If you’re in high school or college, a history research paper can be one of the most challenging assignments. Not only does it require you to find sources and conduct research, but you’ll also need to organize what you found into an academic argument that makes sense. In short, if your teacher gives you this assignment and doesn’t provide guidance on how to do it, don’t worry! We’ve got some tips for writing a history research paper.
What Is A History Research Paper
A history research paper is a type of academic writing that examines the topics, events, and people that have shaped our world. Because high school teachers or university professors usually assign these papers, they typically take on an analytical tone. A good history research paper should be able to address all three major historical subjects: political, economic, and social history.
The Steps To Writing A History Research Paper
Step 1: Define your topic and develop a research question.
The first step in writing a research paper is defining your topic and developing a research question. A good research question will be:
- Clear: It should be clear to you and your readers that you are asking about X, not Y or Z.
- Answerable: There should be evidence available that would answer it directly or by mediation through other questions.
- Relevant to the overall topic of your paper: Your reader must be able to see how this particular question fits into the larger theme of your study.
- Specific: Don’t ask broad questions that could take years of research; instead, ask focused ones that will narrow down the field for you (and help ensure you finish this project!).
Step 2: Locate and evaluate sources.
If you’re writing a research-based paper, your first step is locating and evaluating the sources that will guide your research. This means locating primary sources (e.g., newspapers or letters) and secondary sources (e.g., an analysis of primary material). You can find both online and in print archives:
- The Library Catalog at [your library] contains information about books, journals, articles, and other materials related to your topic. Search by keyword or browse through our extensive collection of digitized titles from over 50 years ago!
- Google Books has scanned thousands of books for full-text searching—but not all are available for free!
- Your school or university may have an institutional subscription to databases like ProQuest or EBSCOhost, which provide access to scholarly journals—if so, it may be possible for them to help find what you need too!
Step 3: Develop a thesis statement.
The third step in writing a history research paper is to develop a thesis statement. A thesis statement reads like a single sentence but is not shorter than an entire paragraph. It should be specific and not ask questions. Your thesis should also present an opinion instead of presenting facts or information about the topic you’re studying.
A good example of a thesis statement would be: “The most important aspect of historical research is studying primary sources in order to understand what truly happened during any given event.”
Step 4: Write an outline.
Next, write an outline. An outline is a tool to help you organize your ideas and make sure you cover all the important points of your topic. It’s also a way to make sure you don’t forget anything by making connections between ideas in a linear fashion.
To begin writing an outline, start with the main idea or theme of your paper and then write down any other supporting details that come to mind that are related to that main idea or theme. For example, if you’re writing about how women were treated in medieval times and wrote poetry as one part of their lives, then some supporting details might be “men were expected to be warriors,” “women were expected to stay home,” etc.; these would all be relevant because they show how those expectations affected women’s lives generally speaking (and not just specifically through poetry). Don’t worry too much about which order things should go yet; get them down on paper so they’re ready when it comes time for Step 5: Write!
Step 5: Write the first draft.
Now that you have the structure, it’s time to draft your paper. How long should this first draft be? Well, there is no set rule for this. Some students prefer writing a very short first draft and then going over it repeatedly, adding more details as they go along. Others prefer to write a very long first draft and edit it later. The important thing is that all of your ideas get down on paper in some way or another so you can start working with them later on during the editing process. If you find yourself struggling with how much information to include in each section of your paper, try asking yourself these questions:
- Is this example too complex? Could I explain what I mean more simply?
- Should I break up this paragraph into smaller paragraphs? Does it make sense when read aloud (or spoken)?
- Am I explaining my topic clearly enough here? Can someone else follow along without having prior knowledge of my topic area?
Step 6: Edit and revise your paper.
Once you’re done writing the paper, it’s time to edit and revise. You can use a thesaurus to find different words that convey the same message as what you wrote originally. You can also re-read your paper and make sure that everything makes sense in context. A spell checker won’t catch all of your errors, so be sure to use grammar checkers, too (they will catch most of them). Don’t forget about peer editing! If someone else is willing to read through your work, ask them if there are any mistakes or unclear parts in the text. Finally, consider hiring professional editors: they will have more experience than a proofreader or cover designer.
Step 7: Write a final draft.
Once you thoroughly edit your draft, it is time to write the final version. Write a rough outline for the paper and assign each paragraph with its topic sentence. Then, revise each paragraph and make sure it flows smoothly into the next one.
While doing this, remember to include enough detail so your readers can understand what you are trying to say and not go overboard or fall into information overload by including too much detail. Be concise!
You should also check for spelling and grammatical errors before submitting your work because these things will affect how well people perceive your paper even before they start reading it carefully!
Step 8: Cite your sources.
Now that you’ve researched and written your paper, it’s time to cite your sources.
The purpose of citations is to give credit where credit is due. In the case of a history paper, this means crediting the source in which you found information about your topic.
Citations are also used as a guide for readers who may want to check out the same sources for themselves.
In some cases, citations can be used as evidence when writing an academic paper or conducting research (Step 9).
Step 9: Proofread your paper.
Once your paper is complete and you have had a chance to review it, it is time to proofread. Proofreading is the final step in the writing process and should not be skipped or rushed. It’s also important to ensure that your paper is clear and free of errors so readers can understand what you’re trying to say. Here are some tips for proofreading:
- Read through your paper once more without changing anything. This will help you catch mistakes that slipped past earlier readings because they were too familiar!
- Use another set of eyes by showing this article (or another resource) to one of your friends or teachers who may have more experience with writing than you.
Submit your paper.
Once you’ve finished your paper, it’s time to submit it. This is an important step because submitting a paper implies that you think it is complete and ready to be read by others. It’s not uncommon for students to make errors in this stage of the process, so take some time now to double-check everything one last time before handing in your work:
Check it yourself by looking over your work carefully. If something seems wrong or off, go back and ensure you have corrected everything correctly.
Get someone else to look at it as well—a friend, family member, or professional editor will be able to help catch any mistakes that may have slipped through during editing.
If you’ve struggled with writing your history research paper, this article should be a relief. We’ve broken down the entire process into simple steps to do planning and writing your paper easier. Whether you’re writing an AP History paper or just trying to get through another boring assignment at college, these tips can help you succeed!
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