How to Write a History Research Paper

  • How do I pick a topic?
  • But I can’t find any material…

Research Guide

Writing guide.

See also: How to Write a Good History Essay

1. How do I pick a topic?

Picking a topic is perhaps the most important step in writing a research paper. To do it well requires several steps of refinement. First you have to determine a general area in which you have an interest (if you aren’t interested, your readers won’t be either). You do not write a paper “about the Civil War,” however, for that is such a large and vague concept that the paper will be too shallow or you will be swamped with information. The next step is to narrow your topic. Are you interested in comparison? battles? social change? politics? causes? biography? Once you reach this stage try to formulate your research topic as a question. For example, suppose that you decide to write a paper on the use of the films of the 1930’s and what they can tell historians about the Great Depression. You might turn that into the following question: “What are the primary values expressed in films of the 1930’s?” Or you might ask a quite different question, “What is the standard of living portrayed in films of the 1930’s?” There are other questions, of course, which you could have asked, but these two clearly illustrate how different two papers on the same general subject might be. By asking yourself a question as a means of starting research on a topic you will help yourself find the answers. You also open the door to loading the evidence one way or another. It will help you decide what kinds of evidence might be pertinent to your question, and it can also twist perceptions of a topic. For example, if you ask a question about economics as motivation, you are not likely to learn much about ideals, and vice versa.

2. But I can’t find any material…

No one should pick a topic without trying to figure out how one could discover pertinent information, nor should anyone settle on a topic before getting some background information about the general area. These two checks should make sure your paper is in the realm of the possible. The trick of good research is detective work and imaginative thinking on how one can find information. First try to figure out what kinds of things you should know about a topic to answer your research question. Are there statistics? Do you need personal letters? What background information should be included? Then if you do not know how to find that particular kind of information, ASK . A reference librarian or professor is much more likely to be able to steer you to the right sources if you can ask a specific question such as “Where can I find statistics on the number of interracial marriages?” than if you say “What can you find on racial attitudes?”

Use the footnotes and bibliographies of general background books as well as reference aids to lead you to special studies. If Carleton does not have the books or sources you need, try ordering through the library minitex. Many sources are also available on-line.

As your research paper takes shape you will find that you need background on people, places, events, etc. Do not just rely on some general survey for all of your background. Check the several good dictionaries of biography for background on people, or see if there is a standard book-length biography. If you are dealing with a legal matter check into the background of the judges who make the court decision and the circumstances surrounding the original incident or law. Try looking for public opinions in newspapers of the time. In other words, each bit of information you find should open the possibility of other research paths.

Learn to use several research techniques. You cannot count on a good research paper coming from browsing on one shelf at the library. A really pertinent book may be hidden in another section of the library due to classification quirks. The Readers’ Guide (Ref. A13 .R4) is not the only source for magazine articles, nor the card catalog for books. There are whole books which are listings of other books on particular topics. There are specialized indexes of magazine articles. Modern History Journals are indexed in the Social Studies and Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .R282) before 1976 After 1976 use the Social Sciences Index (REF A13 .S62) and the Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .H85). See also Historical Abstracts (Ref. D1 .H5). Reference Librarians would love to help you learn to use these research tools. It pays to browse in the reference room at the library and poke into the guides which are on the shelves. It also pays to browse the Internet.

3. Help! How do I put this together?

A. preliminary research:.

If you do not already have a general background on your topic, get the most recent good general source on the topic and read it for general orientation. On the basis of that reading formulate as clearly focused question as you can. You should generally discuss with your professor at that point whether your question is a feasible one.

B. Building a Basic Bibliography:

Use the bibliography/notes in your first general source, MUSE, and especially Historical Abstracts on cd-rom in the Library Reading Room (the computer farthest to the left in the front row as you walk past the Reference Desk — or ask there). If there is a specialized bibliography on your topic, you will certainly want to consult that as well, but these are often a bit dated.

C. Building a Full Bibliography:

Read the recent articles or chapters that seem to focus on your topic best. This will allow you to focus your research question quite a bit. Use the sources cited and/or discussed in this reading to build a full bibliography. Use such tools as Historical Abstracts (or, depending on your topic, the abstracts from a different field) and a large, convenient computer-based national library catalog (e.g. the University of California system from the “Libs” command in your VAX account or the smaller University of Minnesota library through MUSE) to check out your sources fully. For specific article searches “Uncover” (press returns for the “open access”) or possibly (less likely for history) “First Search” through “Connect to Other Resources” in MUSE can also be useful.

D. Major Research:

Now do the bulk of your research. But do not overdo it. Do not fall into the trap of reading and reading to avoid getting started on the writing. After you have the bulk of information you might need, start writing. You can fill in the smaller gaps of your research more effectively later.

A. Outline:

Write a preliminary thesis statement, expressing what you believe your major argument(s) will be. Sketch out a broad outline that indicates the structure — main points and subpoints or your argument as it seems at this time. Do not get too detailed at this point.

B. The First Draft:

On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps. Keep on writing. If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text with a searchable symbol. It is important that you try to get to the end point of this writing as soon as possible, even if you leave pieces still in outline form at first and then fill the gaps after you get to the end.

Critical advice for larger papers: It is often more effective not to start at the point where the beginning of your paper will be. Especially the introductory paragraph is often best left until later, when you feel ready and inspired.

C. The Second Draft:

The “second draft” is a fully re-thought and rewritten version of your paper. It is at the heart of the writing process.

First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it. After that break, read it over with a critical eye as you would somebody else’s paper (well, almost!). You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative. It is likely to wander; your perspective and usually even the thesis seemed to change/develop as you wrote. Don’t despair. That is perfectly normal even for experienced writers (even after 40 years and a good deal of published work!). You will be frustrated. But keep questioning your paper along the following lines: What precisely are my key questions? What parts of my evidence here are really pertinent to those questions (that is, does it help me answer them)? How or in what order can I structure my paper most effectively to answer those questions most clearly and efficiently for my reader?

At this point you must outline your paper freshly. Mark up your first draft, ask tough questions whether your argument is clear and whether the order in which you present your points is effective! You must write conceptually a new paper at this point, even if you can use paragraphs and especially quotes, factual data in the new draft.

It is critical that in your new draft your paragraphs start with topic sentences that identify the argument you will be making in the particular paragraph (sometimes this can be strings of two or three paragraphs). The individual steps in your argument must be clearly reflected in the topic sentences of your paragraphs (or a couple of them linked).

D. The Third or Final Draft:

You are now ready to check for basic rules of good writing. This is when you need to check the diction, that is, the accuracy and suitability of words. Eliminate unnecessary passive or awkward noun constructions (active-voice, verbal constructions are usually more effective); improve the flow of your transitions; avoid repetitions or split infinitives; correct apostrophes in possessives and such. Make the style clear and smooth. Check that the start of your paper is interesting for the reader. Last but not least, cut out unnecessary verbiage and wordiness. Spell-check and proof-read.

– Diethelm Prowe, 1998

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How to Write a History Essay

Last Updated: December 27, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 241,957 times.

Writing a history essay requires you to include a lot of details and historical information within a given number of words or required pages. It's important to provide all the needed information, but also to present it in a cohesive, intelligent way. Know how to write a history essay that demonstrates your writing skills and your understanding of the material.

Preparing to Write Your Essay

Step 1 Evaluate the essay question.

  • The key words will often need to be defined at the start of your essay, and will serve as its boundaries. [2] X Research source
  • For example, if the question was "To what extent was the First World War a Total War?", the key terms are "First World War", and "Total War".
  • Do this before you begin conducting your research to ensure that your reading is closely focussed to the question and you don't waste time.

Step 2 Consider what the question is asking you.

  • Explain: provide an explanation of why something happened or didn't happen.
  • Interpret: analyse information within a larger framework to contextualise it.
  • Evaluate: present and support a value-judgement.
  • Argue: take a clear position on a debate and justify it. [3] X Research source

Step 3 Try to summarise your key argument.

  • Your thesis statement should clearly address the essay prompt and provide supporting arguments. These supporting arguments will become body paragraphs in your essay, where you’ll elaborate and provide concrete evidence. [4] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • Your argument may change or become more nuanced as your write your essay, but having a clear thesis statement which you can refer back to is very helpful.
  • For example, your summary could be something like "The First World War was a 'total war' because civilian populations were mobilized both in the battlefield and on the home front".

Step 4 Make an essay...

  • Pick out some key quotes that make your argument precisely and persuasively. [5] X Research source
  • When writing your plan, you should already be thinking about how your essay will flow, and how each point will connect together.

Doing Your Research

Step 1 Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

  • Primary source material refers to any texts, films, pictures, or any other kind of evidence that was produced in the historical period, or by someone who participated in the events of the period, that you are writing about.
  • Secondary material is the work by historians or other writers analysing events in the past. The body of historical work on a period or event is known as the historiography.
  • It is not unusual to write a literature review or historiographical essay which does not directly draw on primary material.
  • Typically a research essay would need significant primary material.

Step 2 Find your sources.

  • Start with the core texts in your reading list or course bibliography. Your teacher will have carefully selected these so you should start there.
  • Look in footnotes and bibliographies. When you are reading be sure to pay attention to the footnotes and bibliographies which can guide you to further sources a give you a clear picture of the important texts.
  • Use the library. If you have access to a library at your school or college, be sure to make the most of it. Search online catalogues and speak to librarians.
  • Access online journal databases. If you are in college it is likely that you will have access to academic journals online. These are an excellent and easy to navigate resources.
  • Use online sources with discretion. Try using free scholarly databases, like Google Scholar, which offer quality academic sources, but avoid using the non-trustworthy websites that come up when you simply search your topic online.
  • Avoid using crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia as sources. However, you can look at the sources cited on a Wikipedia page and use them instead, if they seem credible.

Step 3 Evaluate your secondary sources.

  • Who is the author? Is it written by an academic with a position at a University? Search for the author online.
  • Who is the publisher? Is the book published by an established academic press? Look in the cover to check the publisher, if it is published by a University Press that is a good sign.
  • If it's an article, where is published? If you are using an article check that it has been published in an academic journal. [8] X Research source
  • If the article is online, what is the URL? Government sources with .gov addresses are good sources, as are .edu sites.

Step 4 Read critically.

  • Ask yourself why the author is making this argument. Evaluate the text by placing it into a broader intellectual context. Is it part of a certain tradition in historiography? Is it a response to a particular idea?
  • Consider where there are weaknesses and limitations to the argument. Always keep a critical mindset and try to identify areas where you think the argument is overly stretched or the evidence doesn't match the author's claims. [9] X Research source

Step 5 Take thorough notes.

  • Label all your notes with the page numbers and precise bibliographic information on the source.
  • If you have a quote but can't remember where you found it, imagine trying to skip back through everything you have read to find that one line.
  • If you use something and don't reference it fully you risk plagiarism. [10] X Research source

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Start with a strong first sentence.

  • For example you could start by saying "In the First World War new technologies and the mass mobilization of populations meant that the war was not fought solely by standing armies".
  • This first sentences introduces the topic of your essay in a broad way which you can start focus to in on more.

Step 2 Outline what you are going to argue.

  • This will lead to an outline of the structure of your essay and your argument.
  • Here you will explain the particular approach you have taken to the essay.
  • For example, if you are using case studies you should explain this and give a brief overview of which case studies you will be using and why.

Step 3 Provide some brief context for your work.

Writing the Essay

Step 1 Have a clear structure.

  • Try to include a sentence that concludes each paragraph and links it to the next paragraph.
  • When you are organising your essay think of each paragraph as addressing one element of the essay question.
  • Keeping a close focus like this will also help you avoid drifting away from the topic of the essay and will encourage you to write in precise and concise prose.
  • Don't forget to write in the past tense when referring to something that has already happened.

Step 3 Use source material as evidence to back up your thesis.

  • Don't drop a quote from a primary source into your prose without introducing it and discussing it, and try to avoid long quotations. Use only the quotes that best illustrate your point.
  • If you are referring to a secondary source, you can usually summarise in your own words rather than quoting directly.
  • Be sure to fully cite anything you refer to, including if you do not quote it directly.

