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History: Research Paper Basics 2024: Home

This guide is designed to help history students successfully complete their next research paper assignment

Use the tabs above to get tips on developing your paper topic, locating and evaluating information resources and formatting your paper.

If you have a question not answered in this guide contact me directly or Ask a Librarian!

The Research Process Pt. 1

Completing a Research Paper Assignment: Step by Step

1. Review the assignment, lecture notes and course materials to find possible topic ideas. Be sure to choose a topic that piques your interest.

2. Think about your topic from various perspectives. Make notes on related and interrelated topics. For example, how did the industrial revolution change the lives of Americans? How did it impact African Americans in particular? How did it change our economy? How did our government respond?

3. State your topic as a broad question. What were the effects of the Industrial Revolution?

4. Refine your question: In what ways did the Industrial Revolution change the everyday lives of Americans?

5. Identify key concepts and their related academic disciplines. Concepts: Industrial Revolution, Causes, Impacts, Historiography. Disciplines: History, American Studies, Sociology, American Intellectual History and American History.

6. Start your search with a reference resource that can provide background information and familiarize you with the terminology on your topic; reference materials often lead you to secondary and primary sources on your topic. Encyclopedias and multi-volume historical sets are good reference sources to help you identify key times, events and people as you start your research. See other sections of this guide for more on finding reference sources and keyword searching.

7. Use a thesaurus to help you find synonyms for the key terms and ideas you discover while researching your topic and be sure to keep a evolving list of terms as search.

8. Locate books, articles and primary sources on your topic using key terms you have identified; see tabs above for more on finding these materials.

9. Evaluate the sources you find to ensure they are relevant, authoritative and accurate; see tab above. Note: you may be asked to include a review of the literature on your topic as part of your assignment. For some helpful tips on conducting a review of the literature, check out this guide from USC: The Literature Review.

10. Write and cite a first draft. Your first draft should never be your last. Once you have written the paper, ask a trusted friend or teacher to proofread it so that you can make adjustments based on their feedback. Give yourself time to get answers to questions you may have about formatting and citing your paper.  

Contact Chris

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Christopher Marcum
He, Him, His
Copley Library
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
I am available for research consultations anytime. Appointments are preferred but walk-ins are welcome! My usual hours are Monday-Friday 10am-6:30pm
Subjects: History