Research and Writing Resources
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How do I get started on the writing process?

There are many ways to get started on the writing process, and you’ve probably already developed a routine that works for you. Perhaps you brainstorm, or write an outline before you start to write; you might start by writing the introduction to a paper, or perhaps you’re more comfortable starting with a section in the body of the paper.

Whatever your writing process includes, here are some points to keep in mind as you start to write.

Be sure you've got a clear thesis statement; if you don't, you should formulate one before you begin to write.  You can also follow this link if you're having trouble.

Think about what evidence you have that supports your thesis. See “How do I find sources?” and “What do I do after I've found some sources?”   If you haven't taken notes on your sources, you should do so before starting to write.  How can you organize all the information you've gathered to make the strongest case supporting your thesis?  You might want to make an outline to help you remember what each section of your paper will say.  For more information about how to organize your paper, see “How to organize your paper.”   You can also get help from Writing Tutorial Services.

Think about the evidence that is contrary to your thesis.  How will you take it into account in your paper?  Where will you discuss the contrary evidence and your counterarguments?

Remember that when you sit down to write your paper, you don’t necessarily have to start with the introduction. Once you’ve written a tentative thesis, sometimes it’s easiest to start writing the body paragraphs that are the strongest support for that thesis. Then as you write, you can decide whether you need to modify or revise your thesis to better fit your arguments.

Other questions you might have as you write:

How do I integrate source material into a paragraph?

How can I make sure my paragraphs are coherent and focused on a single point?

How do I cite properly and avoid plagiarism?

How do I cite a source using Chicago Manual of Style documentation?

Where can I get more help?

How should I organize my history paper?

The organization of your history paper can follow the organization of your research proposal, if you wrote one. If you haven’t, see “Why should I write a research proposal?”. But of course your paper will have a much longer section than the proposal had on the results of your analysis.  Below is a general outline that is appropriate for most history papers; remember that you can adapt it to your specific topic and methodology.

I. Introduction

A short section that introduces the topic you are writing about.  It includes a statement of the thesis and discusses the importance of your research.  What is it that you are arguing and why it is important?

II. Body

A. A section of background on your research topic, which provides the larger historical context and reviews the literature on your topic.  What have other scholars researched and written about that topic, and what remains to be done? How does your research fit within that literature? Why is your work important? You can then restate your research question or thesis statement in the context of this larger perspective.

B. A section describing your sources and methodology:  how you will approach your question, what sources you will use, and how you will use them.  Do these particular documentary sources have any drawbacks that we should keep in mind?

C. A section describing your results.  This section can be broken down into several main points, with each point supported by specific evidence.  Each of these main points needs to be clearly related to your thesis statement.  The reader also needs to know how the evidence connects to the main points.

1. Main point.

            a. One piece of specific evidence

            b. Another piece of specific evidence

2. Another main point.

            a. One piece of specific evidence

            b. Another piece of specific evidence

3. A third main point.

            a. One piece of specific evidence

            b. Another piece of specific evidence

D. You'll probably also want to consider alternative interpretations of your data or counterarguments.  For each alternative or counterargument, you'll want to offer a rebuttal.

1. An alternative interpretation and your rebuttal

2. Another alternative and your rebuttal

III. Conclusion

A short section that summarizes your research findings (your main points) and ties them back to your thesis statement.  Here you can also discuss questions that remain, or areas for further research.  You may also want to refer to the initial statements that you made at the beginning of your essay.