There are a number of different types of writing assignments you are likely to encounter in history classes.
Professors assign different types of writing projects because each hones its own particular skill. Click on the desired link to learn more.
- Narrative history allows you to master the art of good storytelling that lies at the heart of most compelling history.
- Response papers encourage you to articulate opinions and perspectives on important events or issues in history.
- Creative approaches, which may ask you to assume the first-person voice of an historical personality or to address one in a personal letter, invite you to engage with historical events in a more immediate, personal, and imaginative way.
- An annotated bibliography allows you to show your mastery and comprehension of a number of different types of sources on a specific subject.
- A book review focuses that ability on one book-length text. Being able to identify a book's thesis or aim, and its author's way of supporting and reaching his or her goals heightens your awareness of how a good (or bad) argument is constructed and supported. Thus, a book review reveals strategies and approaches you may want to pursue (or avoid) in your own writing.
- Historiographic essays are assigned to alert your attention to the different ways in which historians view the same issue or event. They stimulate your critical reading skills by heightening your awareness of the subjectivity of historical narratives, and how bias and prejudice can affect one's view of past events. An understanding of these issues will also help you evaluate contradictory data and claims.
- A research paper, finally, is the most common, complex and - if well executed - accomplished piece of writing an undergraduate student of history is likely to produce. Such an assignment, usually 10 double-spaced pages in length or more, asks you to identify a topic that interests you, to articulate a clear set of questions on the topic that your paper will seek to answer (we call this developing a thesis), and to use different types of sources (both primary sources and secondary sources; possibly also FICTION/ART/POETRY) as you develop and prove your argument. The skills you will have gained by completing some of the previously-listed types of assignments, above, are sure to come in handy for a research project of this kind.
Regardless of which type of writing assignment you are preparing for, keep the following basic rules in mind: be sure to take issues of time management into account; refer to our note-taking tips; allow sufficient time for preparation and writing, to develop a thesis, for the proper organization of your paper, and to formulate a conclusion. Recognize your assignment as an opportunity to further your mastery of basic quoting skills (including annotation, bibliographies, and advanced quoting skills). In order to achieve better results, allow for time for drafts and revisions, avail yourself of all available resources, and avoid common stylistic errors along with other don'ts, including the perpetuation of common fallacies and - worst of all - plagiarism.
Above all, try to reach a deeper level of understanding of past events by writing about them. This website is designed to maximize your appreciation for, and your skill at practicing the fine art of good historical writing - enjoy!
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