Importance of Writing in History
historical writing is analytical, precise, accurate and
interesting. Once they have completed their research, the
best historians are able to construct a compelling narrative
that makes sense of the evidence they have gathered without
forcing the facts to fit into a predetermined analytical
structure. The hardest part of this process is deciding
what to include and what to leave out, because there is
usually far too much evidence and not nearly enough space
on the page (or in the book).
a typical history course you will have several opportunities
to confront this basic dilemma faced by all historians--in
essays, in-class writing assignments, and on examinations.
Most faculty members teaching history expect you to use
these opportunities not to repeat what you find in other
sources, but instead to think critically about the material
you are working with (primary sources, secondary sources)
and construct a compelling argument from that material that
answers questions central to the course.
do history courses place such an emphasis on writing? Writing
is both an essential part of the learning process and
one of the most important ways that historians communicate
their ideas and conclusions to one another. The act of writing
forces you to take your knowledge of a subject and other
information that is available to you on that subject and
organize it all into a coherent and concise presentation.
Moreover, when you argue something in print, you must convince
your reader of the validity of your argument through clear
prose and the careful use of fact rather than with eloquent
speech or the conviction in your voice.
is another very practical reason why you must learn to write
well. After you graduate from the University, many of those
with whom you will have contact in your professional life
will judge you and your work based upon your writing. Whatever
career path you select, you will have to write letters,
reports, applications for funding, speeches, proposals and
even books that others will read before they ever speak
to you personally. These individuals will develop their
first and often most lasting impression of you based upon
your writing skills.
writing is a skill and like any skill is sharpened through