Write a Proper History Paper Structure. Students Writing Guide
Given the unique guidelines of a history paper, it is essential to approach its writing seriously. The piece of writing should have a clear structure to provide your original argument based on historical evidence.
Consequently, let’s take a look at the basic components of the history paper’s structure that will be beneficial to get the best mark possible.
Three key parts of the history paper
Start with an introduction
A history paper should start with a brief but informative introduction. As a rule, it is one or two paragraphs depending on the full size of your writing research paper.
An introduction includes issues you are about to bring up, major terms that will be used throughout your work, outlined the structure of the argument as well as a well-articulated thesis.
Some pieces of advice for a better introduction
Initially, you have to define the issues your history paper confronts. Where and when does discussed situation take place? What precisely are we examining in that history episode? This context will give the readers more understanding of your work. However, it is crucial to establish limits of the exploration. Stick up to one specific topic and avoid going into details about not directly related to the chosen problem. It will also save hours spent on purposeless research.
Do not use vapid and pretentious beginnings that are only written to reach a desired number of words. Instead of tons of unnecessary information, tell the reader what your paper is about right from the start and prepare the path for stating your thesis in the rest of the opening paragraph.
Talking about the thesis, while coming up with it, ask yourself, “What point am I trying to prove?” Your thesis is your view of the subject, your explanation, or in other words, the argument you are going to defend. An excellent thesis answers the research question concerning why and how something was to happen.
The thesis statement is the first sentence of your argument. It presents new information and concepts to your reader. Before you begin your thesis, make sure that the introductory paragraph talks about the main ideas of your paper.
There are two most prevalent problems with student papers: either the thesis is false or vague and ill-defined.
Let’s take a look at the example:
Supposedly, your thesis argues that slavery has been a part of human history since the beginning of time. It was carried out during the American Revolution when humans have owned one another.
Slaves were treated as chattels, and they were brutalized with the whip and the lash. The law did not recognize the humanity of the slaves, and it valued them as property.
The conflict between the public and private rights of slaves undermines the planters’ authority and allows them to exert greater autonomy within their institutions.
The law prevented slaves from having rights, as it was implied that they were property and not human beings. However, in the private realm, slaves could still demand some rights from their masters.
The thesis does not follow the same structure as the preceding paragraph. Instead, it highlights the reader’s knowledge of the sources that will be used to support the thesis. Also, this section shows the reader what the paper will have to argue to prove its claims.
The theme should be relevant to the topic of your paper. It should also make the reader think about the topic. So, keep that in mind while writing history paper.
It is important to understand that a thesis statement is not just a restatement of a previous paragraph. Still, it should set out the main ideas and sources of the paper. This paragraph also tells the reader what sources will come into play.
Move on to the body
The body is the section where you prove your thesis. It is usually the longest and most detailed part of a history paper. Generally, it depends on the content of your thesis and what point you a trying to prove. If you cannot provide facts and evidence to support the argument, you should consider coming up with another thesis statement.
In the 1950s, American autoworkers started to identify themselves as laborers at home and the workplace. This thesis suggests structure, where it is necessary to divide things up at least at two parts. The first one will be about the home of autoworkers, while the second one will cover their workplace.
It might be a good idea to begin your body with the specific statements that support the general one. The first sentence of each paragraph should be a topic sentence.
For example, the sentence “federal policy aims to assimilate natives” may be used to describe the government’s policy against indigenous peoples.
Raw data can never be separated from the analysis to support a mini-thesis. It must be interpreted and analyzed to make it work seamlessly.
It is vital that the quotes support the mini-thesis. Also, make sure that the data is clearly summarized and explained to the reader how it supports the point. This is true for quotes.
Supporting materials should appear in your paragraphs once they have been obtained from a primary or secondary source. Usually, these should be paraphrased or cited sources.
A good history paper is built on solid evidence. There are two main types of sources that you can rely on: primary and secondary. Depending on the context of your argument, you might be expected to include both of these.
If you are not sure what type of material you should include, ask your teacher. Primary source material refers to any texts, films, pictures, or any other kind of evidence that was produced in the historical period. This type of source can also be prepared by someone who participated in the period’s events, that you are writing about. Secondary material is the works written by historians or other writers analyzing events in the past.
