, prominent newspapers, websites linked with academic or government agencies, and scholarly databases.
When looking for research resources, a good rule of thumb is to consider reliable resources. That implies that you should not use any publications lacking adequate credentials, papers lacking citations, or blog entries as a source of historical knowledge.
Step 6: Write Your Thesis Statement
One of the most significant aspects of learning how to write a history paper is writing a good thesis statement. If your history paper were a human body, your thesis statement would indeed be the heart.
Basically, it tells the target audience about your main ideas and arguments. Thus, the core argument, idea, or topic of your history paper is highlighted in the thesis statement of your history paper. For instance, if you are writing about “Libya’s Democratization” for a political history paper, you need to consider a few things to be able to write a good thesis statement.
You can, for example, consider what were the causes of Libya’s democratization. After a good research, you would know that Muhammad Gaddafi democratized Libya. However, it is just a statement and you need to add more information to make sure that you are writing a good thesis statement. So, a sample thesis statement would be:
“The dictatorship of Muhammad Gaddafi and the Arab Spring caused a Libyan insurgent group to launch a civil war that resulted in a NATOR lead operation that lead to the democratization of Libya.“
Step 7: Make the Outline of Your History Paper
By now we assume that you have selected your thesis, done your research, and written your thesis statement. So, you are pretty much ready to decide the structure of your history paper. We believe that what an outline of a history paper requires more than anything else are its thesis statement and some supporting ideas.
The main purpose of an outline is to organize your history paper by splitting it into segments. Depending on your topic, each outline will appear different. Nevertheless, your history paper’s outline will normally begin with your introduction. Before going into your major points, the introduction provides background information or important knowledge on the issue that your paper is addressing.
Then, the body of your history paper includes at least three key points or arguments. Besides, make sure that each point easily connects to the next. Lastly, it contains the conclusion and analysis section.
Step 8: Start Writing!
As we discussed earlier, a history paper has the same traditional structure that any essay has. It includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Hence, let us dissect each of them to thoroughly learn how to write a history paper.
You should avoid verbose or shallow openings while writing history research papers. Basically, you want your audience to be fascinated by your introduction. This is essential to make sure that they keep on reading. To do so, there are several tips to make sure that writing a good introduction is no more difficult for students.
Besides here are a few things that you should avoid in the introduction of your history paper.
- Sounding to cliche
- Starting with a cheesy quote
- Beginning with a broad and general argument or point
Nevertheless, there are too many things that you should or you should not do while writing an introduction for your history paper. However, you should not be intimidated by this. Instead, try to keep things simple and to the point. Besides, if you have conducted your research right, you will find writing your history paper as easy as telling a tale.
Hence, consider educating someone else about the subject in your own words. That is one approach to making a natural-sounding beginning. Or you can choose to try opening with an engaging statistic, story, or tale. It is one of the best-proven ways to write an introduction that instantaneously hooks your reader.
Next, offer your remarks as soon as possible, create the scene, or make an observation. To put it into simple words, give some background information that leads up to your thesis statement.
Because it is essential to set the stage by providing some background information before writing your thesis statement.
Write the Body Paragraphs
The body of a history paper allows you to further elaborate your thesis statement. Besides, this is where you should try to link with what other academics or scholars have stated on the subject. In addition to that, in the body of your history paper, you will discuss whether you agree with or disagree with current statements.
For instance, you are not only recounting why Libya was democratized, but also examining the key elements that contributed to its democratization.
Hence, your main argument might include how and why the war occurred, and why the United Nation had to participate. Besides that, you can also choose to talk about how this paved the path for a NATO-led alliance.
Furthermore, we strongly suggest you always include proof that supports the topics of your history paper. Besides that, you can also provide your personal interpretation. In addition, try to draw conclusions that will either educate your readers something fresh about your topic or will expose something that past scholars overlooked. This is your contribution to the current body of knowledge about your topic.
Write the Conclusion
The final yet most significant part of a history paper is its conclusion. So, we recommend you not to finish your work with general phrases like “To summarise…” or “In conclusion…” These phrases make your paper duller and more uninspiring. Thus, there is no doubt that they will not leave a good impression on your reader.
An excellent conclusion completes the loop for the readers. Thus, restate your study topic and thesis statement in the conclusion of your paper. Then, continue to summarise all of your important points, including the relevance of your paper’s research. Lastly, provide your personal analysis of everything that you have written about.
As an example, let us go back to our example of Libya’s democratization. After summarising your key ideas, consider if Libya really required international involvement. Besides that, you can also discuss whether they would have survived the civil war without it.
You may also state if you believe democratization was even required in Libya and whether their previous or current leadership was ideal for the country. You may even share your ideas on how the matter could have been handled better.
Step 9: Proofread and Edit
This may be the last step. However, it holds the importance as any of the above ones. After all, you would not want to hand over an assignment that is steeped with grammatical or spelling errors.
To our fortune, we have access to some amazing softwares that rapidly rectify our grammar and typographical faults. Sometimes when we write, our mental process is not accurately mirrored since our hands do not write as quickly as our minds think.
Therefore, when you reread what you had written back to yourself after a long period of time, you may discover that none of it makes any sense. When you are faced with producing thousands of words of research, it is easy to ignore faults.
This is why it is critical to proofread the complete paper rather than simply editing as we go. And then, just for comparison purposes, re-read it all over again.
Actionable Tips on How to Write a History Paper
Now that you are done writing your history paper, here are a few essential tips that we want you to know to make sure that you have written an excellent history paper.
- Cite your primary and secondary source materials.
- Avoid copying and pasting any information from your source material.
- You must reread your paper and edit if there are any mistakes or gaps that you need to fill in.
- Do not add any unnecessary information to your history paper for the sake of meeting the set word count.
- Do not hesitate in presenting the history in detail. Add as much necessary information as possible.
- Avoid citing Wikipedia.
- Once you are done writing your history paper, take your time, go over your paper, and analyze it thoroughly from every angle.
- Always try to start early to avoid the last-minute rush.
- Since it is the history that you are discussing, always try to write in the past.
- Avoid generalizing things too much. Instead, be basic and straight to the point.
- Only use quotes from other people if you need them.
- Always write in a formal and academic tone.