Writing history research papers is a complex process because successful assignments aren’t completed in a moment of inspiration. How to write a history research paper? You need to develop it over a series of basic steps. When you first read assignment prompts, you may feel intimated or overwhelmed. However, if you think of this academic task as a process and break it down into small steps, you will find it less daunting, more manageable, and even enjoyable. Writing history research assignments is a great opportunity to do a rea work and dig deep into the past.
The definition of history research papers
This assignment is always driven by strong arguments. During history classes, you need to write a paper that requires them, even if you don’t base it on any outside research. For instance, when professors ask you to write the paper that discusses different between colonial Virginia and New England, you may think that this task is quite straightforward and it doesn’t require any argument because all you need to do is to find the right answer. However, it’s still necessary to write a paper guided by a large argument. Some students may decide to argue that the main difference is grounded in contrasting colonization visions, while others focus on any differences resulted from extant alliances and geographical factors. When making this kind of assertion, you’re also making your argument that requires strong historical evidence. Any historical research paper that you write must be driven by the arguments that demand evidence from reliable sources.
How to complete history research writing assignments
They may vary considerably, and you’re always asked to follow specific instructions. There are certain steps designed to help you, no matter of the assignment prompts that you receive from your professors.
First, make sure that you understand what they ask you to do. Sometimes, teachers distribute prompts with a few sub-questions that surround the main one that you will need to write about. They are designed to help you consider a particular topic and offer helpful ideas that you may want to use. These sub-questions aren’t the main questions that you need to answer in research papers. Distinguish them from sub-questions to come up with a great draft. Otherwise, it will sound like a list of short answers instead of offering a cohesive argument.
Looking for such verbs as investigating, analyzing, or formulating is one of the most effective ways. Find and circle them in assignment prompts to determine what you need to do. Ensure that you respond to each part of them because there are several questions that must be addressed in your history research paper. If you fail to cover all important areas, you won’t respond to your assignment in full.
Brainstorming possible responses and arguments
Before you start your research or writing, take a few moments to think about everything you know about the given topic. Make a full list of useful ideas and draw a special cluster diagram, using different arrows and circles to connect the best ones. At this stage of your writing process, it’s advisable to write down all ideas without analyzing or judging each one in depth. You should think big to bring in everything you suspect or know about a particular topic. Once everything is done, reread everything and search for specific trends, patterns, or questions that keep coming up, such as:
- What do you still need to find out based on the results of your brainstorming session?
- Do you have any tentative responses or arguments to assignment prompts?
Use this helpful information to be guided in the right direction when starting your research and making a thesis.
How to start your research
Based on assignment prompts, professors may ask you to conduct your outside research or use only class readings. In any case, you need to start by rereading relevant materials. Look for any useful parts in your textbook, primary source readings, and notes if they’re related to your task.
If you should conduct any outside research, there are many helpful resources that you can use. Start with plugging keywords and remember that this process involves some trial and error. Use the search terms that are specific enough to address a given topic without being too narrow to get any sufficient results. If they are too general, you risk ending up receiving many results and get overwhelmed. To narrow your search, return to key questions in assignment prompts and consider the terms that will help you respond them. Take a look at the language used in them because you may use it too.
Take into account different databases that can be searched based on the type of materials that you require, including books, newspapers, scholarly articles, time periods, and subject. To get the best results, search the databases that are more relevant to your chosen topic. Feel free to talk to librarians about your history research project too.
Making a thesis statement
At this stage of your writing process, you are aware of prompt requirements and possible responses after doing some research. Now, all you need to do is to step back and check the materials you have to develop a strong argument. Based on your readings and research, you may answer the following questions:
- What arguments can you make based on your sources?
- How can you answer prompt questions based on your research?
Make a thesis statement with a strong argument that addresses your prompts succinctly and clearly. If you find this task a bit daunting, remember that your thesis may change. As you read more sources, conduct more research, and write the first draft, you’ll find out more about the chosen topic. You need to make a working thesis, which means that it should represent your thinking up to this point. It’s quite likely to change as you go through the entire writing process. Once your thesis is ready, you may decide that it requires more research focused on a specific argument.