Step 4 Make your essay flow.

  • Think about the first and last sentence in every paragraph and how they connect to the previous and next paragraph.
  • Try to avoid beginning paragraphs with simple phrases that make your essay appear more like a list. For example, limit your use of words like: "Additionally", "Moreover", "Furthermore".
  • Give an indication of where your essay is going and how you are building on what you have already said. [15] X Research source

Step 5 Conclude succinctly.

  • Briefly outline the implications of your argument and it's significance in relation to the historiography, but avoid grand sweeping statements. [16] X Research source
  • A conclusion also provides the opportunity to point to areas beyond the scope of your essay where the research could be developed in the future.

Proofreading and Evaluating Your Essay

Step 1 Proofread your essay.

  • Try to cut down any overly long sentences or run-on sentences. Instead, try to write clear and accurate prose and avoid unnecessary words.
  • Concentrate on developing a clear, simple and highly readable prose style first before you think about developing your writing further. [17] X Research source
  • Reading your essay out load can help you get a clearer picture of awkward phrasing and overly long sentences. [18] X Research source

Step 2 Analyse don't describe.

  • When you read through your essay look at each paragraph and ask yourself, "what point this paragraph is making".
  • You might have produced a nice piece of narrative writing, but if you are not directly answering the question it is not going to help your grade.

Step 3 Check your references and bibliography.

  • A bibliography will typically have primary sources first, followed by secondary sources. [19] X Research source
  • Double and triple check that you have included all the necessary references in the text. If you forgot to include a reference you risk being reported for plagiarism.

Sample Essay

write paper on history

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ http://www.historytoday.com/robert-pearce/how-write-good-history-essay
  • ↑ https://www.hamilton.edu/academics/centers/writing/writing-resources/writing-a-good-history-paper
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html
  • ↑ http://history.rutgers.edu/component/content/article?id=106:writing-historical-essays-a-guide-for-undergraduates
  • ↑ https://guides.lib.uw.edu/c.php?g=344285&p=2580599
  • ↑ http://www.hamilton.edu/documents/writing-center/WritingGoodHistoryPaper.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-guides/
  • ↑ https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/hppi/publications/Writing-History-Essays.pdf

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

To write a history essay, read the essay question carefully and use source materials to research the topic, taking thorough notes as you go. Next, formulate a thesis statement that summarizes your key argument in 1-2 concise sentences and create a structured outline to help you stay on topic. Open with a strong introduction that introduces your thesis, present your argument, and back it up with sourced material. Then, end with a succinct conclusion that restates and summarizes your position! For more tips on creating a thesis statement, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide

Patrick Rael, “Reading, Writing, and Research for History: A Guide for Students” (Bowdoin College, 2004)

Hamilton College, "Writing a Good History Paper" A nice overview; the discussion of pitfalls in editing/revision is excellent.

Prof. William Cronon on Historical Writing Prof. William Cronon's excellent guide to historical writing; part of an even larger guide to doing historical research.

How to Organize a Research Paper

Writing Center Handout on History Writing

List of Resources on History Writing

Formulating a Research Question

Making the Most of Research Time

Formulating an Argument

General Writing Guidelines

Sources and Evidence

Citations and Notes

Writing a 4-7 page History Paper (David Herzberg, 1992, Wesleyan University)

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Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research

How to Write a History Research Paper

write paper on history

In my last post, I shared some tips on how to conduct research in history and emphasized that researchers should keep in mind a source’s category (transcript, court document, speech, etc.). This post is something of a sequel to that, as I will share some thoughts on what often follows primary-source research: a history research paper. 

1. Background Reading   The first step to a history research paper is of course, background reading and research. In the context of a class assignment, “background reading” might simply be course readings or lectures, but for independent work, this step will likely involve some quality time on your own in the library. During the background reading phase of your project, keep an eye out for intriguing angles to approach your topic from and any trends that you see across sources (both primary and secondary).

2. T hemes and Context Recounting the simple facts about your topic alone will not make for a successful research paper. One must grasp both the details of events as well as the larger, thematic context of the time period in which they occurred. What’s the scholarly consensus about these themes? Does that consensus seem right to you, after having done primary and secondary research of your own?

3. Develop an Argument  Grappling with answers to the above questions will get you thinking about your emerging argument. For shorter papers, you might identify a gap in the scholarship or come up with an argumentative response to a class prompt rather quickly. Remember: as an undergraduate, you don’t have to come up with (to borrow Philosophy Professor Gideon Rosen’s phrase) ‘a blindingly original theory of everything.’ In other words, finding a nuanced thesis does not mean you have to disprove some famous scholar’s work in its entirety. But, if you’re having trouble defining your thesis, I encourage you not to worry; talk to your professor, preceptor, or, if appropriate, a friend. These people can listen to your ideas, and the simple act of talking about your paper can often go a long way in helping you realize what you want to write about.

4. Outline Your Argument  With a history paper specifically, one is often writing about a sequence of events and trying to tell a story about what happened. Roughly speaking, your thesis is your interpretation of these events, or your take on some aspect of them (i.e. the role of women in New Deal programs). Before opening up Word, I suggest writing down the stages of your argument. Then, outline or organize your notes to know what evidence you’ll use in each of these various stages. If you think your evidence is solid, then you’re probably ready to start writing—and you now have a solid roadmap to work from! But, if this step is proving difficult, you might want to gather more evidence or go back to the thesis drawing board and look for a better angle. I often find myself somewhere between these two extremes (being 100% ready to write or staring at a sparse outline), but that’s also helpful, because it gives me a better idea of where my argument needs strengthening.

5. Prepare Yourself   Once you have some sort of direction for the paper (i.e. a working thesis), you’re getting close to the fun part—the writing itself. Gather your laptop, your research materials/notes, and some snacks, and get ready to settle in to write your paper, following your argument outline. As mentioned in the photo caption, I suggest utilizing large library tables to spread out your notes. This way, you don’t have to constantly flip through binders, notebooks, and printed drafts.

In addition to this step by step approach, I’ll leave you with a few last general tips for approaching a history research paper. Overall, set reasonable goals for your project, and remember that a seemingly daunting task can be broken down into the above constituent phases. And, if nothing else, know that you’ll end up with a nice Word document full of aesthetically pleasing footnotes!

— Shanon FitzGerald, Social Sciences Correspondent

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Writing History: An Introductory Guide to How History Is Produced

What is history.

Most people believe that history is a "collection of facts about the past." This is reinforced through the use of textbooks used in teaching history. They are written as though they are collections of information. In fact, history is NOT a "collection of facts about the past." History consists of making arguments about what happened in the past on the basis of what people recorded (in written documents, cultural artifacts, or oral traditions) at the time. Historians often disagree over what "the facts" are as well as over how they should be interpreted. The problem is complicated for major events that produce "winners" and "losers," since we are more likely to have sources written by the "winners," designed to show why they were heroic in their victories.

History in Your Textbook

Many textbooks acknowledge this in lots of places. For example, in one book, the authors write, "The stories of the conquests of Mexico and Peru are epic tales told by the victors. Glorified by the chronicles of their companions, the conquistadors, or conquerors, especially Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), emerged as heroes larger than life." The authors then continue to describe Cortés ’s actions that ultimately led to the capture of Cuauhtómoc, who ruled the Mexicas after Moctezuma died. From the authors’ perspective, there is no question that Moctezuma died when he was hit by a rock thrown by one of his own subjects. When you read accounts of the incident, however, the situation was so unstable, that it is not clear how Moctezuma died. Note: there is little analysis in this passage. The authors are simply telling the story based upon Spanish versions of what happened. There is no interpretation. There is no explanation of why the Mexicas lost.   Many individuals believe that history is about telling stories, but most historians also want answers to questions like why did the Mexicas lose?

What Are Primary Sources?

To answer these questions, historians turn to primary sources, sources that were written at the time of the event, in this case written from 1519-1521 in Mexico. These would be firsthand accounts. Unfortunately, in the case of the conquest of Mexico, there is only one genuine primary source written from 1519-1521. This primary source consists of the letters Cortés wrote and sent to Spain. Other sources are conventionally used as primary sources, although they were written long after the conquest. One example consists of the account written by Cortés ’s companion, Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Other accounts consist of Mexica and other Nahua stories and traditions about the conquest of Mexico from their point of view.

Making Arguments in the Textbook

Historians then use these sources to make arguments, which could possibly be refuted by different interpretations of the same evidence or the discovery of new sources.  For example, the Bentley and Ziegler textbook make several arguments on page 597 about why the Spaniards won:

"Steel swords, muskets, cannons, and horses offered Cortés and his men some advantage over the forces they met and help to account for the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire".

"Quite apart from military technology, Cortés' expedition benefited from divisions among the indigenous peoples of Mexico."

"With the aid of Doña Marina, the conquistadors forged alliances with peoples who resented domination by the Mexicas, the leaders of the Aztec empire...."

Ideally, under each of these "thesis statements," that is, each of these arguments about why the Mexicas were defeated, the authors will give some examples of information that backs up their "thesis." To write effective history and history essays, in fact to write successfully in any area, you should begin your essay with the "thesis" or argument you want to prove with concrete examples that support your thesis.  Since the Bentley and Ziegler book does not provide any evidence to back up their main arguments, you can easily use the material available here to provide evidence to support your claim that any one of the above arguments is better than the others.  You could also use the evidence to introduce other possibilities:  Mocteuzuma's poor leadership, Cortés' craftiness, or disease.

Become a Critical Reader

To become a critical reader, to empower yourself to "own your own history," you should think carefully about whether the evidence the authors provide does in fact support their theses.  Since the Bentley and Ziegler book provides only conclusions and not much evidence to back up their main points, you may want to explore your class notes on the topic and then examine the primary sources included on the Conquest of Mexico on this web site.

Your Assignment for Writing History with Primary Sources

There are several ways to make this a successful assignment. First, you might take any of the theses presented in the book and use information from primary sources to disprove it—the "trash the book" approach. Or, if your professor has said something in class that you are not sure about, find material to disprove it—the "trash the prof" approach (and, yes, it is really okay if you have the evidence ). Another approach is to include new information that the authors ignored . For example, the authors say nothing about omens. If one analyzes omens in the conquest, will it change the theses or interpretations presented in the textbook? Or, can one really present a Spanish or Mexica perspective?  Another approach is to make your own thesis, i.e., one of the biggest reasons for the conquest was that Moctezuma fundamentally misunderstood Cortés.

When Sources Disagree

If you do work with the Mexican materials, you will encounter the harsh reality of historical research: the sources do not always agree on what happened in a given event. It is up to you, then, to decide who to believe. Most historians would probably believe Cortés’ letters were the most likely to be accurate, but is this statement justified? Cortés was in the heat of battle and while it looked like he might win easy victory in 1519, he did not complete his mission until 1521.  The Cuban Governor, Diego Velázquez wanted his men to capture Cortés and bring him back to Cuba on charges of insubordination.  Was he painting an unusually rosy picture of his situation so that the Spanish King would continue to support him? It is up to you to decide. Have the courage to own your own history! Díaz Del Castillo wrote his account later in his life, when the Spaniards were being attacked for the harsh policies they implemented in Mexico after the conquest.  He also was upset that Cortés' personal secretary published a book that made it appear that only Cortés was responsible for the conquest. There is no question that the idea of the heroic nature of the Spanish actions is clearest in his account. But does this mean he was wrong about what he said happened and why? It is up to you to decide. The Mexica accounts are the most complex since they were originally oral histories told in Nahuatl that were then written down in a newly rendered alphabetic Nahuatl. They include additional Mexica illustrations of their version of what happened, for painting was a traditional way in which the Mexicas wrote history. Think about what the pictures tell us. In fact, a good paper might support a thesis that uses a picture as evidence. Again, how reliable is this material? It is up to you to decide.

