Writers of history weave together information from primary and secondary sources in order to interpret the events of the past. Understanding the type of source you may need to discuss a particular topic is a very important step in the process of writing a good history paper. For example, if you were discussing the Haymarket Riot, you might want to find newspaper articles from the days following the event in Chicago, documents pertaining to the trial of the men accused of the bombing, and perhaps speeches or diary entries from their loved ones. These would be your primary sources. Then, you might want to find a scholarly article that discusses the importance of the event and how it has been remembered in history. This would be your secondary source. Weaving these works together to tell the story and analyzing, criticizing, and comparing them is a crucial part of good historical writing. Click through the links below to learn more about primary and secondary sources.
Students often struggle with what their history paper should look and sound like. Remember that historians are social scientists. They take facts and data and use them to create a complex record about the past and to reach a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which humans behave in particular situations. Their work is creative, but it is also based on evidence, and your instructor wants you to write an evidence-based paper. Read the links below to help you understanding how to avoid common mistakes in your historical writing, and how to structure your paper so it is both enjoyable to read and based on sound historical research and evidence.
Historical documents and articles must be analyzed like any other information we encounter in our work. You should ask yourself many questions about each source you plan to use; in fact, answering some of the questions in the image below may help you understand how best to incorporate a source into your writing!
Remember, your conclusion is your last chance to convince your reader of your thesis. It should never introduce new information; it should be restatement of your main argument and a quick discussion of the evidence you have discussed throughout the paper. Read through the following links for ideas on how to write an effective conclusion to a history paper.