April 07, 2013

On Writing Research Paper in History

I am sharing the following lines for the beauty of the diction of the contents and the idea depicted in linguistic expression - a task which a history writer has to do in his profession. "For all who have taken history courses in college, the experience of writing a research paper is etched indelibly in memory: late nights before the paper is due, sitting in pale light in front of a computer monitor or typewriter, a huge stack of books (most of them all-too-recently acquired) propped next to the desk, drinking endless cups of coffee or bottles of Jolt cola. Most of all, we remember the endless, panicked wondering: how on earth was something coherent going to wind up on the page - let alone fill eight, or ten, or twelve of them? After wrestling with material for days, the pressure of the deadline and level of caffeine in the body rise enough, and pen is finally put to paper. Many hours later, a paper is born - all too often something students are not proud to hand in, and something professors dread grading. "Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger." While Nietzsche may sometimes have been right, he likely did not have writing history papers in mind." Patrick Rael, Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 2004). The whole article can be downloaded in the pdf format at the site http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-guides/. Click HERE.


  1. I recall writing History essays slightly differently. Always done at the last minute (a matter of policy - it helped concentrate the mind). Actually it was more like the last 48-72 hours, with all the time not committed to other things (other courses, eating, sleeping. etc), reading, note taking, organising and writing. All hand written in those days (1980s), too. Fortunately my handwriting is a delight to read.

    As most of my 1500-word essays tended to run to 2500 words or more (all quality stuff - no padding), I never had a problem with reaching the word limit! Fortunately, the teachers were pretty tolerant of over-runs - in my efforts, at least. Compared with my mediocre undergraduate degree in Mathematics (which came within an ace of killing my interest in that subject), I had a ball with my History degree. I wanted to make it a double major, but because I misunderstood the programme, had to settle for only a minor in Classics.

    But by the time I began that degree I was in my thirties, and, because I could afford it and the door was at that time still open, I could indulge a long standing interest in a subject I had not 'formally' studied since 4th Form Social Studies.