Some Tips on How to Write a History Research Paper

Harvard history professor Jill Lepore offers some advice on how to write a history paper:

1.  Ask a good question.  (i.e. “What does the Revolution look like from a losers’ point of view?”)

2. You can change your question based on what you discover in the process of doing your research.

3. Start analyzing your evidence when you have enough of it (in the primary and secondary source variety) to answer your question.

4.  When you come up with a good title, start writing.

5. Make sure to balance argument and story throughout the paper

6.  Make an outline

7.  Think hard about what will appear on the page and what will appear in a footnote.

8.  Your paper is finished when you have stated your case and finished your story.

2 thoughts on “Some Tips on How to Write a History Research Paper

  1. Check out Stephen Gage’s Book, The Shape of Reason. The whole thing about every good essay beginning with a question of some sort is direct from Gage. I’ve taught students in the past that every paragraph answers a question that you should be able to see as flowing out of the central question. I sometimes have had students “outline” their papers by articulating what question each paragraph is answering. When a question seems odd, or if you can’t articulate a question, you’ve probably got a good sense that something isn’t working in that paragraph or that part of the essay.

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