One way to think about the primary sources is to ask the questions: (1) when was the source written, (2) who is the intended audience of the source, (3) what are the similarities between the accounts, (4) what are the differences between the accounts, (5) what pieces of information in the accounts will support your thesis, and (6) what information in the sources are totally irrelevant to the thesis or argument you want to make.

Writing Center

History papers, focusing your argument: developing a thesis, finding sources of information.

  • San Antonio newspapers from the period, in English or Spanish
  • Records from factories and businesses
  • U.S. census records
  • Autobiographies of workers and business owners in San Antonio during the 1940s
  • Maps that show the location of the factories where women worked
  • Music from the period

Citing Sources

Also recommended for you:.

The Writing Place

Resources – historical writing essentials, introduction to the topic.

Are you taking your first history class at Northwestern and struggling to write that 4-6 page argumentative essay that your professor just assigned you? Or maybe you are a seasoned history major and just need a refresher on how to write an extended research paper? Don’t fret—anyone can learn the essentials of good history writing. I’ve collected the wisdom of four Northwestern history professors (Ed Muir, Brodwyn Fischer, Amy Stanley, and Daniel Immerwahr) and a history PhD student (Joel Penning). I’ve synthesized their wisdom into the following ten essentials of good history writing.

The following quotations are from email messages from these scholars; December 11, 2012.

*Note: This text and its corrected version are not meant to convey historically true information

10 Essentials of Writing a Good History Paper

1. argument.

Though essential to most academic writing, good history writing always contains a strong argument. According to professor Muir, history writing isn’t about coming up with an opinion; instead, “what matters is proving a provable thesis.”  An argument isn’t an argument unless you can disagree with it. Professor Fischer adds, “In the best papers, the argument will also be creative, and make me think about the material in a new way.” Oftentimes students try to be overly comprehensive in their response to a prompt. Their argument may be a list of historically true things, but a “list is not an argument,” says professor Stanley. A prompt may ask you to discuss why the colonists rebelled against Britain in the 1770s. You should not say, “The colonists rebelled against Britain in the 1770s because they favored republican government, did not like Britain’s taxation policies, and were outraged at oppressive events like the Boston Massacre.” While most historians consider these three items true, this statement is not a sufficient historical argument because it does not explain how these three items relate to one another. Joel Penning, a grad student in history, says, “don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.” It’s better to say something with which many people will disagree than something that does not really capture anyone’s attention.

2. Counter-arguments

A good argumentative history paper must address counter-arguments. According to professor Immerwahr, “The claim that  X happened  is rarely interesting. By contrast,  X happened, when we might have expected Y to happen , is rarely not interesting.”

3. Evidence

Because good history writing makes an argument, you must have relevant evidence to back up your argument. Penning puts it well in saying that “every paragraph must contain both assertions and evidence which supports them. A paragraph with only assertions is bad scholarship. A paragraph with only evidence is boring.” Referencing good evidence does not mean that you should write about every fact relating to your topic; instead, only use the evidence that supports your argument. Immerwahr goes even further and says that the evidence must provide an “intellectual pathway that the reader must follow to be convinced of the thesis.” Thus, the formula is not  argument+supporting evidence=good history writing . Each piece of evidence should ideally relate to what comes before and what comes next.

4. Avoid Generalizations

Penning puts it well: “For the most part, historians don’t care about whether dictatorship always leads to corruption, or if government intervention helps or hinders the economy.  So students writing papers for historians shouldn’t care either.  Comparison is becoming an increasingly important part of the discipline, but generally historians are interested in specific cases.  Do talk about whether Mussolini’s dictatorship led to corruption, or how much the New Deal helped or hurt Depression-era America.  For almost anything you write at Northwestern, you won’t have the evidence to say anything broader than that, whether it’s true or not.  If you want to talk about universal rules of dictatorship, you’d probably like political science or sociology better.”

5. Conclude Well

In a history paper, your last paragraph should just restate your argument and your evidence, albeit in a different way, right? Wrong. Writing a solid conclusion may be the most overlooked aspect of good history writing. Professor Stanley suggests, “use your conclusion to make one final, elegant point, or point out an irony, or direct the reader to look at the implications of your argument for the next historical period, or suggest some additional avenues for exploration.” Summary isn’t bad, of course, but provide your reader with something interesting to leave him or her feeling good about your paper!

6. No Passive Voice!

Along with having a good argument, any history professor will tell you not to use the passive voice in your history writing. Using the active voice is a good practice in general in your writing, but history seeks to be precise with agency—that is, it seeks to discover what happened and who did it. The passive voice often overlooks this precision. Take, for example, the following sentence written in passive voice: “President Bob was killed on Tuesday.” This sentence says nothing about who killed Bob, which may be essential to your historical argument. The following sentence in active voice reveals more information: “Senator Joe killed President Bob on Tuesday.” In editing your history paper, keep a close look out for passive verbs.

7. Avoid Excessive Use of "To Be" Verbs

Do you find yourself using “was” and “were” too much in your history paper? There’s nothing grammatically wrong with using these past tense forms of “to be,” but your writing may be weak if you do. Instead, use stronger verbs that more descriptively capture what you are trying to say. You could say, “In Boston in 1776, the colonists were angry with British taxation policy.” It’s better to say, “In Boston in 1776, the colonists revolted against British taxation policy.” “Revolted” is stronger and describes more accurately what happened than “were angry.”

8. Past Tense

This should be self-explanatory. In your history paper, your task is to talk about something that happened in the past, so talk about it as if it happened in the past.

9. Wordiness

Have you ever struggled to reach those 6 pages and make up for it by repeating some phrases and adding unnecessary words to make your sentences a little bit longer? History professors know the temptation, and you won’t fool them. Professor Stanley warns, “If you find yourself adding words because you’re worried about making the minimum, that’s a bad sign. You need a new idea to add to your analysis; you don’t need wordier or repetitive sentences.” Instead of saying, “At the end of the eighteenth century, the people who identified themselves as colonists sought to rebel against the British rule of government in 1776,” say, “The colonists rebelled against the British in 1776.”

10. Write Out What Century You Are Referring To

This last history essential may seem small, but not incorporating it into your writing won’t make a good impression on your professor or TA. Always write out the century. Don’t say “the 18 th  century.” Instead say, “the eighteenth century.” Moreover use the following grammatical convention when you want to talk about the early, mid, or late part of a century: “the mid-eighteenth century” or “the late-eighteenth century.”

Exercise: Finding Mistakes in a Sample Passage

Practice: diagnosing mistakes.

With practice, you can incorporate these ten essentials of good history writing into your own writing. In the meantime, review the following writing excerpt and see if you can diagnose the mistakes it is making.

Sample Excerpt: Suburban Development

Suburbs were established extensively in the United States in the 20 th  century. Suburban expansion was result of rich people wanting to move away from inner cities for new work opportunities, the development of rail lines, the automobile, and new jobs away from inner cities. Suburbs now make up a large part of metropolitan areas.

In the early 1900s, rich people who previously lived in inner cities sought out to move to the suburbs because they thought through the ramifications of potentially losing their jobs if they stayed in the inner cities. Paul Johnson said, “I think it’s really fascinating that in 1925 people moved from downtown Chicago to new suburbs like Naperville and Wilmette.”[1] In addition, “the automobile clearly helped people who had previously lived in inner cities commute to work everyday from their suburban homes.”[2] Cars were manufactured and driven very often from suburbs to the cities. One can assume from all of this that economic decisions and transportation opportunities helped people move to the suburbs.

In conclusion, the suburb was the development of several factors. There were rich people wanting to move away from the city, new railroads were constructed that extended into the outer periphery of the city in places that we now can suburbs, automobile production was greatly expanded, and new jobs rose up in cities for these rich people. It is clear that suburbs have led to the democratization of the United States .

Commentary on the Sample Excerpt

Suburbs were established extensively in the United States in the 20 th  century. (Passive voice. “Were established” is passive. Hypothetically, this sentence could say, “Business and government leaders established…” In addition, “20 th  century” should be twentieth century.) Suburban expansion was result of rich people wanting to move away from inner cities for new work opportunities, the development of rail lines, the automobile, and new jobs away from inner cities. (Argumentation. This sentence, intended to be the thesis statement, merely lists a variety of factors that led to the rise of suburbs; it does not contain a coherent argument. A revised thesis statement could be the following: “New economic opportunities in city peripheries, coupled with new transportation developments, sparked the growth of suburbs.”) Suburbs now make up a large part of metropolitan areas. (Argumentation. This sentence is slightly out of place; if it were intended to be the argument, it would not suffice as you can’t really argue with it.)

In the early 1900s, rich people who previously lived in inner cities sought out to move to the suburbs because they thought through the ramifications of potentially losing their jobs if they stayed in the inner cities. (Wordiness. This sentence is too wordy; here is a more condensed version:  “In the early 1900s, wealthy people moved to suburbs because they feared losing their jobs in the inner cities.”) Paul Johnson said, “I think it’s really fascinating that in 1925 people moved from downtown Chicago to new suburbs like Naperville and Wilmette.” (Evidence. Who is Paul Johnson, and how does this quote relate to the overall point?) In addition, “the automobile clearly helped people who had previously lived in inner cities commute to work everyday from their suburban homes.” (Evidence. This quote seems to introduce a new idea—one about automobiles—that seems out of place; also, it’s not clear if this quote comes from a different source.) Cars were manufactured and driven very often from suburbs to the cities. (Passive Voice. Here’s a corrected version: “Companies such as Ford and Oldsmobile manufactured cars, and suburban dwellers drove these cars very often.”) One can assume from all of this that economic decisions and transportation opportunities help people move to the suburbs. (Past tense. This sentences breaks out of the past tense.)

In conclusion, the rise of the suburb was the development of several factors. (Past tense of “to be.” Pick a stronger verb than “was” that is more descriptive.) There were rich people wanting to move away from the city, new railroads were constructed that extended into the outer periphery of the city in places that we now can suburbs, automobile production was greatly expanded, and new jobs rose up in cities for these rich people. (Conclusion. This conclusion merely restates the introduction paragraph; in addition, the passive voice appears several times.) It is clear that suburbs have led to the democratization of the United States. (Generalization.)

(Counter-argument: In general, this excerpt did not address any counter-arguments, thus weakening its already weak argument.)

-Developed by Adam Dominik for The Writing Place at Northwestern University.

Printable version of this resource  , click here to return to the “writing place resources” main page..

How to Write a History Essay and Sound Like an Expert

write paper on history

Knowing how to write a history essay is more than just a chronological account; it is similar to uncovering the stories of our past. Surprisingly, the calendar we rely on today finds its roots in ancient civilizations – a fascinating nugget of history that sparks curiosity.

In this guide, our history paper writing service is not just scratching the surface; we're delving into the nuances of crafting compelling narratives. Ever wondered how to draw readers in with an intriguing introduction? Or how to seamlessly weave evidence and analysis into your writing? Here, we'll explore the art of history essay writing, offering insights into creating captivating openings, structuring your essay for impact, and mastering the delicate balance between storytelling and historical accuracy.

What is a History Essay: Features and Purpose

At its core, a history essay is more than a mere recollection of events; it is a narrative crafted to explore and analyze the past. While you may be familiar with what is a persuasive essay , the distinctive feature of a history essay lies in its purposeful examination of historical events, themes, or individuals, providing insights that go beyond a simple retelling. Unlike a straightforward historical account, a well-crafted history paper format delves into the 'why' and 'how' of events, offering a deeper understanding of the historical context. Through thoughtful analysis, it seeks to unravel the complexities of the past, connecting dots and drawing conclusions that contribute to a more profound comprehension of historical significance.

The purpose of a history essay extends beyond presenting facts; it aims to engage readers in a thoughtful exploration of the past. Whether exploring the causes and effects of a particular event or analyzing the evolution of societal norms, a history essay invites readers to accompany the writer on a journey through time. Its purpose is not just to inform but to provoke critical thinking, encouraging readers to consider different perspectives and draw their own conclusions.

