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Writing in History

General Advice

Every faculty member emphasizes particular aspects of historical writing in his or her assignments. The following general advice applies in most circumstances, but be sure to pay close attention to the requirements stated by your professor in the course syllabus or the exam instructions. This site also contains more specific advice about the types of writing you may have to do in a history course

Thesis
Every paper must have a thesis. Your thesis should be stated clearly at the beginning of your paper so that the reader is not left to wonder just what argument you are making. If you cannot say what you want in one or two sentences your thesis is probably unclear or too broad and your essay will reflect that lack of precision.

For example: Let us say that you are trying to write your paper about the changing role of women in France at the turn of the century. You need to begin your paper by telling the reader what exactly you intend to prove, demonstrate or illuminate in your paper. One example of how your thesis could be written in this paper would be: The Catholic Church in France was the agency most responsible for preventing French women from achieving greater social advancement at the turn of the century. This simple sentence leaves the reader with no doubts about the main point you intend to make.

The thesis statement does not have to be the opening sentence of your paper (although it can be) but it should appear somewhere on the first page of the essay. In the paragraph that contains your thesis you also should mention the sort of evidence you are going to offer to support your argument and how your topic fits into a broader context.

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