Identifying and annotating key sources of information
When you have a strong thesis, go back to your sources of information to choose the most critical ones that you will be grappling with directly to make the best argument. Next, you need to annotate them all, which means writing a brief paragraph that sums up the main idea of your used sources and proves how you use them in your history research paper. Determine what each source does for you.
- Does it offer enough evidence to support your argument?
- Does it provide any critical historical background to make a clear point?
- Does it give any counterpoint that can be refuted based on your research?
It may seem that this process creates more work for you because you need to do more writing, but it serves a few important purposes because it helps you:
- Smooth the entire writing process;
- Refine a working thesis by checking what sources are saying.
After dissected all sources and articulating ideas about each one, it becomes easier to draw upon them when writing a history research paper. Even if you aren’t asked to conduct any outside research, annotating all sources of information is a useful step. Explain how particular books or primary sources contribute to your assignment.
Creating an outline of your historical paper
How to write a history research paper? Its outline is one of the most effective ways to give you a sense of its overall structure and how to organize all ideas perfectly. Decide how to arrange your arguments to make the most sense to the audience. Some students prefer to present them chronologically, while others decide on a thematic approach. There’s no single correct way to organize history research papers because everything depends on your assignment prompts, sources of information, and your decisions. An efficient outline always includes a few important elements, such as:
- Research questions from your assignment prompts;
- Your working thesis;
- Key ideas of each paragraph;
- Evidence to be used to support them.
- Be as detailed as possible when creating an outline of your history research paper.
Writing the first draft
This stage may seem overwhelming to some students, but you should understand that a lot of work is done because you already have a working thesis, outline, and source annotations, which are quite helpful writing tools. Many students prefer to start with a section that they feel most confident in. Check your outline and determine if there’s any part that attracts you the most because you should start there. The basic goal that should be achieved is to articulate a major argument as clearly as possible. Besides, you need to marshal strong evidence to support it. Avoid getting caught up in stylistic and grammar matters at this stage of your writing process because you should be more concerned with a bigger task of expressing all interesting ideas in writing.
If you have any problems when getting started or you feel overwhelmed, think about free writing. It’s an effective and simple exercise that will help you get started. Spend a few minutes on writing down everything you know about your history research paper, including counterarguments, sources, major argument, and so on. Don’t judge or edit everything you write because you will be surprised to find out how much you know about a given subject. Your writing may not be polished, so avoid being tempted to leave everything as it is because you always need to revise the first draft.
When writing about any evidence in this draft, be sure to cite all sources appropriately. Correct citations always have two basic elements because it’s necessary to follow a particular citation style in a bibliography and footnotes while documenting. You’re required not only to cite direct quotes, but also any others that belong to other people. The main reason is that any inappropriate citation is plagiarism.
The importance of revising the first draft
Once the first draft of your history research paper is ready, move on to its revision stage. You need to revise it on two basic levels, both local and global. The latter one refers to the evidence and argument used in your paper, while the local one is about individual sentences. Your top priority is revising at a global level as you should ensure that you make a well-supported and compelling argument.
Creating a reverse outline is one of the most helpful exercises that will help you achieve this goal and look at your draft as a whole while improving the way your argument is organized and substantiated. For instance, if any paragraphs make more than a single point, you need to revise them. Pay attention to the order in which your ideas is sequenced and determine if any of them are out of order. Search for any gaps in your reasoning and ensure that your argument makes sense.
When revising your history research paper at its local level, be sure to use strong transitions, topic sentences, and quotations. Make sure that your draft is free from spelling and grammar mistakes because they will only distract readers while impeding your ability to communicate the main point. Reading your paper out loud is one of the most effective revising exercises because it can help you catch all awkward sentences and grammar errors. Ask a few basic questions on both revising levels:
- Does your argument support a thesis?
- Does your thesis states your argument and its importance clearly?
- Do you have transitions?
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