How to Start a History Essay with 3 Easy Steps

Knowing how to start a history essay with flair can be easy with these three steps. So, let's kickstart your writing by incorporating the following steps and entice your readers to journey alongside you through the annals of time.

how to start history essay

1. Captivating Hook: Begin with a hook that grabs your reader's attention. This could be a thought-provoking question, a compelling quote, or a fascinating historical fact related to your research paper topics . The key is to pique curiosity and make your reader eager to explore further.

  • Example: 'Ever wondered what pivotal moments in history would sound like in a symphony of words? Join me as we unravel the harmonies of the past, starting with the intriguing tale of [insert historical event].'

2. Clear Thesis Statement: Follow up your hook with a concise thesis statement that outlines the main argument or theme of your essay. Clearly state what you aim to explore or prove in your historical narrative. This sets the stage for a focused and coherent essay.

  • Example: 'In this essay, we will delve into the transformative impact of [specific historical event] on [relevant aspect], exploring its profound implications and enduring significance in shaping the course of history.'

3. Contextualize the Setting: Provide a brief but informative background to contextualize your readers. Briefly introduce the time, place, and key players involved in the historical narrative you are about to unfold. This helps orient your audience and lays the foundation for a more profound understanding.

  • Example: 'Transport yourself to [time period] in [historical setting], where [describe key circumstances]. This pivotal moment not only marked a turning point in history but also laid the groundwork for the [subsequent developments].'

History Essay Introduction Example

To make things clearer, we've got a simple example centered on the US history essay. This example starts with an interesting hook and a clear thesis statement, helping us understand how the Industrial Revolution transformed the lives of American workers.

The Industrial Revolution

At the crossroads of the 18th and 19th centuries, humanity witnessed a seismic shift that would reshape the fabric of society and redefine the very essence of work and production. The Industrial Revolution, characterized by the transition from agrarian economies to industrialized societies, stands as a watershed moment in human history. Against the backdrop of burgeoning technological advancements and transformative socio-economic changes, this essay embarks on an exploration of the profound impact of the Industrial Revolution on the working class. By examining the lived experiences, challenges, and opportunities faced by those on the factory floors, we aim to unravel the intricate tapestry of a revolution that not only propelled nations into the modern era but also laid bare the complex interplay between progress and the human condition. This essay explores the annals of history to understand how the clanking machinery of the Industrial Revolution forged not only steel but also the destiny of countless individuals.

Structuring Your History Essay Outline

Once the stage is set with a compelling introduction, the next crucial step in crafting an effective paper is structuring your outline. Here's a straightforward guide on how to structure your history research paper format using the Industrial Revolution topic example.

I. Introduction

  • A. Captivating Hook
  • B. Clear Thesis Statement
  • C. Contextualizing the Setting

II. Background and Context

  • A. Overview of the Industrial Revolution
  • B. Key Technological Advancements
  • C. Societal Changes Leading to the Revolution

III. Impact on the Working Class

  • A. Working Conditions in Factories
  • B. Economic Shifts and Challenges
  • C. Social and Cultural Implications

IV. Case Study: U.S. Working Class

  • A. Introduction to the U.S. Industrial Landscape
  • B. Key Figures and Influences
  • C. Unique Aspects of the American Experience

V. Analysis and Interpretation

  • A. Examining the Broader Historical Significance
  • B. Evaluating Different Perspectives
  • C. Drawing Conclusions

VI. Conclusion

  • A. Summarizing Key Points
  • B. Reinforcing Thesis Statement
  • C. Concluding Thoughts and Implications

By following this structured history essay outline., you ensure a logical progression of ideas, creating a roadmap for both yourself and your readers. Each section serves a distinct purpose, contributing to a comprehensive exploration of the Industrial Revolution's impact on the working class, with a specific focus on the U.S. experience.

College History Essay Example

To provide you with a practical illustration of an effective history essay format, our paper writing help presents the following example: 'The Impact of Civil Rights Movements on American Society.' This essay serves as a guide, showcasing how a well-organized outline and expert writing techniques can bring historical narratives to life.

Introduction: The mid-20th century marked a pivotal moment in American history, characterized by a fervent struggle for civil rights and social justice. As the echoes of inequality reverberated through the nation, grassroots movements emerged, demanding an end to racial segregation and discrimination. This essay delves into the profound impact of the Civil Rights Movements on American society, analyzing the transformative changes that unfolded in the realms of politics, culture, and everyday life.

Thesis Statement: The Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s and 1960s significantly reshaped American society by challenging institutionalized racism, fostering political change, and inspiring cultural shifts that continue to resonate today.

1. Challenging Institutionalized Racism

  • Introduction to Segregation: The essay begins by contextualizing the pre-Civil Rights era, outlining the pervasive racial segregation entrenched in American society.
  • Landmark Legal Cases: Discusses pivotal legal battles such as Brown v. Board of Education, highlighting their role in challenging the constitutionality of segregation.
  • Impact on Education: Explores how the end of legal segregation in schools influenced educational opportunities for African American children.

2. Fostering Political Change

  • Voter Rights Act: Analyzes the significance of legislative milestones like the Voter Rights Act of 1965 in dismantling barriers to political participation.
  • Emergence of African American Leaders: Examines the rise of influential leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, assessing their roles in shaping the political landscape.

3. Inspiring Cultural Shifts

  • Civil Rights Music: Explores the role of music as a powerful tool in expressing the aspirations and struggles of the Civil Rights Movements.
  • Integration in Popular Culture: Discusses the impact of desegregation on American popular culture, from sports to entertainment, reflecting changing attitudes.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the Civil Rights Movements of the mid-20th century left an indelible mark on American society. By challenging institutionalized racism, fostering political change, and inspiring cultural shifts, these movements not only transformed the landscape of the 1960s but also laid the groundwork for a more inclusive and equitable America. As we reflect on this pivotal era, it becomes evident that the legacy of the Civil Rights Movements endures, reminding us of the ongoing pursuit of justice and equality in our diverse society.

How to Write a History Essay with 5 Expert Tips

Now that your history essay is taking shape with a well-structured outline, it's time to delve into the art of crafting a compelling narrative. Here are five expert tips to perfect your history essay writing:

history essay steps

1. Clarity and Conciseness:

  • Prioritize clarity in your writing. Clearly articulate your ideas and ensure your sentences convey the intended meaning.
  • Be concise; avoid unnecessary words that may dilute the impact of your arguments.

2. Thematic Unity:

  • Maintain thematic unity by aligning each paragraph with your thesis statement. Ensure that every point contributes directly to the overarching theme of your essay.

3. Evidence and Analysis:

  • Support your arguments with relevant evidence. Whether citing historical documents or scholarly works, substantiate your claims to strengthen your narrative.
  • Follow up each piece of evidence with a thorough analysis. Explain the significance and relevance of your thesis.

4. Varied Sentence Structure:

  • Keep your reader engaged by varying your sentence structure. Combine short, punchy sentences with more complex ones to create a dynamic and engaging writing style.

5. Revision and Proofreading:

  • Allocate time for revising and proofreading after writing a history essay. Check for coherence, consistency, and grammatical accuracy.
  • Consider seeking feedback from peers or instructors to gain valuable perspectives on your writing.

More Writing Techniques

Building upon the foundation of your well-structured outline and the expert tips provided earlier, let's explore additional writing techniques on how to write history essay:

1. Narrative Flow:

  • Craft a narrative that flows seamlessly from one point to the next. Ensure a logical progression of ideas, allowing your reader to follow the historical narrative effortlessly.

2. Active Voice:

  • Opt for the active voice to infuse energy into your writing. Instead of saying, 'It was analyzed,' say, 'I analyzed.' This enhances clarity and directness.

3. Engaging Introductions and Conclusions:

  • Experiment with different ways to introduce and conclude your essay on history. Engage your reader with compelling introductions and leave a lasting impression with thought-provoking conclusions.

4. Incorporating Counterarguments:

  • Anticipate and address potential counterarguments. This not only strengthens your essay by acknowledging differing perspectives but also showcases a nuanced understanding of the topic.

5. Imagery and Descriptive Language:

  • Paint a vivid picture of historical settings using descriptive language. Create imagery that transports your reader to the time and place you are discussing, enhancing the overall impact of your narrative.

6. Consistent Tone:

  • Maintain a consistent tone throughout your essay. Whether formal or more conversational, a consistent tone contributes to the overall coherence of your writing.

7. Transitions Between Paragraphs:

  • Use transitional phrases to smoothly transition between paragraphs. This helps maintain the flow of your narrative and reinforces the logical connections between ideas.

8. Mindful Citation:

  • Pay careful attention to citation formats, ensuring that your sources are properly credited. Different historical disciplines may have specific citation styles, so adhere to the guidelines provided.

Wrapping Up

As we wrap up, hope you found our guide useful for your historical writing adventures. Embrace the curiosity that fuels your inquiries and the clarity that guides your storytelling. In weaving historical narratives, we don't just document events; we breathe life into the stories of those who came before us. So, may your essays tell the tales of our past with clarity and charm!

How to Write a Speech with Examples and an Outline

write paper on history

How to write an introduction for a history essay

Gladiator equipment

Every essay needs to begin with an introductory paragraph. It needs to be the first paragraph the marker reads.

While your introduction paragraph might be the first of the paragraphs you write, this is not the only way to do it.

You can choose to write your introduction after you have written the rest of your essay.

This way, you will know what you have argued, and this might make writing the introduction easier.

Either approach is fine. If you do write your introduction first, ensure that you go back and refine it once you have completed your essay. 

What is an ‘introduction paragraph’?

An introductory paragraph is a single paragraph at the start of your essay that prepares your reader for the argument you are going to make in your body paragraphs .

It should provide all of the necessary historical information about your topic and clearly state your argument so that by the end of the paragraph, the marker knows how you are going to structure the rest of your essay.

In general, you should never use quotes from sources in your introduction.

Introduction paragraph structure

While your introduction paragraph does not have to be as long as your body paragraphs , it does have a specific purpose, which you must fulfil.

A well-written introduction paragraph has the following four-part structure (summarised by the acronym BHES).

B – Background sentences

H – Hypothesis

E – Elaboration sentences

S - Signpost sentence

Each of these elements are explained in further detail, with examples, below:

1. Background sentences

The first two or three sentences of your introduction should provide a general introduction to the historical topic which your essay is about. This is done so that when you state your hypothesis , your reader understands the specific point you are arguing about.

Background sentences explain the important historical period, dates, people, places, events and concepts that will be mentioned later in your essay. This information should be drawn from your background research . 

Example background sentences:

Middle Ages (Year 8 Level)

Castles were an important component of Medieval Britain from the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 until they were phased out in the 15 th and 16 th centuries. Initially introduced as wooden motte and bailey structures on geographical strongpoints, they were rapidly replaced by stone fortresses which incorporated sophisticated defensive designs to improve the defenders’ chances of surviving prolonged sieges.

WWI (Year 9 Level)

The First World War began in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The subsequent declarations of war from most of Europe drew other countries into the conflict, including Australia. The Australian Imperial Force joined the war as part of Britain’s armed forces and were dispatched to locations in the Middle East and Western Europe.

Civil Rights (Year 10 Level)

The 1967 Referendum sought to amend the Australian Constitution in order to change the legal standing of the indigenous people in Australia. The fact that 90% of Australians voted in favour of the proposed amendments has been attributed to a series of significant events and people who were dedicated to the referendum’s success.

Ancient Rome (Year 11/12 Level)  

In the late second century BC, the Roman novus homo Gaius Marius became one of the most influential men in the Roman Republic. Marius gained this authority through his victory in the Jugurthine War, with his defeat of Jugurtha in 106 BC, and his triumph over the invading Germanic tribes in 101 BC, when he crushed the Teutones at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (102 BC) and the Cimbri at the Battle of Vercellae (101 BC). Marius also gained great fame through his election to the consulship seven times.

2. Hypothesis

Once you have provided historical context for your essay in your background sentences, you need to state your hypothesis .

