Writing a paper on historical events is almost like writing scientific fiction: you have not been there, you can only imagine what happened. Everything should be logical and have an explanation. Each person might perceive the same situation in a dissimilar way and describe it originally as well. However, there is something that differs them: there is certain evidence that an event happened, and your task is to do some research on this, dig deeper into this evidence, and critically select the information to include into your paper.
Number One Rule
Robert Pearce shared a few of his points regarding how a good historical essay should be written. His Number One Rule is to write nothing but the answer to the question. No matter how good you are at formatting and referencing, no matter how flawless your wording is, if you demonstrate that you do not understand the question, it would be the same as handing in a painting instead of an essay. Just a bit less extraordinary and a bit more upsetting.
It takes just some minutes to read the question a few times and realize you understand clearly what is asked. If you are to speak about one aspect of World War Two, make sure to only talk about it, and not complete a summary of the chapter of the text book you are using.
The content of your paper should be relevant to the topic. You should make sure you are including facts only, not your own thoughts or someone’s opinion tweeted a week ago. Also, if you are discussing the power of some ruler, do not go too deep into what power is and into the philosophical perspective of whether a person really needs to have this power.
However, you can still offer some brief explanation of what the notion of political power stands for, so that everyone understands what were the criteria of including some aspects into it and why it is relevant to the event you are writing about.
Do Not Try to Be “Correct”
Obviously, your teacher wants to see your opinion on the certain topic, your evaluation of some events or historical figure’s actions. You are to list down the facts and, if you want to refer to some scientists’ points of view, you are free to do this. However, you should not be afraid to say something wrong, if you are basing on the facts.
The most fascinating thing about history is that not only you did not see that in most cases, but other scholars either! Therefore, you should not be afraid to sound incorrect. There is no correct version of what happened many-many years ago and why. As long as you have done good research and can support your thoughts with facts and references, you are safe to include them into your paper.
Process of Writing a Paper
There is actually no universal way to compose every paper, but meeting the deadline and following the format are the same requirements for each and every student. It will be better if you check them and your topic/question before writing a paper and before proofreading your final draft just to make sure that everything is referenced correctly and the title page looks like it should look like according to the norms of your university.
The specific feature of any history paper is that you have to be well-aware of the background of some event. So, before even starting to do the research on the topic you were assigned, take time to read a chapter or two about the previous events and the reasons that caused what you are to write about. More points on how the paper should be worked on can be found here.
From the Plan to the Final Draft
Never neglect a crucial step of planning your paper in advance, taking some time to prepare for writing and making an outline for it. Note down the evidence you are going to use and check the notes. Figure out the strongest arguments and the points you still do not understand fully and should dig deeper into. A badly-thought paper is usually recognized from the first two sentences, just like a badly-proofread one.
Here is the approximate plan on how your paper should be written:
- Read the assignment carefully several times until you are sure what has to be done.
- Make a plan of what you want to include into your paper.
- Read some chapters about the events prior to the ones you are going to write about to understand the situation better.
- Do some research and take notes in the process.
- Check on the notes and consider the composition: decide whether you want to explain everything chronologically in general, talk about different places in different paragraphs, divide the evidence thematically or prove your point with the strongest evidence first and the weaker one in the end.
- Make an outline for the paper basing on the composition style you have selected.
- Search for more details, looking at your outline if you feel you lack something.
- Get down to writing!
- Read your draft and fix all parts you find problematic.
- Proofread your final draft before handing it in.
- If you receive any comments from the tutor concerning how the paper should be fixed or how it could be improved next time, make sure to check on them carefully to avoid any mistakes in the future.