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How to Write a Research Paper

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❶Some common primary sources are letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches, church records, newspaper articles, and government documents of all kinds. This first sentences introduces the topic of your essay in a broad way which you can start focus to in on more.

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Good Research Paper . Writing Guide


One method may be to mark with a different color ink or use a hi-liter to identify sections in your outline, e.

Group your notes following the outline codes you have assigned to your notes, e. This method will enable you to quickly put all your resources in the right place as you organize your notes according to your outline. Start with the first topic in your outline. Read all the relevant notes you have gathered that have been marked, e.

Summarize, paraphrase or quote directly for each idea you plan to use in your essay. Use a technique that suits you, e. Mark each card or sheet of paper clearly with your outline code or reference, e. Put all your note cards or paper in the order of your outline, e.

If using a word processor, create meaningful filenames that match your outline codes for easy cut and paste as you type up your final paper, e. Before you know it, you have a well organized term paper completed exactly as outlined. The unusual symbol will make it easy for you to find the exact location again.

Delete the symbol once editing is completed. Read your paper for any content errors. Double check the facts and figures. Arrange and rearrange ideas to follow your outline. Reorganize your outline if necessary, but always keep the purpose of your paper and your readers in mind. Use a free grammar and proof reading checker such as Grammarly. Is my thesis statement concise and clear? Did I follow my outline? Did I miss anything? Are my arguments presented in a logical sequence?

Are all sources properly cited to ensure that I am not plagiarizing? Have I proved my thesis with strong supporting arguments?

Have I made my intentions and points clear in the essay? Re-read your paper for grammatical errors. Use a dictionary or a thesaurus as needed. Do a spell check. Correct all errors that you can spot and improve the overall quality of the paper to the best of your ability. Get someone else to read it over. Sometimes a second pair of eyes can see mistakes that you missed.

Did I begin each paragraph with a proper topic sentence? Have I supported my arguments with documented proof or examples? Any run-on or unfinished sentences? Any unnecessary or repetitious words? Varying lengths of sentences? Does one paragraph or idea flow smoothly into the next?

Any spelling or grammatical errors? Quotes accurate in source, spelling, and punctuation? Are all my citations accurate and in correct format? Did I avoid using contractions? Did I use third person as much as possible? Have I made my points clear and interesting but remained objective? Did I leave a sense of completion for my reader s at the end of the paper? For an excellent source on English composition, check out this classic book by William Strunk, Jr.

Place yourself in the background, Revise and rewrite, Avoid fancy words, Be clear, Do not inject opinion, Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity, … and much more.

The Elements of Style was first published in There is also a particular formatting style you must follow. There are several formatting styles typically used. APA American Psychological Association style is mostly used to cite sources within the field of social sciences. Something cannot be very unique, more unique, or somewhat unique. To avoid confusion in historical prose, you should stick with the original meaning of incredible: You probably mean that he gave great speeches.

You probably mean that the Japanese attack was unwise or reckless. English is rich with adjectives. Finding the best one forces you to think about what you really mean. As a synonym for subject matter, bone of contention, reservation, or almost anything else vaguely associated with what you are discussing, the word issue has lost its meaning through overuse.

Beware of the word literally. Literally means actually, factually, exactly, directly, without metaphor. The swamping was figurative, strictly a figure of speech. The adverb literally may also cause you trouble by falsely generalizing the coverage of your verb.

Like issue , involve tells the reader too little. Delete it and discuss specifically what Erasmus said or did. Just get directly to the point. Most good writers frown on the use of this word as a verb. Impacted suggests painfully blocked wisdom teeth or feces. Had an impact is better than impacted , but is still awkward because impact implies a collision. Here is another beloved but vapid word. If you believe quite reasonably that the Reformation had many causes, then start evaluating them.

Overuse has drained the meaning from meaningful. The adjective interesting is vague, overused, and does not earn its keep.

Delete it and explain and analyze his perspective. Your professor will gag on this one. Events take place or happen by definition, so the relative clause is redundant. Furthermore, most good writers do not accept transpire as a synonym for happen. Again, follow the old rule of thumb: Get right to the point, say what happened, and explain its significance. This phrase is awkward and redundant. Replace it with the reason is, or better still, simply delete it and get right to your reason.

The phrase is for all intents and purposes , and few good writers use it in formal prose anyway. Use center on or center in. Recently, many people have started to use this phrase to mean raises, invites, or brings up the question.

Understanding this fallacy is central to your education. The formal Latin term, petitio principii, is too fancy to catch on, so you need to preserve the simple English phrase. If something raises a question, just say so. Everything in the past or relating to the past is historical.

Resist the media-driven hype that elevates the ordinary to the historic. The Norman invasion of England in was indeed historic. Historically , historians have gathered annually for a historical convention; so far, none of the conventions has been historic. Effect as a verb means to bring about or cause to exist effect change. This is the classic bonehead error. As an adjective, everyday one word means routine. If you wish to say that something happened on every successive day, then you need two words, the adjective every and the noun day.