A hypothesis is a single sentence that clearly states the argument that your essay will be proving in your body paragraphs .

A good hypothesis contains both the argument and the reasons in support of your argument. 

Example hypotheses:

Medieval castles were designed with features that nullified the superior numbers of besieging armies but were ultimately made obsolete by the development of gunpowder artillery.

Australian soldiers’ opinion of the First World War changed from naïve enthusiasm to pessimistic realism as a result of the harsh realities of modern industrial warfare.

The success of the 1967 Referendum was a direct result of the efforts of First Nations leaders such as Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Gaius Marius was the most one of the most significant personalities in the 1 st century BC due to his effect on the political, military and social structures of the Roman state.

3. Elaboration sentences

Once you have stated your argument in your hypothesis , you need to provide particular information about how you’re going to prove your argument.

Your elaboration sentences should be one or two sentences that provide specific details about how you’re going to cover the argument in your three body paragraphs.

You might also briefly summarise two or three of your main points.

Finally, explain any important key words, phrases or concepts that you’ve used in your hypothesis, you’ll need to do this in your elaboration sentences.

Example elaboration sentences:

By the height of the Middle Ages, feudal lords were investing significant sums of money by incorporating concentric walls and guard towers to maximise their defensive potential. These developments were so successful that many medieval armies avoided sieges in the late period.

Following Britain's official declaration of war on Germany, young Australian men voluntarily enlisted into the army, which was further encouraged by government propaganda about the moral justifications for the conflict. However, following the initial engagements on the Gallipoli peninsula, enthusiasm declined.

The political activity of key indigenous figures and the formation of activism organisations focused on indigenous resulted in a wider spread of messages to the general Australian public. The generation of powerful images and speeches has been frequently cited by modern historians as crucial to the referendum results.

While Marius is best known for his military reforms, it is the subsequent impacts of this reform on the way other Romans approached the attainment of magistracies and how public expectations of military leaders changed that had the longest impacts on the late republican period.

4. Signpost sentence

The final sentence of your introduction should prepare the reader for the topic of your first body paragraph. The main purpose of this sentence is to provide cohesion between your introductory paragraph and you first body paragraph .

Therefore, a signpost sentence indicates where you will begin proving the argument that you set out in your hypothesis and usually states the importance of the first point that you’re about to make. 

Example signpost sentences:

The early development of castles is best understood when examining their military purpose.

The naïve attitudes of those who volunteered in 1914 can be clearly seen in the personal letters and diaries that they themselves wrote.

The significance of these people is evident when examining the lack of political representation the indigenous people experience in the early half of the 20 th century.

The origin of Marius’ later achievements was his military reform in 107 BC, which occurred when he was first elected as consul.

Putting it all together

Once you have written all four parts of the BHES structure, you should have a completed introduction paragraph. In the examples above, we have shown each part separately. Below you will see the completed paragraphs so that you can appreciate what an introduction should look like.

Example introduction paragraphs: 

Castles were an important component of Medieval Britain from the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 until they were phased out in the 15th and 16th centuries. Initially introduced as wooden motte and bailey structures on geographical strongpoints, they were rapidly replaced by stone fortresses which incorporated sophisticated defensive designs to improve the defenders’ chances of surviving prolonged sieges. Medieval castles were designed with features that nullified the superior numbers of besieging armies, but were ultimately made obsolete by the development of gunpowder artillery. By the height of the Middle Ages, feudal lords were investing significant sums of money by incorporating concentric walls and guard towers to maximise their defensive potential. These developments were so successful that many medieval armies avoided sieges in the late period. The early development of castles is best understood when examining their military purpose.

The First World War began in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The subsequent declarations of war from most of Europe drew other countries into the conflict, including Australia. The Australian Imperial Force joined the war as part of Britain’s armed forces and were dispatched to locations in the Middle East and Western Europe. Australian soldiers’ opinion of the First World War changed from naïve enthusiasm to pessimistic realism as a result of the harsh realities of modern industrial warfare. Following Britain's official declaration of war on Germany, young Australian men voluntarily enlisted into the army, which was further encouraged by government propaganda about the moral justifications for the conflict. However, following the initial engagements on the Gallipoli peninsula, enthusiasm declined. The naïve attitudes of those who volunteered in 1914 can be clearly seen in the personal letters and diaries that they themselves wrote.

The 1967 Referendum sought to amend the Australian Constitution in order to change the legal standing of the indigenous people in Australia. The fact that 90% of Australians voted in favour of the proposed amendments has been attributed to a series of significant events and people who were dedicated to the referendum’s success. The success of the 1967 Referendum was a direct result of the efforts of First Nations leaders such as Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The political activity of key indigenous figures and the formation of activism organisations focused on indigenous resulted in a wider spread of messages to the general Australian public. The generation of powerful images and speeches has been frequently cited by modern historians as crucial to the referendum results. The significance of these people is evident when examining the lack of political representation the indigenous people experience in the early half of the 20th century.

In the late second century BC, the Roman novus homo Gaius Marius became one of the most influential men in the Roman Republic. Marius gained this authority through his victory in the Jugurthine War, with his defeat of Jugurtha in 106 BC, and his triumph over the invading Germanic tribes in 101 BC, when he crushed the Teutones at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (102 BC) and the Cimbri at the Battle of Vercellae (101 BC). Marius also gained great fame through his election to the consulship seven times. Gaius Marius was the most one of the most significant personalities in the 1st century BC due to his effect on the political, military and social structures of the Roman state. While Marius is best known for his military reforms, it is the subsequent impacts of this reform on the way other Romans approached the attainment of magistracies and how public expectations of military leaders changed that had the longest impacts on the late republican period. The origin of Marius’ later achievements was his military reform in 107 BC, which occurred when he was first elected as consul.

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Writing a Thesis and Making an Argument

Almost every assignment you complete for a history course will ask you to make an argument. Your instructors will often call this your "thesis"– your position on a subject.

What is an Argument?

An argument takes a stand on an issue. It seeks to persuade an audience of a point of view in much the same way that a lawyer argues a case in a court of law. It is NOT a description or a summary.

  • This is an argument: "This paper argues that the movie JFK is inaccurate in its portrayal of President Kennedy."
  • This is not an argument: "In this paper, I will describe the portrayal of President Kennedy that is shown in the movie JFK."

What is a Thesis?

A thesis statement is a sentence in which you state an argument about a topic and then describe, briefly, how you will prove your argument.

  • This is an argument, but not yet a thesis: "The movie ‘JFK’ inaccurately portrays President Kennedy."
  • This is a thesis: "The movie ‘JFK’ inaccurately portrays President Kennedy because of the way it ignores Kennedy’s youth, his relationship with his father, and the findings of the Warren Commission."

A thesis makes a specific statement to the reader about what you will be trying to argue. Your thesis can be a few sentences long, but should not be longer than a paragraph. Do not begin to state evidence or use examples in your thesis paragraph.

A Thesis Helps You and Your Reader

Your blueprint for writing:

  • Helps you determine your focus and clarify your ideas.
  • Provides a "hook" on which you can "hang" your topic sentences.
  • Can (and should) be revised as you further refine your evidence and arguments. New evidence often requires you to change your thesis.
  • Gives your paper a unified structure and point.

Your reader’s blueprint for reading:

  • Serves as a "map" to follow through your paper.
  • Keeps the reader focused on your argument.
  • Signals to the reader your main points.
  • Engages the reader in your argument.

Tips for Writing a Good Thesis

  • Find a Focus: Choose a thesis that explores an aspect of your topic that is important to you, or that allows you to say something new about your topic. For example, if your paper topic asks you to analyze women’s domestic labor during the early nineteenth century, you might decide to focus on the products they made from scratch at home.
  • Look for Pattern: After determining a general focus, go back and look more closely at your evidence. As you re-examine your evidence and identify patterns, you will develop your argument and some conclusions. For example, you might find that as industrialization increased, women made fewer textiles at home, but retained their butter and soap making tasks.

Strategies for Developing a Thesis Statement

Idea 1. If your paper assignment asks you to answer a specific question, turn the question into an assertion and give reasons for your opinion.

Assignment: How did domestic labor change between 1820 and 1860? Why were the changes in their work important for the growth of the United States?

Beginning thesis: Between 1820 and 1860 women's domestic labor changed as women stopped producing home-made fabric, although they continued to sew their families' clothes, as well as to produce butter and soap. With the cash women earned from the sale of their butter and soap they purchased ready-made cloth, which in turn, helped increase industrial production in the United States before the Civil War.

Idea 2. Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main Idea: Women's labor in their homes during the first half of the nineteenth century contributed to the growth of the national economy.

Idea 3. Spend time "mulling over" your topic. Make a list of the ideas you want to include in the essay, then think about how to group them under several different headings. Often, you will see an organizational plan emerge from the sorting process.

Idea 4. Use a formula to develop a working thesis statement (which you will need to revise later). Here are a few examples:

  • Although most readers of ______ have argued that ______, closer examination shows that ______.
  • ______ uses ______ and ______ to prove that ______.
  • Phenomenon X is a result of the combination of ______, ______, and ______.

These formulas share two characteristics all thesis statements should have: they state an argument and they reveal how you will make that argument. They are not specific enough, however, and require more work.

As you work on your essay, your ideas will change and so will your thesis. Here are examples of weak and strong thesis statements.

  • Unspecific thesis: "Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong leader as First Lady."  This thesis lacks an argument. Why was Eleanor Roosevelt a strong leader?
  • Specific thesis: "Eleanor Roosevelt recreated the role of the First Lady by her active political leadership in the Democratic Party, by lobbying for national legislation, and by fostering women’s leadership in the Democratic Party."  The second thesis has an argument: Eleanor Roosevelt "recreated" the position of First Lady, and a three-part structure with which to demonstrate just how she remade the job.
  • Unspecific thesis: "At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced difficulty when they attempted to enter the legal profession."  No historian could argue with this general statement and uninteresting thesis.
  • Specific thesis: "At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced misogynist attacks from male lawyers when they attempted to enter the legal profession because male lawyers wanted to keep women out of judgeships."  This thesis statement asserts that French male lawyers attacked French women lawyers because they feared women as judges, an intriguing and controversial point.

Making an Argument – Every Thesis Deserves Its Day in Court

You are the best (and only!) advocate for your thesis. Your thesis is defenseless without you to prove that its argument holds up under scrutiny. The jury (i.e., your reader) will expect you, as a good lawyer, to provide evidence to prove your thesis. To prove thesis statements on historical topics, what evidence can an able young lawyer use?

  • Primary sources: letters, diaries, government documents, an organization’s meeting minutes, newspapers.
  • Secondary sources: articles and books from your class that explain and interpret the historical event or person you are writing about, lecture notes, films or documentaries.

How can you use this evidence?

  • Make sure the examples you select from your available evidence address your thesis.
  • Use evidence that your reader will believe is credible. This means sifting and sorting your sources, looking for the clearest and fairest. Be sure to identify the biases and shortcomings of each piece of evidence for your reader.
  • Use evidence to avoid generalizations. If you assert that all women have been oppressed, what evidence can you use to support this? Using evidence works to check over-general statements.
  • Use evidence to address an opposing point of view. How do your sources give examples that refute another historian’s interpretation?

Remember -- if in doubt, talk to your instructor.

Thanks to the web page of the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Writing Center for information used on this page. See writing.wisc.edu/handbook for further information.

Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

Black History Month - A visitor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories. Image:  Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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This article was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated .

  • A continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.
  • Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.
  • This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts.

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change. Here's what to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year:

Have you read?

Black history month: key events in a decade of black lives matter, here are 4 ways businesses can celebrate black history month, how did black history month begin.

Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History , aimed to encourage " people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience ".

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” ― Carter G. Woodson

His organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions. "He was asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition", as the ASALH explained on its website.

How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity".

Why is Black History Month celebrated?

Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.

Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.

What is this year's Black History Month theme?

Every year, a theme is chosen by the ASALH, the group originally founded by Woodson. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts .

"In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount," the website says.

