Avoid grand statements about humanity in general, and be careful of theories which fit all cases.Make a point of using evidence with attention to specificity of time and place, i.e.What kind of evidence supports the arguments and how is it used?
Students often ask: "How can I give you a thesis (or write an introduction) before I have done all the reading?
" Obviously, you cannot write a good paper if you haven't done the readings, so be sure to keep up.
If you are developing your own topic, what are the important issues and what questions can you pose yourself?
Begin reading (or re-reading) your texts or documents.
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with the basics for writing undergraduate history essays and papers.
It is a guide only, and its step by step approach is only one possible model; it does not replace consultation with your professor, TA, or instructor about writing questions and getting feedback, nor the excellent tutoring services provided by the Rutgers Writing Center program (room 304, Murray Hall, College Avenue Campus) and the Douglass Writing Center (room 101, Speech and Hearing Building, Douglass Campus). All serious writing is done in drafts with many hesitations, revisions, and new inspirations.The writer should demonstrate originality and critical thinking by showing what the question is asking, and why it is important rather than merely repeating it. Many first-year students ask whether the "thesis" is not just their "opinion" of a historical question.A thesis is indeed a "point of view," or "perspective," but of a particular sort: it is based not only on belief, but on a logical and systematic argument supported by evidence.By keeping your notes accurate your argument will always be rooted in concrete evidence of the past which the reader can verify. Be aware also that "historical" writing is not exactly the same as writing in other social sciences, in literature, or in the natural sciences.Though all follow the general thesis and evidence model, historical writing also depends a great deal on situating evidence and arguments correctly in time and space in narratives about the past.Your questions will be the beginning of your own thesis.As noted above, all serious writing is done in drafts, and not the night before.The truism that we each have "our own" opinions misses the point.A good critical essay acknowledges that many perspectives are possible on any question, yet demonstrates the validity or correctness of the writer's own view.Historians are particularly sensitive to errors of anachronism—that is, putting events in an "incorrect" order, or having historical characters speak, think, and act in ways inappropriate for the time in which they were living.Reading the past principally in terms of your own present experience can also create problems in your arguments.