Note the difference in these two sentences: For Kant, exercise and thinking were everyday activities. To allude means to refer to indirectly or to hint at. The word you probably want in historical prose is refer , which means to mention or call direct attention to.

Novel is not a synonym for book. A novel is a long work of fiction in prose. A historical monograph is not a novel —unless the historian is making everything up. This is an appalling new error. If you are making a comparison, you use the conjunction than. The past tense of the verb to lead is led not lead. The opposite of win is lose , not loose. However may not substitute for the coordinating conjunction but. Your religion, ideology, or worldview all have tenets —propositions you hold or believe in.

Tenants rent from landlords. The second sentence says that some colonists did not want to break with Britain and is clearly true, though you should go on to be more precise. Historians talk a lot about centuries, so you need to know when to hyphenate them. Follow the standard rule: If you combine two words to form a compound adjective, use a hyphen, unless the first word ends in ly.

The same rule for hyphenating applies to middle-class and middle class —a group that historians like to talk about. Bourgeois is usually an adjective, meaning characteristic of the middle class and its values or habits. Occasionally, bourgeois is a noun, meaning a single member of the middle class. Bourgeoisie is a noun, meaning the middle class collectively. Your professor may ask you to analyze a primary document. Here are some questions you might ask of your document. You will note a common theme—read critically with sensitivity to the context.

This list is not a suggested outline for a paper; the wording of the assignment and the nature of the document itself should determine your organization and which of the questions are most relevant. Of course, you can ask these same questions of any document you encounter in your research. Your professor may ask you to write a book review, probably of a scholarly historical monograph.

Here are some questions you might ask of the book. Remember that a good review is critical, but critical does not necessarily mean negative. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it a suggested outline. Your writing tutor sneaks another look at her watch as she reminds you for the third time to clarify your thesis.

Your main historical actors are this, it, they, the people, and society, and they are all involved with factors, aspects, impacts, and issues. M, the paper is due at 9: Writing a Good History Paper.

Additional Navigation About Us History. Seven Deadly Sins of Writing 1. Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses. Misuse of the Apostrophe. Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers. Faculty Resources Writing Materials for Faculty.

State a clear thesis. Be sure to analyze. Analyzing a Historical Document Be precise. Analyzing a Historical Document Use scholarly secondary sources. Writing a Book Review Avoid abusing your sources. Quote sparingly Avoid quoting a secondary source and then simply rewording or summarizing the quotation, either above or below the quotation. Know your audience Unless instructed otherwise, you should assume that your audience consists of educated, intelligent, nonspecialists.

Misuse of the passive voice. Abuse of the verb to be. Inappropriate use of first person. Distancing or demeaning quotation marks. Remarks on Grammar and Syntax Awkward. Consider this sentence from a book review: It was a symbolic act. Note the two parts of this sentence: Consider these three sentences: Note that the following is not a sentence: Confusion of restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

Consider these two versions of the same sentence: Confusion about the objects of prepositions. Misuse of the comparative. Often the trouble starts with a possessive: Comma between subject and verb.

Note, for example, these three sentences: Both share or both agree. The events that transpired. The reason is because. For all intensive purposes. This is an illiteracy. You mean should have or could have. A queen reigns during her reign. You rein in a horse with reins. You do know the difference. What exactly is the document e. Are you dealing with the original or with a copy? If it is a copy, how remote is it from the original e.

What is the date of the document? Is there any reason to believe that the document is not genuine or not exactly what it appears to be? Who is the author, and what stake does the author have in the matters discussed? If the document is unsigned, what can you infer about the author or authors? What sort of biases or blind spots might the author have? For example, is an educated bureaucrat writing with third-hand knowledge of rural hunger riots? Where, why, and under what circumstances did the author write the document?

How might the circumstances e. Has the document been published? If so, did the author intend it to be published? If the document was not published, how has it been preserved? In a public archive? In a private collection? Can you learn anything from the way it has been preserved? For example, has it been treated as important or as a minor scrap of paper?

Does the document have a boilerplate format or style, suggesting that it is a routine sample of a standardized genre, or does it appear out of the ordinary, even unique? Who is the intended audience for the document? What exactly does the document say? Does it imply something different? In what ways are you, the historian, reading the document differently than its intended audience would have read it assuming that future historians were not the intended audience?

What does the document leave out that you might have expected it to discuss? What does the document assume that the reader already knows about the subject e. What additional information might help you better interpret the document? Do you know or are you able to infer the effects or influences, if any, of the document? What does the document tell you about the period you are studying? If your document is part of an edited collection, why do you suppose the editor chose it?

How might the editing have changed the way you perceive the document? For example, have parts been omitted? Has it been translated? If so, when, by whom, and in what style? Has the editor placed the document in a suggestive context among other documents, or in some other way led you to a particular interpretation? Writing a Book Review Your professor may ask you to write a book review, probably of a scholarly historical monograph.