Is Black History Month celebrated anywhere else?

In Canada, they celebrate it in February. In countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, they celebrate it in October. In Canada, African-Canadian parliament member Jean Augustine motioned for Black History Month in 1995 to bring awareness to Black Canadians' work.

When the UK started celebrating Black History Month in 1987, it focused on Black American history. Over time there has been more attention on Black British history. Now it is dedicated to honouring African people's contributions to the country. Its UK mission statement is: "Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger".

Why is Black History Month important?

For many modern Black millennials, the month-long celebration for Black History Month offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead. But for many, the forces that drove Woodson nearly a century ago are more relevant than ever. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.'s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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In Tricia Romano’s “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” an editor sums it up: “We were such a weird animal. We weren’t apples or oranges. We were like a kumquat.”

By elizabeth zimmer.

  • Combined Shape

Village Voice review of "The Freaks Came Out to Write."

Imagine: Your Facebook feed is suddenly free of ads, and every post in it comes from one of your favorite Village Voice writers, cartoonists, or photographers. Staffers and freelancers at the legendary alternative weekly, alive and gone, are talking to you in the privacy of your room or on the bus or at the beach, their pithy comments bouncing off one another, sharing their memories and their inside scoops, assembling a saga that reaches back to 1955, when a trio of World War II vets — psychologist Ed Fancher, encyclopedia scribe Dan Wolf, and novelist Norman Mailer — threw 15 grand together, rented an office, and made publishing history. 

And imagine that this feed goes on for a hundred hours, that you keep scrolling and the stories keep rolling out, in the inimitable voices of people you knew — or wished you knew — and loved. That’s how I — a Voice contributor since the early ’ 80s, a senior editor from 1992 until 2006, and a contributor, again, from 2015 until, well, now — felt reading Tricia Romano’s extraordinary new oral history, The Freaks Came Out to Write , subtitled The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture.  

Over the past half-decade, Romano, a nightlife columnist who worked at the Voice for eight years beginning in 1997, collated more than 200 interviews and researched dozens of books, articles, and audio clips by and about the unruly crew that came together in downtown Manhattan, their lust for truth and irreverent attitudes toward traditional media let loose by alert and sensitive editors. 

The result is a triumph of contemporary journalism, a fusion of aesthetic and political positions, a chorus of sound bites from both union and management, unfurling a tale of wild success followed by a slow disintegration. Interspersed are brief quotes from stories that ran in the paper, letters to the editor, and observations from publishers, writers, editors, and IT and production staffers, revealing the thinking behind momentous decisions. Readers will discover the late Wayne Barrett’s prescient exposure of the habits of one Donald J. Trump, who first tried to buy off the dogged reporter with promises of a great apartment and then defamed him, having him arrested and jailed for crashing Trump’s Atlantic City birthday celebration. “I’m not there five minutes,” says Barrett, “and they slap the handcuffs on me. Defiant trespass, I was charged with … That’s a good representation of how Donald felt about me. All the cops down there moonlit for him.”  

The paper flourished in what was clearly a different time — before the Internet, before Craigslist, even before word processors.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, grandson of a general who was Fancher’s commanding officer in Italy during World War II, sent letters to the editor, from West Point, where he was a cadet. One of them wound up on the Voice ’s front page. Before he became a staff writer, Truscott would hang out with his colleagues in the editor’s office on Friday afternoons, drinking Wolf’s scotch out of little paper cups and then heading to the theater. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, look at the lives that they lead.’ Christ almighty. It was just heaven on earth.”

The Voice ’s offices were down the block from the Stonewall Inn, where a capricious bust in the summer of 1969 set off riots that mobilized the country’s gay rights movement. Says theater director Michael Smith, sometime writer and a producer of the Voice ’s off-Broadway Obie Awards, “That whole scene happened right in front of my eyes.” Writer Susan Brownmiller comments, “It was the first time that the gays had resisted.” 

Romano’s book leans heavily on the paper’s cadre of white guys, but a fierce phalanx of female writers and editors also have their say. Vivian Gornick , a self-described radical feminist, “saw sexism everywhere,” and would “write a piece that would point out the sexism of the situation.” The Voice , she recalls, “was a great proponent of personal journalism … It taught some of us how to do that kind of work well … They gave us the most astonishing amount of space and time, and it was amazing. You would think that they were the internet.” 

I was fascinated to learn that while we in the trenches toiled to discover and document new developments in the arts and chicanery in politics, the folks holding the purse strings were struggling and scheming, finding ways to keep the whole enterprise on its feet through many changes of ownership. Goaded by a downtown rival, the New York Press , Leonard Stern suggested taking the paper free in 1996, to almost universal dismay. But his business acumen was sound: “We took our circulation from … 75,000 a week to 250,000, in stages,”  Stern says. “It was enormously successful.” Immediately, ads and a T-shirt surfaced, with the slogan “The Paper That Can’t Be Bought.” (On my shelf sits a negotiation-month shirt reading “The Union That Can’t Be Bought.”)

I’ll never forget the afternoon staff meeting when managing editor Doug Simmons announced that on Wednesday mornings, when the free Voice hit the streets, it was outdrawing The New York Times. And of course, ad rates are based on circulation numbers. But a larger threat lay ahead: the emerging Internet and services like Craigslist, which undercut the paper’s classified section and caused it to begin hemorrhaging money. Romano unfolds all of this with almost cinematic power, as though she’d been a fly on the wall in the chambers where decisions were made. Listen to Anil Dash, an IT specialist, who came to the paper as a computer programmer in 2001: “My third day there, Craigslist launched in New York. I knew. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’” Dash got fired barely two years later, and wound up building tools for bloggers. “It was like we were the arms dealers to the rise of social media.” 

There’s precious little narrative. The book is mostly constructed of first-person commentary, with a few editorial interpolations and a bunch of asterisked footnotes designed to explicate, for younger generations of readers, obscure references or errors of fact in some original quotes. Romano reveals where the bodies were buried, and where the seeds were planted. For pages on end, through the book’s 88 chapters, I found myself holding my breath, eager to see who, or what, she’d uncover next. 

People showed up straight from college, because working at the Voice had always been their dream, despite substandard wages and word rates, paltry expense budgets, and barely habitable offices.

Mary Perot Nichols (1926–1996), an editor in the early days, helped to get John Lindsay elected mayor; later, he made her an assistant parks commissioner. “She got into a storage area under Central Park itself,” reports Clark Whelton, who wrote for the paper in the ’70s. “She was very curious, very nosy person, great newswoman … she started opening filing cabinets, and lo and behold, they’re the files of Robert Moses — all the goods on Moses, all his correspondence — because he had been parks commissioner at one time. She dials the phone and said, ‘ Bob Caro , have I got a surprise for you. Meet me in Central Park.’” After two years, Nichols returned to the paper, becoming city editor. Her daughter, Eliza Nichols, tells Romano that Mary was very proud of the journalists she hired: “She was training people to do the work. Most of these people were very young and had not been journalists before.” 

Nichols mère also threw parties where artists, politicians, and community planners mingled. “There was one night,” says Eliza, “when James Baldwin and Frank Serpico were there at the same time.” Declares ’70s Voice staff writer Howard Blum about these parties, “You were able to develop sources. You could be a kid of twenty and have better sources and know [more] people on a social level than people at the Times who were reporters. It was very handy to me when I went to the TImes. ”

Romano devotes chapters to the designers and photographers who gave the paper its unique look, and to the succession of figures who bought the company and tried to corral the obstreperous crew who wrote and edited the paper. Lavish space is given to the writers of color, such as Stanley Crouch, Greg Tate , Hilton Als, Peter Noel , and Lisa Kennedy, who made inroads at the Voice when other publications had little space for them and their cultural touchstones, like hip-hop. Gay culture had such a firm foothold that some people referred to the Voice as a gay paper. Writers like Jeff Weinstein (art editor, restaurant critic) and Lynn Yaeger (who spent years as a clerk in the classified department before landing her fashion column, and is now at Vogue ) were essential to the groundbreaking union contracts that provided domestic-partner benefits for staffers, long before such matters were enshrined in law. 

There is stuff missing, of course. Six hundred pages is fat for a mass-market book, and a lot of material was trimmed along the way, for size and probably for legal reasons. The dance section is absent, for one thing, except for a brief quote from Deborah Jowitt about her first forays into the paper, in 1967. Burt Supree, a poet, actor, and author of children’s books who got hired as listings editor because he was a very fast typist, became a dance critic; he edited Jowitt (and later, me) from 1976 until his sudden death, in 1992, and he too goes unmentioned. 

A lot of us are lifers, as readers, contributors, editors, and now, in the scaled-down universe that is villagevoice.com, contributors again . People showed up straight from college, because working at the Voice had always been their dream, despite substandard wages and word rates, paltry expense budgets, and barely habitable offices. Art writer Vince Aletti, now a contributor to the New Yorker , who freelanced for the music section under Robert Christgau, the “dean of rock critics,“ says, “We weren’t making much money, but we all were dying to talk about the things that we were excited about.” Editors like Christgau and the late Robert Massa nursed young writers, turning promising aspirants into excellent stylists who midwived a generation of change. Says Christgau, “I gave Gary Giddens his column and encouraged him to write longer and more ambitiously. I could see he was a fucking genius. The music section was suddenly in flower, and people were flocking to it. I remained on the lookout for new writers all the time. I can’t tell you how exciting that was.” 

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People left for greener pastures … and then came back. Playwright Brian Parks, a copy editor, went to New York magazine but returned and wound up running the theater and dance sections. Tom Robbins, political writer and union stalwart, left the Daily News to return to the Voice under editor Don Forst; Joe Levy, sly music writer, briefly inhabited the editor’s chair a decade later. Others now fill prestigious posts across the country (Charles McNulty at the Los Angeles Times ; Guy Trebay, Manohla Dargis, and Alexis Soloski at The New York Times ; Hilton Als at the New Yorker ). Voice writers have earned the paper three Pulitzer Prizes and countless other awards. Colson Whitehead, who started out writing wittily barbed reviews of television shows for the Voice , has since pulled down a Pulitzer and other honors for his novels. 

The Voice ’s sports section, The Score, established in 1981, came and went over the decades. It had a deep bench of good writers, including Ishmael Reed, who wrote about boxing . “Nobody even knew the Voice had a sports section,” reports Michael Caruso, who edited it in the ’80s and is now publisher of The New Republic . “Nobody knew why the Voice had a sports section, and as a result I could do anything I wanted…. We were such a weird animal. We weren’t apples or oranges.  We were like a kumquat.” Editor-in-chief Karen Durbin killed it in 1995, but the section was restored a few years later. One editor, Jeff Z. Klein, who wound up a hockey reporter at the Times , says, “A couple guys there said to me, ‘Oh, the Voice sports section? I love it.’ They’d pull out of their drawers little things we’d written.” (Let it be noted that the paper so ambivalent about sports is commemorated, on the cover of Romano’s tome, by Catherine McGann’s photo of 21 staffers in the office huddled around an old portable TV, watching the Mets play the Astros in Game 6 of the National League Championship series, in 1986.)

The paper flourished in what was clearly a different time — before the Internet, before Craigslist, even before word processors. It started out as a very local weekly, became a national phenomenon, and suddenly found itself, by virtue of going online, an international daily. It abides, stewarded by editor R.C. Baker, artist, art writer, and longtime print supervisor at the paper, who tells this story of the evening of 9/11: “Don [Forst] came up with a very Daily News / New York Newsday headline: ‘THE BASTARDS!’ … I’m waiting for the LIRR. On the other side trains were pulling in, and people were pouring off the trains. On my side, there was me and two other people because no one was going into the city. I’ve got thirty copies of the issue in my messenger bag, and this guy comes up to me and just doesn’t say hello or anything. He says, ‘Did you see what those bastards did?!’ … I couldn’t help but laugh. I said to him, ‘Mister, you need this.’ I handed him a copy. And there it is, ‘THE BASTARDS!’ across the cover of the Village Voice. So, Don’s instincts may have been right.”

