Guidelines for History Research Papers

In general, the paper should demonstrate that the student knows how to frame a significant historical question, how to analyze that question, and how to go about answering it. It should show a knowledge of the basic bibliographical tools of the field, demonstrate an ability to work creatively with primary sources, and be written clearly and effectively.

Specifically, the paper should meet the following expectations:

  1. Show the significance of the topic selected. This might be done, for example, by placing it in the context of a current historiographical debate or an emerging field of historical investigation, or by showing how it resembles some current situation or clarifies some current non-historiographical debate, or by showing its theoretical interest, or by showing how a technique of analysis can be applied to a subject or a body of source material to which it has not previously been applied. (These are listed only by way of example.)
  2. Clearly state a problem, clearly indicate the subsidiary questions into which the larger problem can be divided, and indicate the manner in which documentation will be analyzed to answer these questions.
  3. Show an awareness of the major bibliography on the question and a command of at least a portion of that bibliography.
  4. Make use of primary source material in at least some portion of its exposition.
  5. Conform in footnoting and bibliography to an acceptable style as given by standard handbooks, such as the Chicago Manual of Style.
  6. Be at least twenty pages in length.