Who is the author, and what are his or her qualifications? Has the author written other books on the subject? When was the book written, and how does it fit into the scholarly debate on the subject? Getting this right is the foundation of your review. For example, does the author rely strictly on narrative and anecdotes, or is the book analytical in some way? What kinds of evidence does the author use?

For example, what is the balance of primary and secondary sources? Has the author done archival work? Is the source base substantial, or does it look thin? Is the author up-to-date in the scholarly literature? How skillfully and imaginatively has the author used the evidence?

Does the author actually use all of the material in the bibliography, or is some of it there for display? What sorts of explicit or implicit ideological or methodological assumptions does the author bring to the study? For example, does he or she profess bland objectivity? A Whig view of history? Is the argument new, or is it old wine in new bottles? Is the argument important, with wide-ranging implications, or is it narrow and trivial?

Is the book well organized and skillfully written? What is your overall critical assessment of the book? What is the general significance, if any, of the book? Make sure that you are judging the book that the author actually wrote, not complaining that the author should have written a different book. Writing a Term Paper or Senior Thesis Here are some tips for those long, intimidating term papers or senior theses: You should be delving into the sources during the second week.

Work closely with your professor to assure that your topic is neither too broad nor too narrow. Set up a schedule with your professor and check his or her policy about reading rough drafts or parts of rough drafts. How can you possibly get this done with only two weeks left in the semester? She will help you to find and use the appropriate catalogs and indexes. Use your imagination in compiling a bibliography.

Think of all of the possible key words and subjects that may lead you to material. Much of what you need will not be in our library, so get to know the friendly folks in the Interlibrary Loan department.

Use as many primary sources as you can. Jot down your ideas as they come to you. You may not remember them later. Websites are much less stable than publicly printed books and articles. They change as their "authors" develop them. The Falcon server through whose good graces you read this crashed over the summer, and was not backed up!

Always consider too how far and why you should trust the information offered, just as you would a book or a con artist. See further below under " Source Criticism". W hy bother with citations anyway? In my former life, I never expected students to provide footnotes and bibliographies.

In North America they are, however, required, and we too must follow local rules. One quite common rationale says that you cite sources to establish that your work is your own, that you are not plagiarizing. I do not myself see the force of that. I know from experience other people's! Ask me, and I just might teach you some of the tricks!

No, technicalities do not keep people honest. But anyway, we are not like that, are we? Please cite your sources for more positive reasons. I cite mine so that a reader can if he or she chooses follow my footsteps and check my argument. Footnotes trace a kind of paper trail for future hunters to follow. Hopefully those who follow will feel that our work is solid enough for them to build on to it, for that is how knowledge advances.

Once you have written the paper, read it through again. Provide a cover sheet with the course number and title, as well as your name and the date.

Number the pages and staple them together. You are expected to include an accurate bibliography in one of the accepted formats at the end. It looks bad to mispell the title of a book you have used all the time!

Rules of Evidence including "source criticism". The counter argument in this country is of course the First Amendment. But it is unnecessary to invoke the U. Constitution, which in any case does not bind men and women outside this country. There is no conceivable way to police the Web; the damn thing is far too big. So we all have to beware.

If you find a site offering you the Brooklyn Bridge at a very cheap price, do not send money! Statements made in pretty writing on the Web are no more authoritative there than if mouthed off in front of the Straight through a megaphone, or scrawled as graffiti on a wall.

We accept all information at our own risk. Even when it comes routed through our professor or the President of the United States. This must not mean absolute scepticism in which we reject everything we do not like. It should mean proper scrutiny of all witnesses.

Those old rules of Evidence and Source Criticism like the ones I set out below are the bare bones of a critical procedure to check out incoming data.


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As your research paper takes shape you will find that you need background on people, places, events, etc. Do not just rely on some general survey for all of your background. Check the several good dictionaries of biography for background on people, or see if there is a standard book-length biography.

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citations in a short paper with one or two sources, but you should use footnotes for any research paper in history. Parenthetical citations are unaesthetic; they scar the text and break the flow of reading. Worse still, they are simply inadequate to capture the richness of historical sources.

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assigned readings from the course syllabus) and research papers (typically requiring additional research in a library or archive on a topic of your own choosing). Different types of history papers naturally require different amounts of research, analysis, and interpretation. Despite this variety, historical arguments often assume a common form. Writing the introductory paragraph can be a frustrating and slow process -- but it doesn't have to be. If you planned your paper out, then most of the introductory paragraph is already written. Now you just need a beginning and an end.

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You need to think for yourself and come up with a ‘bright idea’ to write a good history essay. You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook. But there are problems here. Some TIPS for WRITING HISTORY PAPERS. Thesis: A good historian does not adopt a thesis until quite late on in the process of preparing a friendlyfigre.tk, find good questions to ask yourself, questions that deserve and actually call for an answer, real world questions even if the paper .