How to Write a Good History Research Paper by Yourself

For those who are taking history in college, the experience of writing a research paper is probably all too familiar: sitting beneath a pale late in front of a computer, towering piles of books surrounding you, with just a few hours before the assignment is due. Writing research papers rarely comes naturally, but the skill to write a good paper can be learned and mastered with enough practice.

Here’s how to write a good history research paper by yourself:

Planning Your Research: Select a topic and draft a thesis statement to work with. Look at course readings, conduct an online search and list all potential resources to check. You should also consult your instructor for any advice or recommendations. You may find that your instructor can provide you with titles of books or articles that would fit nicely within your topic.

Conducting Your Research: Start your research early, checking all of the academic sources you listed in your plan. These sources will likely point you to other potentially good sources for you to use in your paper. Take good notes and unless you are planning on directly quoting a reference, you should write your notes in your own words so you don’t risk plagiarizing.

Creating an Outline and Writing the First Draft: Creating an outline before starting your first draft provides your paper with some structure, thus making it easier to get your arguments down in a logical order. Your first draft should be written with your outline in hand, taking all of your key points to form the body paragraphs that are the core of your paper.

Revising Your Content: When you revise your paper, you take the opportunity to take a few steps back and re-envision your approach. You should think about the goal you are trying to achieve with the writing and be critical about whether or not you’re on the path to achieve it. Would your paper be better off if you remove specific sentences, paragraphs or whole sections? Will your paper flow better if you rearranged the order?

Proofreading and Editing: You will want to give yourself plenty of time to properly proofread and edit your research paper with fresh eyes. Too often students start this process just hours before a paper is due, and as result rush through the document and miss several tiny mistakes. Be sure to check for spelling, grammar and punctuation. If possible, ask a friend or a fellow classmate to read your paper for these small mistakes as well.

Properly Formatting Your Paper: The last step in writing a great history research paper is properly listing all of your resources. Your instructor may have specific guidelines for this, but you will generally use Chicago citation style when listing the works you consulted in your paper. Be sure to you have cited any quotes, figures, data or any other borrowed elements properly within the text as well.