Writing a terrible history paper is a simple task: don’t try to think critically, use any sources you have found blindly, judge events of the past from the modern person’s perspective, and so on. There are numerous ways to fail if you don’t take this whole business seriously, and even if you do, prepare yourself that the first draft will be far from perfect anyway.
Wondering why this article starts so pessimistically? Here comes the answer: once you’ve given up hoping to do everything an easy way without consequences, you’re ready to write a decent paper on history. We’re here to help you avoid the most common mistakes, as well as to focus your attention on the right things from the very beginning. Enjoy!
Historians are, above everything else, specialists. They don’t expect you to acquire some secret knowledge before you write a paper on a history topic, nor do they require you to be an extremely talented writer. However, they DO expect your paper to be free from all grammatical mistakes, written in formal style, and correctly formatted. Moreover, it must contain no factual errors and unsubstantiated statements, provide a reader with full answers to the questions raised, and have a good introduction and conclusion. Plagiarism is not tolerated in the field of academic research, too, which only means that you have to quote every source you use correctly.
Keep all the points above in mind during the writing process. They, by themselves, are enough to make a difference between a solid paper and a terrible one.
What Else Should You Do
There are things — mostly chronological aspects — that differ a history paper from many others. Follow these rules to save yourself from rewriting:
- Avoid using the 2nd person. A discussion about the 1st one is a bit tricky, though, as it was quite undesirable in the past but is recommended by many academic styles today. A general rule is that you can use the 1st person in your text if you need to, but we strongly advise you to talk to your professor in order to clarify this question before getting started.
- Writing about events of the past, use the past tense. You’re not recounting a fiction book’s plot to a friend — you’re presenting facts to support your point of view with evidence. Once you start jumping from one tense to another with no reason, the reader will have to make additional efforts just to understand what you’re talking about, which is never a good sign.
- Present facts in chronological order. Nothing difficult here: if that’s at all possible, draft the paper in such a way that the events presented follow each other. Also, be concrete and precise: not “In the seventeenth century,” but “In 1652” or, if you don’t have other options, “In the 1650s.” Even the latter is not recommended and often considered incorrect, so the general advice is not to use a source when it’s vague / not concrete enough.
Is There Anything Special About the Structure of the Paper?
There isn’t. If by that moment you’ve written a research paper at least once, you’ll feel yourself at home. Start with a title, draft a strong introduction with a thesis statement that provides the reader with clues about what you will be talking about, come up with good arguments for the body paragraphs, and sum up everything you’ve written with a logical conclusion helping the reader to make their own conclusions.
As we’ve noted before, writing a paper on history is not about creating a piece of art that only your fellow historians would understand — it’s about researching (and doing it well). Everything else is secondary, even though you certainly have to care about grammar, readability, and stuff.
About Critical Approach, Sources, and Pieces of Evidence
A common mistake among students who write a history paper for the first time is to find any sources they can and blindly copy and paste them into the text, as if their work is to google some things more or less relevant to the topic, not to do their own research. This approach has at least two major flaws that will result in poor grades, frustration from time spent, and other problems.
First, a source by itself is not evidence — one should use it to SUPPORT their point of view with evidence. Consider it a part of a much larger mechanism, which in this case, is called a historical argument. You can’t replace a mechanism with its part and certainly can’t answer your reader’s questions by throwing at them every random book or article you’ve found relevant to the topic.
Second, there have never been easier times to find poor, irrelevant, untrustworthy, and sometimes intentionally false materials in the information field. You can always use special tools to make the research process simpler, a good example of which is Google Scholar (although your professor will probably introduce you to other similar services as well). The problem is that even if you do your research in an academic research library, you still have to think, analyze, and use your brains.
A source may be considered credible and trustworthy by the science community, but should you use it in that particular case? Never stop asking the critical questions; always think about by whom, when, and why the source was produced. For example, you may find that a certain person, whose book is very well written and researched in general, could be biased or even have an agenda because the topic was strongly connected to his or her background. It’s better to avoid using such materials, especially considering that your professor will probably notice this anyway.
Have no Time / Desire to Write a Paper. Any Recommendations?
Your best option is to find whatever it is that is keeping you from writing. There are situations in our life, however, when this option is not available. In that case, you can ask professional writers for help. A specialist who has been doing the same kind of work for many years has obviously a perfect understanding of how to conduct research and write a tremendous historical paper. YOU may use their knowledge to learn some tricks yourself.
When a specialist is involved, the best result is guaranteed, but we don’t recommend considering writers’ help only as an easy way to the highest grade. If you have no time to write a text yourself, then analyze the one that has been written for you by a professional. Pay attention to the way the body paragraphs are organized; look at how the conclusion enhances concepts and ideas that have been introduced in the main part. By focusing on details, you’ll be able to learn from the experience of others so you could write your own perfect paper.
Writing a terrible history paper is a simple task, but only for the ones who are used to choosing the easiest path every time they have a choice. In fact, once you’ve invested some resources in learning how to do research properly, it becomes almost impossible to fail. You’ll still make mistakes — minor and major, a lot of them, but as long as you take the process seriously and fact-check and verify the information included at every turn, you’ll be alright. If you feel that your writing doesn’t go anywhere, feel free to ask professional writers to help you.