How to Write a Good History Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Write a Good History Research Paper

Have you noticed that your professors of history pay particular attention when it comes to writing? This is because they know that any distortion in your writing can alter the course of the history you are writing. A history paper termed as good should be precise, concise, chronological, analytical, and robust. Today we will be helping you with a guide on how to write a good history paper.

1. How do I pick a topic?

In writing a research paper, choosing a topic is arguably the most vital thing to do. To select a question, there is a need for individual creativity. You cannot choose the subject of your research project without having any knowledge about it. Ideally, initially, you work with more than one topic possibility, so you don’t have to change your goals halfway. Find three or four subjects of interest to you and then start doing comprehensive research on them. This type of preliminary study does not need to be as thorough; it is just a collection of data so that you can consciously decide which topics are most likely to be successful. It is essential to be specific about the topic you want to write about. Writing a research paper about ‘World War’ is almost impossible since this is a broad area, so the ideal thing is to narrow it down to a particular area. You may decide to narrow it to a cultural, social, political, or economic field; that looks at the impact of the world on all these ideologies. When you are done with the narrowing down of the topic, you can now select a topic. For example, ‘The Impact of the second world war on the quest for global unity.’ However, your research topic should come in the form of a question. You might turn that into the following question: “What are the impacts of the second world war in the formation of the United Nations?” What this question does is that it provides a general idea of what your paper is all about. Choosing your research topic in question format allows you to look for answers. It will also help you determine the sources you need for your paper.

2. But I can’t find any material…

For your project to be a success, you have to make sure that it can generate enough subject for a rich discussion. It is common to see cases where students need to give up on the subject halfway through the lack of information. Do more specific research in different media. Look for books, magazines, newspapers, and websites that have already discussed the topic and identify what aspects it has been addressed in. Many subjects have specific websites; try to analyze these contents to decide which ones can offer more repertoire for your work. Make use of footnotes and bibliographies of other works related to your research idea to gather material for your research paper. Also, a good option is to seek experts to get more specific opinions on the topic and how to approach it.

3. Help! How do I put this together?

Research Guide

A. Preliminary Research

At this stage, you should have a clear idea of what your background of the study will be about. However, if you don’t, it is advisable that your pick up different materials related to your ideas and see how their background is carried out. Following this, generate questions for your research. At this point, you should talk to your academic supervisor to verify the feasibility of your questions.

B. Building a Basic Bibliography

The best way to create a bibliography is to consult the references for the materials you used to research and pick a topic. Another way to build a bibliography is to check Historical Abstracts on cd-rom in the Library Reading Room. In case there a dedicated bibliography for your research idea, it is also good to consult it. However, the information within may not be around the timeframe you want to write about.

C. Building a Full Bibliography

To get a full bibliography, you should consult recent works such as articles, journals, and books about the idea you want to write about. With this step, you will, in a way, answer the research question.

D. Major Research

When you have gathered all the materials needed, it is time to extract the information needed for you to write your paper. Often, a lot of people tend to get overwhelmed with the information at their disposal; we urge you to be cautious of falling into their cycle of reading and reading without writing. Start writing, and along the line, you can fill in the gaps that exist in your research.

Writing Guide

A. Outline

When writing a history paper, the first thing is to establish the thesis statement, pointing out the central arguments of your research. Create an outline by pointing out the central themes and subthemes of your research paper. It is not at this stage you go into full details of your arguments.

Identify your key sources (both primary and secondary) and annotate them:

After you have established your thesis statement, review the materials you have used, and determine the most relevant sources to your work. After picking the sources you need, the next step is annotation, which is the background knowledge of how a particular source will be used in your work. Annotation generates questions such as “what does this source does for your work’s central themes? does it negate the central themes of your paper?” This process assists in fine-tuning your paper by stating the central ideas of your sources, and it also aids the process of writing. Having determined and categorized your sources, you can now beckon them easily during the writing stage.

B. The First Draft

When you are done with the outline stage, begin to write even if it is just a little piece of the paper. You don’t need to wait till all the gaps you have identified have been filled before you commence writing. During the writing stage, you will discover some questions that you can’t answer, highlight them, and keep on writing. When you are done with writing this draft, you can begin to look for answers to those gaps you skipped earlier.

C. The Second Draft

The second draft is considered the heart of research papers in history because this is the stage where you rework your initial draft.

The first thing you do at this stage is to put aside your sentiments about your first draft and try as much a possible to read it from an outsider’s perspective. When you do this, you will notice that your initial draft was descriptive rather tha argumentative. What do you when you discover this lapse/you begin to review your research paper along the following lines: what are my research questions? How does my evidence help me solve those questions How can I structure my questions for my audience to understand?

At this stage, you should create a new outline for your draft and query your writing style. At this point, you must outline your paper freshly. Mark up your first draft, ask tough questions, and review again.

D. The Third or Final Draft

At this stage, the most important things to check are the dictions, grammar structure, and writing style. In other words, the third draft is where you proofread your research paper, determine whether your introductory statement is interesting enough to captivate the readers.

When you are done proofreading, you can ask your friends to check them for errors in your paper. You can also ask for help from your supervisor.


From the above, it is obvious that writing a history research paper is not as complicated as you think it is, we hope you will make use of these tips to write your research paper.

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