The arc of the Village Voice has been long, but it’s bending toward … not quite mass extinction but, along with every other media outlet except maybe the Times , becoming a shadow of its former self. The Freaks Came Out to Write begins as history and ends up, 525 pages later, as testimony to the work the paper used to do, work that is barely possible any longer for professional journalists to do. The Voice welcomed contributors because of the quality of their writing and didn’t bother checking for degrees in journalism, or degrees at all: Neither the late Peter Schjeldahl nor Deborah Jowitt, legendary art and dance critics, respectively, graduated from college. (The current Voice website continues this tradition, but with the diminished resources typical of our post-Craigslist mediascape.) 

Romano was still in college when the Internet began upending journalism, torpedoing our attention spans and making it redundant to cart around sheaves of newsprint. She’s processed 70-odd years of publishing history into bite-size bits, and created an irresistible party platter of a book, rich and essential.   ❖

Elizabeth Zimmer has written about dance, theater, and books for the  Village Voice  and other publications since 1983. She runs writing workshops for students and professionals across the country, has studied many forms of dance, and has taught in the Hollins University MFA dance program.

A book-launch party is scheduled for February 28 at 6:30 at McNally Jackson Seaport, where Romano will share the spotlight with Gillian McCain; an RSVP is required.

On March 5 at 7:30 at Greenlight Bookstore, in Brooklyn, Romano will be joined by Joe Conason, Amy Taubin, and Nelson George, former Voice writers. Other such gatherings are popping up across the region and the country. 

NOTE: The advertising disclaimer below does not apply to this article, nor any originating from the Village Voice editorial department, which does not accept paid links.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.

  • MUSIC Half a Century Ago, Elliott Murphy Was Going to Be a ‘Monster’ Rock Star – But Then Life Happened  Fans in France and the rest of Europe have known for decades what Bruce Springsteen told America back in the day: Murphy wrote and performed hit songs, “They just didn’t end up on the Hit Parade.”  by Brad Spurgeon February 16, 2024
  • POLITICS Trump Says Out Loud What Many Republicans Have Long Wanted to Hear The former POTUS has taken over the GOP like a WWE brawler flattening all challengers. by Ross Barkan February 6, 2024
  • BOOKS ‘The World According to Joan Didion’ Surveys the Life of the ‘New Journalism’ Writer Observations coalesce around images in Evelyn McDonnell’s illustrated new book. by Elizabeth Zimmer February 5, 2024
  • ART ARCHIVES The Black Panthers: Pictures at a Revolution Outmanned and outgunned, the Panthers remained steadfast in their belief that Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is the birthright of all Americans. by R.C. Baker Originally published September 21, 2016
  • ART Ecology-Minded Artist Brandon Ballengée Pictures What We’ve Lost  Both subtle and dramatic, these haunting works give form to the void of extinction.  by Shana Nys Dambrot January 22, 2024
  • Labor Front Can a Union Revival Save America’s Soul? Teamsters and auto workers are using union ballots to improve their lives. Can workers from all walks of life use the 2024 elections to improve the nation?  by Robert Hennelly December 28, 2023

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Opinion: We know how voters feel about Trump and Biden. But how do the experts rank their presidencies?

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Presidents Day occurs at a crucial moment this year, with the presidency on the cusp of crisis as we inexorably shuffle toward a rematch between the incumbent and his predecessor. It’s the sort of contest we haven’t seen since the 19th century, and judging by public opinion of President Biden and former President Trump, most Americans would have preferred to keep it that way.

But the third installment of our Presidential Greatness Project , a poll of presidential experts released this weekend, shows that scholars don’t share American voters’ roughly equal distaste for both candidates.

Biden, in fact, makes his debut in our rankings at No. 14, putting him in the top third of American presidents. Trump, meanwhile, maintains the position he held six years ago: dead last, trailing such historically calamitous chief executives as James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. In that and other respects, Trump’s radical departure from political, institutional and legal norms has affected knowledgeable assessments not just of him but also of Biden and several other presidents.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets supporters as he arrives at a campaign stop in Londonderry, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Opinion: Panicking over polls showing Donald Trump ahead of President Biden? Please stop

Like Biden, Obama and Reagan had rough reelection polls. Too many journalists treat polls as predictive, but political professionals use them to inform campaigns.

Jan. 24, 2024

The overall survey results reveal stability as well as change in the way scholars assess our nation’s most important and controversial political office. Great presidents have traditionally been viewed as those who presided over moments of national transformation, led the country through major crises and expanded the institution of the presidency. Military victories, economic growth, assassinations and scandals also affect expert assessments of presidential performance.

The presidents at the top of our rankings, and others like ours, reflect this. Hallowed leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George Washington consistently lead the list.

Our latest rankings also show that the experts’ assessments are driven not only by traditional notions of greatness but also by the evolving values of our time.

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Las Vegas.

Op-Ed: Worst. President. Ever.

President Trump’s final grade will be in the hands of scholars. It doesn’t look good.

Jan. 13, 2021

One example is the continuing decline in esteem for two important presidents, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson. Their reputations have consistently suffered in recent years as modern politics lead scholars to assess their early 19th and 20th century presidencies ever more harshly, especially their unacceptable treatment of marginalized people.

More acutely, this survey has seen a pronounced partisan dynamic emerge, arguably in response to the Trump presidency and the Trumpification of presidential politics.

Proponents of the Biden presidency have strong arguments in their arsenal, but his high placement within the top 15 suggests a powerful anti-Trump factor at work. So far, Biden’s record does not include the military victories or institutional expansion that have typically driven higher rankings, and a family scandal such as the one involving his son Hunter normally diminishes a president’s ranking.

Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall.

Trump’s position at the bottom of our rankings, meanwhile, puts him behind not only Buchanan and Johnson but also such lowlights as Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding and William Henry Harrison, who died a mere 31 days after taking office.

Trump’s impact goes well beyond his own ranking and Biden’s. Every contemporary Democratic president has moved up in the ranks — Barack Obama (No. 7), Bill Clinton (No. 12) and even Jimmy Carter (No. 22).

Yes, these presidents had great accomplishments such as expanding healthcare access and working to end conflict in the Middle East, and they have two Nobel Prizes among them. But given their shortcomings and failures, their rise seems to be less about reassessments of their administrations than it is a bonus for being neither Trump nor a member of his party.

Indeed, every modern Republican president has dropped in the survey, including the transformational Ronald Reagan (No. 16) and George H.W. Bush (No. 19), who led the nation’s last decisive military victory.

Academics do lean left, but that hasn’t changed since our previous surveys. What these results suggest is not just an added emphasis on a president’s political affiliation, but also the emergence of a president’s fealty to political and institutional norms as a criterion for what makes a president “great” to the scholars who study them.

As for the Americans casting a ballot for the next president, they are in the historically rare position of knowing how both candidates have performed in the job. Whether they will consider each president’s commitment to the norms of presidential leadership, and come to rate them as differently as our experts, remains to be seen.

Justin Vaughn is an associate professor of political science at Coastal Carolina University. Brandon Rottinghaus is a professor of political science at the University of Houston.

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write paper on history

Writing a history paper is a process.  Successful papers are not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but are developed over a series of steps.  When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel overwhelmed or intimidated.  If you think of writing as a process and break it down into smaller steps, you will find that paper-writing is manageable, less daunting, and even enjoyable.  Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past.

What is a history paper?

History papers are driven by arguments.  In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.  For example, suppose your professor has asked you to write a paper discussing the differences between colonial New England and colonial Virginia.  It might seem like this paper is straightforward and does not require an argument, that it is simply a matter of finding the "right answer."  However, even here you need to construct a paper guided by a larger argument.  You might argue that the main differences between colonial New England and Virginia were grounded in contrasting visions of colonization.  Or you might argue that the differences resulted from accidents of geography or from extant alliances between regional Indian groups.  Or you might make an argument that draws on all of these factors.  Regardless, when you make these types of assertions, you are making an argument that requires historical evidence.  Any history paper you write will be driven by an argument demanding evidence from sources.

History writing assignments can vary widely--and you should always follow your professor's specific instructions--but the following steps are designed to help no matter what kind of history paper you are writing.  Remember that the staff of the History Writing Center is here to assist you at any stage of the writing process.

1.  Make sure you know what the paper prompt is asking.

Sometimes professors distribute prompts with several sub-questions surrounding the main question they want you to write about.  The sub-questions are designed to help you think about the topic.  They offer ideas you might consider, but they are not, usually, the key question or questions you need to answer in your paper.  Make sure you distinguish the key questions from the sub-questions.  Otherwise, your paper may sound like a laundry list of short-answer essays rather than a cohesive argument.

A helpful way to hone in on the key question is to look for action verbs, such as "analyze" or "investigate" or "formulate."  Find such words in the paper prompt and circle them.  Then, carefully consider what you are being asked to do.  Write out the key question at the top of your draft and return to it often, using it to guide you in the writing process.  Also, be sure that you are responding to every part of the prompt.  Prompts will often have several questions you need to address in your paper.  If you do not cover all aspects, then you are not responding fully to the assignment.  For more information, visit our section, "Understanding Paper Prompts."

2.  Brainstorm possible arguments and responses.

Before you even start researching or drafting, take a few minutes to consider what you already know about the topic.  Make a list of ideas or draw a cluster diagram, using circles and arrows to connect ideas--whatever method works for you.  At this point in the process, it is helpful to write down all of your ideas without stopping to judge or analyze each one in depth.  You want to think big and bring in everything you know or suspect about the topic.  After you have finished, read over what you have created.  Look for patterns or trends or questions that keep coming up.  Based on what you have brainstormed, what do you still need to learn about the topic?  Do you have a tentative argument or response to the paper prompt?  Use this information to guide you as you start your research and develop a thesis.

3.  Start researching.

Depending on the paper prompt, you may be required to do outside research or you may be using only the readings you have done in class.  Either way, start by rereading the relevant materials from class.  Find the parts from the textbook, from the primary source readings, and from your notes that relate to the prompt.

If you need to do outside research, the UCLA library system offers plenty of resources.  You can begin by plugging key words into the online library catalog.  This process will likely involve some trial and error.  You will want to use search terms that are specific enough to address your topic without being so narrow that you get no results.  If your keywords are too general, you may receive thousands of results and feel overwhelmed.  To help you narrow your search, go back to the key questions in the essay prompt that you wrote down in Step 1.  Think about which terms would help you respond to the prompt.  Also, look at the language your professor used in the prompt.  You might be able to use some of those same words as search terms.

Notice that the library website has different databases you can search depending on what type of material you need (such as scholarly articles, newspapers, books) and what subject and time period you are researching (such as eighteenth-century England or ancient Rome).  Searching the database most relevant to your topic will yield the best results.  Visit the library's History Research Guide for tips on the research process and on using library resources.  You can also schedule an appointment with a librarian to talk specifically about your research project.  Or, make an appointment with staff at the History Writing Center for research help.  Visit our section about using electronic resources as well.

4.  Take stock and draft a thesis statement.

By this point, you know what the prompt is asking, you have brainstormed possible responses, and you have done some research.  Now you need to step back, look at the material you have, and develop your argument.  Based on the reading and research you have done, how might you answer the question(s) in the prompt?  What arguments do your sources allow you to make?  Draft a thesis statement in which you clearly and succinctly make an argument that addresses the prompt.

If you find writing a thesis daunting, remember that whatever you draft now is not set in stone.  Your thesis will change.  As you do more research, reread your sources, and write your paper, you will learn more about the topic and your argument.  For now, produce a "working thesis," meaning, a thesis that represents your thinking up to this point.  Remember it will almost certainly change as you move through the writing process.  For more information, visit our section about thesis statements.  Once you have a thesis, you may find that you need to do more research targeted to your specific argument.  Revisit some of the tips from Step 3.

