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How to Write a Research Essay for History

STEP 1: Focusing your topic: In writing a research essay for history, you should first formulate an idea (a working thesis) about the focus of your research. This gives you a starting point to find source information. The thesis statement must address your assignment. Use keywords from your assignment to help formulate a working thesis statement.

STEP 2: Research: Librarians are trained to assist you with finding appropriate sources, but keep in mind there are some types of sources that are NOT appropriate to use for a college level essay. These include sources like encyclopedias (including Wikipedia), textbooks,, etc. (These are places to start if you have no information about the topic, but they are not reliable sources of research info).

Evaluate any source (especially Internet sources) you plan to use in your essay in terms of the following:

Accuracy--(Is the information in the source correct? Does it generally match up with information you’ve found in other sources on the same topic?) Authority--(Who claims responsibility for the information in the source? You would not use a paper written by a 6th grader as a source for a college level class) Objectivity—(Is the author objective or biased? Is there an agenda?) Currency--(Is the information up to date? For example, you wouldn’t want to use a book published in 1959 if you were writing an essay about how students use computers to do research) Coverage—(Is balanced information provided, or is the coverage one-sided or incomplete?)

Use sources that contain information that will support the thesis statement of your essay. Don’t use sources that you do not understand.

STEP 3: Writing the essay: An academic research essay contains the following elements:

Introduction—This introduces the reader to the topic and makes a specific claim (the thesis statement) about the topic. This claim is what the body, or main part, of...
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