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Research papers in history are among the toughest to write. It takes more than just diligence and dedication to develop one that will make you stand out.

When writing a research paper in history, be prepared to deal with a number of challenges, such as issues related to the credibility of sources, knowledge explanation, and objectivity. 


Depending on the purpose and research question, history papers vary in size and style. (1) You can choose the narrative or analytical style, focusing on history (why and how social, economic, political, or cultural developments took place) or historiography (different ways and methods in which historians and history schools created historical accounts). Whatever the scope, you should stick to best practices, avoid common pitfalls, and answer the research question explicitly.


Follow our tips to write a paper to the highest academic standards.

Research question and scope

This looks obvious, but you need to drive the research question home. Diversions are not unusual in research papers, and they happen when authors lose sight of the task at hand. Nip in the bud any conscious or subliminal attempt to digress. 


The research question informs your goal, scope, and chosen methodology. 

Clear thesis statement

The thesis statement is the lynchpin of your paper. It holds all other statements, arguments, and sections together. It has to be specific and provable. It summarizes your entire effort. If you argue convincingly, it is the main takeaway for the reader. 


You need to get this right. Depending on the goal, it can be as light as a desk review and as complicated as a lengthy doctorate-level thesis. Whatever the case, be clear on the research methods and the boundaries of your research.


Collect your primary and secondary sources. The primary sources are the documents and materials created at the time of a historical event under review (e.g., letters, speeches, newspapers, etc.). The secondary sources (e.g., scholarly works) appear sometime after the occurrence, and they themselves might be drawing on the primary sources. 


If you have used the services of, you know how meticulous professional writers are about using sources. They pick only credible ones. They also take them with a grain of salt. 

Critical review of evidence

Now that you have equipped yourself with all the requisite material, delve into each source for a critical review. This is the meat of your paper. This is where you can either excel or flunk, depending on the degree to which you can apply your historical analysis skills to the sources. 


Bear in mind that the primary sources might not necessarily be accurate. They can contain factual or chronological errors. Therefore, you need to compare and contrast multiple sources to draw plausible conclusions. Some of the critical questions you can ask to challenge a source as follows:


  • Who is the author? Does the author have a track record of providing objective accounts? Is there any reason I should think the author has an agenda?
  • What was the audience of this source? 
  • Why did the author produce this source at that particular time?
  • Are there any inconsistencies between different sources?
  • Does the author substantiate statements and conclusions with credible sources? 


Use these and other questions to leave no stone unturned. Be sharp and explicit to leave no chink in your armor. 

Drafting, reviewing, and finalizing

Now you must be ready to start drafting your paper. Follow the requirements of your academic institution to choose a framework for structuring your piece. Whatever the template, present your content in a clear, easy-to-follow manner. Don’t scare the reader with a small font or unwieldy paragraphs.


Minimize the use of the passive voice. It is best practice to use the past tense for research papers in history. Avoid generalizations that are not rooted in evidence. Do not make value judgments, especially when scrutinizing past actions through the prism of modern-day standards. 


Evaluators usually frown upon excessive quoting, so minimize citing other people’s thoughts. Your goal is to showcase your skills and strengths and not others’.

Editing and proofreading

Review your draft multiple times. Proofread it even more. Make sure you follow the citation requirements. 


Strive to come up with an impeccable piece of writing. Needless to say, grammatical and spelling errors are inadmissible.


When you think you’re done with it, take a break. Switch to something else for several hours or a day. Get back to it to give the paper a once-over. Remove any residual inaccuracies. Ask yourself these questions once again:


  • Have I answered the research question explicitly?
  • Do I support my thesis with logically linked arguments?
  • Have I reviewed my sources critically?
  • Am I happy with my flow of narration?
  • Are there any factual errors?
  • Does any line of argumentation seem excessive or insufficient?


Last but not least, add a list of references. Follow the requirements of your academic institution to use the right format. It would be a shame to spoil a solid paper with a sloppy bibliography.

Final Thoughts

Writing a research paper in history is a challenging task. It requires a combination of skills to come up with a coherent piece. 


While your primary goal is to address the research question explicitly, you need to do it in a way that meets the highest academic standards, is based on evidence, and draws on your analytical skills. 

About The Author

Jessica Fender is an experienced researcher and a professional writer. She knows everything there is to know about the ins and outs of academic research. Jessica draws on her personal experience and best practices in academic writing to help college students grapple with their college assignments, term papers, and research.