Writing a research paper on a historical person seems like a pretty tough task that requires a lot of original sources for reading, finding apt material, classifying information and many other steps to write a proper work. History is known for its overwhelming and sometimes a bit too stale structure when it comes to the elucidation of events that can drive crazy with all the dates, meticulous descriptions and vague conclusions. However, do you know that deciding what a topic will be, means that you’re already half done? With this and a few tips on the structure, how to analyze and compose a text critically, writing research can be an easy and fascinating task to do.
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To start with, it should be mentioned that there are a few kinds of historical research papers and choosing which one to follow is an important element of writing due to differences in their form, the way of material presented and, even, vocabulary. Some works might focus on telling a story in a chronological sequence (a.k.a narration) that follows a person’s lifetime synopsis, regarding their work, biography or simply specific aspects of their most famous deeds. Another type approaches the research from the perspective of analysis that usually follows a specific logic of events in the light of an estimated topic. Then, a paper can be focused on factual history, processing the reasons and grounds of why or why not something took place; or the way history is told by historians as a discipline, and what approaches and methods have been used to do so. Another way of composing a text about a historical person is to characterize cultural, social or economic shifts and changes that the person caused or was involved in.
With this in mind, choosing a topic, or in this case, a person is also an important element to accomplish the task successfully. This requires the understanding that the best way to make an interesting report both for a writer and readers is to pick a historical person who gives an interest to the writer, especially if they have had a significant influence on social, political or any other dimension of society (Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Queen Victoria, etc.), or someone who’s advocated civil rights (Nelson Mandela, Ruby Bridges, Harvey Milk, etc.) and so forth.
Coupled with finding a topic/person, it’s crucial to do a research about his or her accomplishments since writing a report on someone without even basic knowledge won’t be fruitful. Simple internet browsing might be not really helpful because general information is not very useful for citations in a history paper. Yet, general knowledge is a great tool to build up a structure and underscore important topics. When it comes to quotes, which are a must-have in any report, credible sources like books, archives, and personal letters will do splendidly as long as they are validated by experts.
However, scrutinizing a source is not enough since including a critical opinion on a matter makes a paper more captivating. For this, taking notes comes in hand as a tool of creativity and analysis. There are various ways of noting, from writing down passages to drawing brainstorming clouds, and it’s up to a writer to select one. With a specific technique, one is recommended to mark dates, names, place, sources (pages, authors, publication year, etc.). Also, concentrating on an exact piece of interest can save plenty of time, instead of dispersing attention on multiple tasks simultaneously.
When it comes to actually writing a historical research paper, it should start with the draft of a plan. An approximate outline of the structure, topics, and remarks give an idea of how the text will supposedly look like after it’s written. In order to do this, it’s recommended to note one-two sentences to each part of a report that indicates a certain topic that is to be explained. Also, it’s completely appropriate to simply write down keywords which are closely related and can facilitate creating a whole paragraph. Normally, a report is divided into the following parts.
The best way to start any critical paper is to use a citation or a statement that catches attention, explains the author’s motif on why specifically this historical figure has been chosen and, at the same time, is a leading thought of the whole work. Then, it’s followed by a set of general information about the figure including their full name, date, and place of birth, occupation and, most preferably, a rhetorical question that encourages the reader’s interest.
This part is the main source of facts, dates, places, achievements, advantages, and disadvantages, criticism, etc. for a reader and it should be both informative and evidential. The best way to fill it up properly is to give from two to four statements justifying each paragraph’s main idea. It’s important to remember that interpretation of sources should be done where it’s possible, whereas citation where it’s necessary.
Moreover, it’s better to use past tenses and not relate events to the present, since it’s a research, not a reflection. Also, using personal pronouns like ‘I’ or ‘you’ and their derivatives is strongly shunned in historical articles. Therefore it’s better to use impersonal constructions and passive voice. In addition to this, good commenting of the context shows the author’s insight into the topic and objective, non-judgmental narration with the use of neutral vocabulary asserts professionalism and language proficiency.
Finishing a report might seem the easiest part of writing. However, any conclusion is a summary of the whole research, which demands meticulousness and laconism. The main task is to rephrase in short everything stated about, and if there were any rhetorical questions or attention-catchers in the beginning, they should be answered here. Introduction of any kind of new information in this part is a major mistake and should be avoided. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to finish a text with an open question or a suggestive statement.
This final stage of writing grants the last opportunity to check personally, or ask someone, for spelling, stylistic or grammar mistakes; typos and, more importantly, the accuracy of information and the text’s structure.
All things considered, from now on the question of ‘how to write a research paper on a historical person?’ should be a matter of the past. Best of luck!