How To Write A History Research Paper
History research papers can seem daunting: the sheer scale of the project leaves many students feeling bewildered. The following piece is designed to help you, step by step, to find your way into your own research paper.
Part 1: Plan It!
1.1 Choosing a topic: This is perhaps the most important part of writing any history research paper. You must choose a topic that interests you. Start by choosing a geographical and historical period (for example, late 18th century France). Next, decide what interests you most about your chosen area – is it high politics, or economic development, or gender relations for example?
1.2 Deciding on a question: Now you need to decide what question your paper will answer. To help you do this, have a quick look at what others have written – this will allow you to asses the current state of knowledge, and also give you an idea of what materials are available for you to use in your research.
1.3 Preparation for research: Having decided on your question, you now need to systematically asses what materials are available to you, and prepare a basic bibliography – a list of sources you will use. Now you are ready to begin researching.
Part 2: Research It!
2.1 Researching: Read! Make notes! And remember to make a note of which sources you have used, in order to properly reference them in your final piece.
2.2 First draft: By now you should have a rough idea of what your argument will be, so begin compiling a first draft. It can be done bit by bit – the main purpose of the first draft is to identify areas where you need to do some more detailed reading. Then go and do it! Repeat if necessary.
Part 3: Write It!
3.1 Second draft: You should now be ready to have a go at a preliminary version of the final piece. Here you work up your research into a coherent, flowing argument. You will also have a further chance to identify areas where some more evidence is required.
3.2 Final draft: This might actually be your fourth or fifth draft – well constructed essays take time! This is the easiest stage, since you should already know exactly what you are going to argue and how you are going to support that argument.
- Research papers present a thesis – a ‘case’ if you like – and support it with evidence. This is why it is important to construct a ‘question’, which you will answer – even if the title of your final piece is not a question. And remember not only to prove your case, but also to adequately refute any alternatives.
- Ask your tutors what balance of primary and secondary sources is required.
- Make sure your references and bibliography conform to the required format. Reference all sources used and include them in your bibliography
- Don’t be afraid to change your thesis during your research as you discover more about your chosen topic – but make sure your final piece is coherent!