How to Write a College-level History Paper

College-level History Paper

A history paper is derived from a historical event and must be supported by authoritative sources that support the argument you seek to propagate. History papers vary in their context and subject coverage and therefore must be treated differently. One must be careful when writing a paper about some historical event or a person to avoid featuring incorrect or non-factual content. The significance of history is in its accuracy and context, and therefore you must vet all sources to ensure you derive your information from factual and authoritative sources. Typically, the professor outlines the topic of the paper, and you have to research on the event or figure out how to deliver a factual essay. If the topic is not provided, choose a topic you are comfortable with, and you are sure you can get adequate information on it. Your grade is dependent on how you argue the essay and that partly lies in the sources you have. Refer to the grading rubric for guidance and ensure you narrow to a specific historical event. Do extensive research whilst making notes and prepare an outline. This will serve as your guiding element into writing the paper, and because it is derived from authoritative sources you have read, it will equip you with adequate knowledge to write about the topic you have chosen.

How to start: Introduction writing

Start a historical essay with a hook. It can be a quote from the history or an interesting statistic about the event. For example, if writing about the Martin Luther King Jr speech in Lincoln Memorial Park, you can quote the estimated number of the people who showed up to the march. Put the historical event in context by discussing the activities, people, action or event that led to the historical entity you are covering in the essay. In the aforementioned context, you can include a summative account of the history of racial segregation in America and how the racially discriminated groups had previously been fighting the issue. Include a thesis statement to show your purpose for writing the essay and the basis upon which you will hinge your arguments.

How to write body paragraphs: Tips on body writing

The body paragraphs contain much of the details of the historical event. They must be written chronologically to avoid confusion and ensure contextuality of the event. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence which highlights what the paragraph is about. The lead sentence must be followed by few other support sentences that further describe the event. Here are some tips on how to write body paragraphs for a history essay:

  1. Break the event into steps and discuss each step in a single paragraph. This helps to avoid mixing up the information and affecting the coherency and flow of ideas.
  2. Start each sentence with a lead sentence then followed by support sentences that build on the lead sentence. Each paragraph must feature a single general idea.
  3. Use quotations to assert the authority of your knowledge on history and the credibility of your sources. Remember to cite and format them appropriately according to the grading rubric. Do not use too many quotations in your work, the examiner is interested in your opinion more than anyone’s opinion.
  4. Avoid colloquialism, clichés, and contractions. Write your essay in the 3rd person and try as much as possible to write in past tense except for quoted content.
  5. Create a smooth transition to subsequent body paragraphs and finally to the conclusion paragraph.

How to finish the paper

Sum up your content and give your verdict on the historical event. Recap the main points about the historical event and restate your thesis statement. You can also contextualize the information in modern day to show its relevance to the subject or contemporary significance.

Tips on paper revision

It is necessary to revise your paper before submission. Here are some tips that can help you improve and perfect your paper before submission.

  • Take some relatively long break before proofreading it. This helps you to see mistakes you couldn’t otherwise identify. A fresh look at your paper will be of great help especially in improving the clarity and coherence of the ideas.
  • You can enlist help from a friend or classmate to help you ensure your essay is relevant to the prompt and does not have grammatical mistakes and each point is clear.
  • Run your paper through plagiarism software like Turnitin to ensure the content is original. There are other spellcheck programs such as Grammarly that can help you perfect grammar, capitalization and punctuation.
  • Refer to the grading rubric for directions on formatting and referencing to ensure you adhere to the instructions for full marks.

Outline sample


  • Hook
  • Thesis statement

Body paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence
  • Support sentences

Body paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence
  • Support sentences

Body paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence
  • Support sentences
  • Conclusion

    • Restatement of the thesis and summarizing of the main points

    History paper (Sample)

    Historical essay on March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

    This peaceful demonstration held in Lincoln Memorial Park in Washington DC was attended by over 250 000 supporters who sought to awaken the government on racial discrimination in America. It was a peaceful move by civil rights movement to push for reforms in the judicial system in America in which Jim Crow laws were to be abolished. It had been going on for a while in America before August 28th, 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial monument delivered the iconic speech regarded the best of the 20th century and energized the nation to stand together and push for legislative reforms to liberate the people. The march on Washington for jobs and freedom serves as a historic turnaround moment that revolutionized the judicial and political landscape of America and beyond.

    The march was arranged by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin who were key people in the civil rights movement working with King Jr. to sensitize the public on the legislative injustice of the black community. They had organized several other rallies across the nation, and they sought the public support by branding the march as a march for ‘jobs and freedom.’

    The event marked a turnaround moment for the civil rights seekers who championed for change with King Jr. Following the address, the nation stood together and barely a year later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The highlight of the march was King’s speech ‘I have a dream’ which has become a symbol of equity and freedom in America and the world over.

    Concisely, the march for jobs and freedom on the Lincoln Memorial Park has become an iconic event in history whose impact liberated the colored community in the US. It also set the reference all over the world on how to address civil issues and push for change.

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