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Writing a history paper is a process. Successful papers are not completed in a moment of brilliance or creativity, but are developed over a series of steps. When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel inundated. 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 an opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past.
History writing assignments can differ widely—and you should always follow your professor’s instructions—but the following steps are planned to help you no matter what kind of history paper you are writing. Remember, that our Experts are always there to assist you at any stage of the writing process. You can avail the help anytime you need and that too at affordable and reasonable prices.
1. Be sure that you know what the paper prompt is indicating:
Sometimes professors give prompts with various sub-questions around the main question they want you to write about. The sub-questions are planned to help you imagine about the topic. They offer ideas you may consider, but they are not, generally, the vital question or questions you need to answer in your paper.
Make sure you differentiate the vital questions from the sub-questions. Otherwise, your paper may sound like a laundry list of short-answer essays rather than a correspondent argument. A helpful way to search in on the vital question is to look for action verbs, such as “analyze” or “investigate” or “formulate.” Identify such words in the paper prompt and circle them. Then, carefully examine what you are being asked to do.
Write out the vital question at the top of your draft and return to it often, using it as a guide for yourself to write. Also, be sure that you are responding to every part of the prompt. Prompts will often have various questions you need to include in your paper. If you haven’t covered all aspects, then you are not responding fully to the assignment.
2. Brainstorm possible arguments and responses
Before you even start investigating or designing, take a few minutes to consider what you already know about the topic. List down your ideas or draw the diagrams, using circles and arrows to connect ideas—whatever technique works for you.
At this point in the process, it is good to write down all of your ideas without stopping to analyze each idea in depth. You should think big and bring in everything you know or guess about the topic. After you have finished writing, read it 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 provisional argument or response to the paper prompt? Use this information as a guide to start your research and develop a thesis.
3. Start researching
According to the paper prompt, you might be required to do outside research or you may use only the readings you have done in class. Either way, start by reading the materials done in the class. Identify the parts from the textbook, from the primary source readings, and from your class notes that relate to the prompt. You can use online library as well.
Use key terms that are specific enough to address your topic without being too narrow that you get no results. If your keywords are too general, you might receive thousands of results and you may get confused. To narrow your search, go back to the vital questions in the essay prompt that you wrote in Step 1.
Think about which terms will help you to get to the prompt. Also, refer to the language your professor used in the prompt. You might be able to use some of those same words as key terms.
4. Take stock and draft a thesis statement
By this point, you know what the prompt is about, you have brainstormed practicable responses, and you have done some research. Now, you need to look back, have a look at the material you have, and develop your argument.
Based on the reading and research you have done, how might you respond to the questions in the prompt? What arguments do your sources allow you to make? Draft a thesis statement in which you clearly make an argument that addresses the prompt question.
If you find writing a thesis daunting, then you can take the help of our History Experts who will assist you and will give you the completed assignment at affordable prices and before the deadline. 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,” which means, a thesis that represents your imagination and understanding up to this point. Once the thesis is ready, you might have to do more research targeted to your specific argument.
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 censorious and historical background that you need in order to make a point?
While it might seem like this step creates more work for you by having you do more writing, it in fact serves two critical purposes: it helps you refine your working thesis by purifying exactly what your sources are saying, and it helps to 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 clearly that how a particular section in the textbook or in a primary source reader will be useful for your paper.
6. Draft an outline of your paper
An outline is useful in giving you a sense of the overall structure of your paper and how best to assemble your ideas. You need to decide how to organize your argument in a chronological way that will make the most sense to your reader. Perhaps, make sure that your argument is most clear when presented chronologically, or perhaps you find that it works best with a thematic approach. There is not 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. Write in detail when putting together your outline.
7. Write a 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 you need. Do not think that you will now 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.
Have a look at your outline and see if there is one part that is particularly plumped out; you may want to begin there. Your goal in the draft is to express your argument as clearly as you can, and to assemble your proofs in support of your argument. Do not get too much caught up in grammar or stylistic issues at this point, as now your task is to express your ideas in writing. If you have trouble getting started or are feeling overwhelmed, try free writing.
Free writing is a low-stake writing exercise to help you to 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 while you are writing; 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 is. Remember that this draft is your first one, and you will be revising it. When you are writing about the evidence in your draft, you need to appropriately include all of your sources. Appropriate citation has two parts.
You must both follow the proper citing style in your footnotes and bibliography, and document always but only when such documentation is needed. Remember that you need to write not just direct quotations, but ideas that are not your own. Inappropriate citation is assumed as plagiarism.
8. Revise your draft
After you have completed your first draft, move on to the revision stage. Think about revising on two levels: the global and the local. The global level indicates the argument and evidence in your paper, while the local level indicates 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 useful exercise for global-level revision is to make a reverse outline, which will help you to look at your paper as a whole and strengthen the way you have organized and supported your argument.
Print out your draft and number each of your 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 show this list, notice that if any paragraphs attempt to make more than one point; mark those for revision. Once you have compiled the list, read it 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 your argument flow and make sense?
When you are revising at the local level, check that you are using strong topic sentences and transitions, that you have appropriately unified and analyzed quotations, and that your paper is free from grammar and spelling errors that might distract the reader or even hinder your ability to communicate your point.
One useful exercise for revising on the local level is to read your paper loudly. Hearing your paper will help you catch grammatical errors and awkward sentences. Remember; start revising at the global level. Once you are satisfied with your global level argument, then only move onto the local level.
9. Put it all together: the final draft
After you have finished revising your arguments at global and local level and have created a strong draft, keep 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 loudly again, for catching the 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 should 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.