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

Now that you have a working thesis, look back over your sources and identify which ones are most critical to you--the ones you will be grappling with most directly in order to make your argument.  Then, annotate them.  Annotating sources means writing a paragraph that summarizes the main idea of the source as well as shows how you will use the source in your paper.  Think about what the source does for you.  Does it provide evidence in support of your argument?  Does it offer a counterpoint that you can then refute, based on your research?  Does it provide critical historical background that you need in order to make a point?  For more information about annotating sources, visit our section on annotated bibliographies.

While it might seem like this step creates more work for you by having to do more writing, it in fact serves two critical purposes: it helps you refine your working thesis by distilling exactly what your sources are saying, and it helps smooth your writing process.  Having dissected your sources and articulated your ideas about them, you can more easily draw upon them when constructing your paper.  Even if you do not have to do outside research and are limited to working with the readings you have done in class, annotating sources is still very useful.  Write down exactly how a particular section in the textbook or in a primary source reader will contribute to your paper.

6.  Draft an outline of your paper.

An outline is helpful in giving you a sense of the overall structure of your paper and how best to organize your ideas.  You need to decide how to arrange your argument in a way that will make the most sense to your reader.  Perhaps you decide that your argument is most clear when presented chronologically, or perhaps you find that it works best with a thematic approach.  There is no one right way to organize a history paper; it depends entirely on the prompt, on your sources, and on what you think would be most clear to someone reading it.

An effective outline includes the following components: the research question from the prompt (that you wrote down in Step 1), your working thesis, the main idea of each body paragraph, and the evidence (from both primary and secondary sources) you will use to support each body paragraph.  Be as detailed as you can when putting together your outline.

7.  Write your first draft.

This step can feel overwhelming, but remember that you have already done a lot of work and--armed with your working thesis, source annotations, and outline--have all the tools needed.  Do not feel that you have to work through your outline from beginning to end.  Some writers find it helpful to begin with the section in which they feel most confident.  Look at your outline and see if there is one part that is particularly fleshed out; you may want to begin there.  Your goal in the draft is to articulate your argument as clearly as you can, and to marshal your evidence in support of your argument.  Do not get too caught up in grammar or stylistic issues at this point, as you are more concerned now with the big-picture task of expressing your ideas in writing.

If you have trouble getting started or are feeling overwhelmed, try free writing.  Free writing is a low-stakes writing exercise to help you get past the blank page.  Set a timer for five or ten minutes and write down everything you know about your paper: your argument, your sources, counterarguments, everything.  Do not edit or judge what you are writing as you write; just keep writing until the timer goes off.  You may be surprised to find out how much you knew about your topic.  Of course, this writing will not be polished, so do not be tempted to leave it as it is.  Remember that this draft is your first one, and you will be revising it.

When you are writing up the evidence in your draft, you need to appropriately cite all of your sources.  Appropriate citation has two components.  You must both follow the proper citation style in your footnotes and bibliography, and document always but only when such documentation is required.  Remember that you need to cite not just direct quotations, but any ideas that are not your own.  Inappropriate citation is considered plagiarism.  For more information about how and when to cite, visit our section on citations.

8.  Revise your draft.

After you have completed an entire first draft, move on to the revision stage.  Think about revising on two levels: the global and the local.  The global level refers to the argument and evidence in your paper, while the local level refers to the individual sentences.  Your first priority should be revising at the global level, because you need to make sure you are making a compelling and well-supported argument.

A particularly helpful exercise for global-level revision is to make a reverse outline, which will help you look at your paper as a whole and strengthen the way you have organized and substantiated your argument.  Print out your draft and number each of the paragraphs.  Then, on a separate piece of paper, write down each paragraph number and, next to it, summarize in a phrase or a sentence the main idea of that paragraph.  As you produce this list, notice if any paragraphs attempt to make more than one point: mark those for revision.  Once you have compiled the list, read it over carefully.  Study the order in which you have sequenced your ideas.  Notice if there are ideas that seem out of order or repetitive.  Look for any gaps in your logic.  Does the argument flow and make sense?

When revising at the local level, check that you are using strong topic sentences and transitions, that you have adequately integrated and analyzed quotations, and that your paper is free from grammar and spelling errors that might distract the reader or even impede your ability to communicate your point.  One helpful exercise for revising on the local level is to read your paper out loud.  Hearing your paper will help you catch grammatical errors and awkward sentences.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself while revising on both the global and local levels:

- Does my thesis clearly state my argument and its significance?

- Does the main argument in each body paragraph support my thesis?

- Do I have enough evidence within each body paragraph to make my point?

- Have I properly introduced, analyzed, and cited every quotation I use?

- Do my topic sentences effectively introduce the main point of each paragraph?

- Do I have transitions between paragraphs?

- Is my paper free of grammar and spelling errors?

Remember, start revising at the global level.  Once you are satisfied with your argument, move onto the local level.

9.  Put it all together: the final draft.

After you have finished revising and have created a strong draft, set your paper aside for a few hours or overnight.  When you revisit it, go over the checklist in Step 8 one more time.  Read your paper out loud again too, catching any errors you might have missed before.

At this stage in the process, you need to make sure you have taken care of all the details.  Your paper needs to have a title that does not just announce the topic of the paper, but gives some indication of your argument.  Reread the paper assignment and make sure you have met all of the professor's requirements: Do you need page numbers?  A separate title page?  Will you submit your paper electronically or in hard copy?  Have you followed all of the stated formatting guidelines (such as font-size and margins)?  Is your bibliography appropriately formatted?

10.  Congratulate yourself. You have written a history paper!

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  1. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper The Challenges of Writing About (a.k.a., Making) History At first glance, writing about history can seem like an overwhelming task. History's subject matter is immense, encompassing all of human affairs in the recorded past — up until the moment, that is, that you started reading this guide.

  2. How to Write a History Research Paper

    1. How do I pick a topic? Picking a topic is perhaps the most important step in writing a research paper. To do it well requires several steps of refinement. First you have to determine a general area in which you have an interest (if you aren't interested, your readers won't be either).

  3. Writing Resources

    9. You are sloppy with the chronology. 8. You quote excessively or improperly. 7. You have written a careless "one-draft wonder." (See revise and proofread) 6. You are vague or have empty, unsupported generalizations. 5. You write too much in the passive voice. 4. You use inappropriate sources. 3. You use evidence uncritically.

  4. PDF Writing in the Disciplines How to write a History PaPer

    history papers come in all shapes and sizes. some papers are narrative (organized like a story according to chronology, or the sequence of events), and some are analytical (organized like an essay according to the topic's internal logic). some papers are concerned with history (not just what happened, of course, but why and how it happened), a...

  5. Steps for Writing a History Paper

    Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past. What is a History paper? History papers are driven by arguments. In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.

  6. How to Write a History Essay (with Pictures)

    1 Evaluate the essay question. The first thing to do if you have a history essay to write, is to really spend some time evaluating the question you are being asked. No matter how well-written, well-argued, or well-evidenced your essay is, if you don't answer the answer the question you have been asked, you cannot expect to receive a top mark.

  7. PDF Steps for Writing a History Paper REVISED

    Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past. What is a history paper? History papers are driven by arguments. In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.

  8. Writing Historical Essays

    Section 1: What Is Historical Writing? Elements The basic elements of academic essay writing are two: a thesis and evidence, divided into three parts: an introduction, the systematic development of an argument, and a conclusion. All scholarly writing, from the most concise paper to the longest book, follows these basic guidlines. Thesis

  9. Guide for Writing in History

    Start with your sources. Historians rely on inductive reasoning, so build your argument from the ground up. Take a close look at some of your sources to see what jumps out at you: what's intriguing? What's weird? What seems to be inconsistent? Be original. Don't simply accept conventional wisdom (or what was in the textbook).

  10. Writing Resources

    Writing Center Handout on History Writing. List of Resources on History Writing. Formulating a Research Question. Making the Most of Research Time. Formulating an Argument. General Writing Guidelines. Sources and Evidence. Citations and Notes. Writing a 4-7 page History Paper (David Herzberg, 1992, Wesleyan University)

  11. How to Write a History Research Paper

    5. Prepare Yourself Once you have some sort of direction for the paper (i.e. a working thesis), you're getting close to the fun part—the writing itself. Gather your laptop, your research materials/notes, and some snacks, and get ready to settle in to write your paper, following your argument outline. As mentioned in the photo caption, I ...

  12. Writing History: An Introductory Guide to How History Is Produced

    Writing History: An Introductory Guide to How History Is Produced What Is History? Most people believe that history is a "collection of facts about the past." This is reinforced through the use of textbooks used in teaching history. They are written as though they are collections of information.

  13. History Papers

    Style. History papers are almost always written in the past tense. Whenever possible, use active voice. (For example, instead of writing "The battle was won by the British Navy," use the active form, "The British Navy won the battle.") Even though you're presenting your own opinions, you should write in third person.

  14. Resources

    10 Essentials of Writing a Good History Paper. 1. Argument! Though essential to most academic writing, good history writing always contains a strong argument. According to professor Muir, history writing isn't about coming up with an opinion; instead, "what matters is proving a provable thesis." An argument isn't an argument unless you ...

  15. PDF Writing Graduate Papers in History: Research Papers ...

    What does a history paper do? It asks a question: This is both the most obvious and most important part of approaching your research. An historical research paper does not merely recount "what happened," but makes an argument about why something happened the way it did.

  16. How to Write a History Essay with a PRO Guide

    College History Essay Example. To provide you with a practical illustration of an effective history essay format, our paper writing help presents the following example: 'The Impact of Civil Rights Movements on American Society.' This essay serves as a guide, showcasing how a well-organized outline and expert writing techniques can bring historical narratives to life.

  17. PDF WRITING A GOOD HISTORY PAPER

    students encounter in writing history papers. Please note that this booklet cannot cover everything you need to know about historical writing and research. Get a good general stylebook and keep it by your side as you write. In addition to the College's style guide, Essentials of Writing, we

  18. How to write an introduction for a history essay

    1. Background sentences. The first two or three sentences of your introduction should provide a general introduction to the historical topic which your essay is about. This is done so that when you state your , your reader understands the specific point you are arguing about. Background sentences explain the important historical period, dates ...

  19. Introductions & Conclusions

    The first draft of the introduction, while a good initial step, is not strong enough to set up a solid, argument-based paper. Here are the key issues: Opening line: "One of the most important tasks the leader of any country faces is how to build a united and strong nation.". This first sentence is too general.

  20. Writing a Thesis and Making an Argument

    A Thesis Helps You and Your Reader. Your blueprint for writing: Helps you determine your focus and clarify your ideas. Provides a "hook" on which you can "hang" your topic sentences. Can (and should) be revised as you further refine your evidence and arguments. New evidence often requires you to change your thesis.

  21. History of paper

    [1] Paper is a thin nonwoven material traditionally made from a combination of milled plant and textile fibres. The first paper-like plant-based writing sheet was papyrus in Egypt, but the first true papermaking process was documented in China during the Eastern Han period (25-220 AD), traditionally attributed to the court official Cai Lun.

  22. Thesis Statements

    How to write a thesis statement: Suppose you are taking an early American history class and your professor has distributed the following essay prompt: "Historians have debated the American Revolution's effect on women. Some argue that the Revolution had a positive effect because it increased women's authority in the family.

  23. Black History Month: What is it and why do we need it?

    Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement. This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts. February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh ...

  24. Talking About the Village Voice, the "Paper That Couldn't Be Bought"

    The Freaks Came Out to Write begins as history and ends up, 525 pages later, as testimony to the work the paper used to do, work that is barely possible any longer for professional journalists to do.

  25. Experts rank Biden among the best presidents. Trump? Not so much

    Wax figures of American presidents at Madame Tussauds in Washington. Scholars rated Trump even worse than Andrew Johnson, front row, right, William Henry Harrison and James Buchanan, back row ...

  26. Steps for Writing a History Paper

    Writing a history paper is a process. Successful papers are not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but are developed over a series of steps. When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel overwhelmed or intimidated. If you think of writing as a process and break it down into smaller steps, you will find that paper-writing is manageable, less daunting,