In most cases, students try to justify their generalization by citing an expert’s opinion, which is often circular and unconvincing. Unless you can provide credible evidence to back up your claim, a generalization is just an assertion.
There may be many texts which makes it hard to know where to start, or maybe you are struggling to find relevant material. In either case, there are some reliable ways to find reliable source material for your history paper. Get acquainted with core texts in your reading list or course bibliography.
When it comes to reading, make sure to pay attention to both the footnotes and bibliographies. These can help you keep track of the crucial texts in a given work.
Most universities have academic journals online. These are easily accessible. Try searching for quality sources using free databases like Google Scholar.
Having factual information to reference is vital to expound on your claim properly. This step taken is also beneficial for a successful essay. It is the golden rule of history papers, and it relates to how you should structure your argument.
Coming back to the body of the paper, it must always flow from one idea to another. It is achieved through transitions between the sentences and sections, ensuring a logical relationship between sentences and paragraphs in a paper. They help readers understand how ideas come together in a paragraph and formulate a logical argument.
As a rule, the transition between paragraphs is one sentence, while starting a new section in a bigger text may require an entire transition paragraph. The process of transitioning to the next section includes summarizing the content of the previous one and expressing how the new one will build upon or depart from it.
Try to end each paragraph with a sentence summing up the findings of the previous paragraph.
While writing the body part of your paper, make sure to arouse an interest in readers and not just throw at them an endless amount of complicated historical terms and dates. Do not use contractions, avoid casual remarks, and avoid using words that are too informal.
Finish it with a conclusion
After you are done with the introduction and body, it is time to hammer the last nail and provide readers with a comprehensive conclusion. While it may seem like the easiest part, it is crucial because it sums up everything that has been stated so far and gives the final answer to the chosen thesis. Let’s say you have been writing about several alternative propositions, so now it is high time to state which one is correct. Basically, you are now the judge who will determine the verdict. It is the same role as a barrister would play if she had argued a case.
A well-written conclusion should:
- Summarize everything that was brought up in the history paper.
- Display the connections that were made throughout the research you did.
- State why the addressed topic matters or what lessons people from that historical period can extract.
- Present the importance of the topic from the global perspective.
- Suggest various paths for further research.
- Match the introduction of your history paper.
- Consider the following questions:
Does my introduction match the content of the conclusion?
Is there a need to add or subtract any data from my introduction to make my paper more of a cohesive whole?
On the other hand, it is crucial to remember what you should not do when writing the concluding part of your history paper. Avoid presenting any fresh evidence at this point, even though you can add something, that has not been mentioned yet. Moreover, do not try to bring up a new topic or problem at this stage. If you are exploring Hitler’s coming to power, you cannot conclude the writing with the recap of what he have done while being in power. That is definitely will negatively affect your mark.
A well-written conclusion should NOT:
- Just summarize the history paper.
- Simply re-state the initial thesis.
- Arise new problems or further questions.
- Find connections of the issue with today’s reality. Instead, it should be focused on your personal thoughts regarding the discussed problem.
Bonus tip: Write two different drafts and then compile them into the final paper.
This step may feel challenging, but remember that, in most cases, you already have all of the tools needed. Doing so will allow you finish working on your drafts without any problems.
See if there is a particular part of the draft that you would like to start addressing.
Do not get carried away by the various grammar and stylistic issues that can pop up at this stage. Instead, focus on the big picture and your ideas.
And afterward, you can tap into the revision. Excellent academic works tend to be revised several times. Thus, we highly recommend you to approach the proofreading and editing process seriously.
It will allow you to get rid of all punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes and make the reading of your final draft a pure joy. Remember that the best students are those who are self-critical and constantly looking for perfection.
Taking into account that history research paper aims to examine how events in the past have affected our current state and our future, it should have a well-planned and clear structure. There are numerous ways to write that type of academic writing. Still, you ought to be careful with the choice, as the effective delivery of the addressed message to the reader depends on it.
We hope that today’s article is helpful for you and presented here tips give you a better understanding of the proper history paper structure.
So, do not wait anymore and start implementing those pieces of advice into your history paper right now to achieve the highest academic results in your educational institution.