Guides>Steps in Writing a Research Paper
in Writing a Research Paper
Step 1: Identify a historical question
people think that history is simply a succession of names and
dates—one fact after another. In fact, effective history
writing is always argumentative. It responds to ongoing debates
in the field or in the public mind. Historians construct their
arguments in certain characteristic ways:
Closing gaps in the scholarship: There are gaps in the scholarship,
and I will close them.
Debunking myths: There is a "traditional" or popular
interpretation of this issue that I will debunk.
Complicating a topic: The existing interpretation of this
topic is far too simple
Taking sides in a debate: There is a debate on this topic,
and I will demonstrate that one side is right and the other
5. Recasting a debate: There is a debate on this topic, and
I will demonstrate that the debate must be recast, because
previous scholars have asked the wrong questions, or viewed
the topic in the wrong way.
6. Refining or rebutting generalizations: I will use a case
study to refine or rebut a generalization.
Step 2: Find historical sources that address
Historical papers draw on two kinds of sources:
1. Secondary sources are scholarly studies of a particular
topic. From these, one can learn about the arguments surrounding
a specific subject.
2. Primary sources provide the raw data out of which history
is reconstructed. They may included printed or published texts,
unpublished manuscripts and papers, maps and other visual
materials, music and other audio materials, and artifacts.
a Primary Source
Content: What information can be gleaned from this source?
Interpretation: Does the source support or challenge commonly
accepted conclusions about a topic?
Reliability: Does the source provide accurate or biased information?
a Secondary Source
Read the title
Read the book from the outside in:
What do the preface, introduction and conclusion tell you
about the author’s thesis?
Follow the book’s argument:
on the topic sentences.
students need to develop proper research skills.
need to be familiar with locating sources of information and
properly citing them.
Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks
Archives and manuscripts
Book review digests and indices
Essays in an anthology
Journals and magazines
A summary the information
The source of the information
Step 3: Writing your essay.
Three Parts of a History Essay
I. The Introduction
The introduction to your essay should:
the reader’s attention with an anecdote, quotation,
intriguing fact, or statistic.
the thesis—a one-sentence statement of your argument—in
a provocative way.
a road map for the paper.
II. The Body
The body of your essay:
logically lays out your argument
interprets and evaluates evidence
body of your essay is built around paragraphs. Each paragraph
begins with a topic sentence that tells the reader what the
paragraph is about.
the body of your essay, you will support your argument with
evidence, quotations, and analysis. You need to remember that
evidence does not speak for itself. It needs to be summarized,
explained, and interpreted.
III. The Conclusion
The conclusion of your essay should:
restate the thesis
explain the significance and implications of your thesis