Writing Center

Faculty Advice for History Papers


To continue our journey of compiling writing tips from faculty, we have advice from an associate professor in the History department, Dr. Marita von Weissenberg. Below, Dr. von Weissenberg describes the key elements of history papers and provides tips for the revision process. Keep these great tips in mind as you write your History papers!  --Kara H.


WC: What is the most important writing tip you would like to share with students writing a history paper?


Dr. von Weissenberg: Read the instructions - the prompt is your friend. Beyond that, history is a discipline that studies people doing things in their historical contexts. Therefore, it is important to be clear on who is doing what, when, where, and why. I often write "explain," "vague," "who?," "why?" "date?" or "tell me more" in the margins because students make statements without giving enough explanation or context to demonstrate their understanding, let alone the context or evidence of what they are writing about. It is the writer's responsibility, after all, to make clear the importance of evidence and examples, and addressing those questions is a great start. In this same vein, passive voice is an issue because it often occludes the "who" aspect. Last, but not least, giving a paper a good final read-through, preferably aloud, while pretending to be a stranger to the topic can really help catch lacking thesis statements, logic, cause-consequence chains, grammar, etc. 


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