Choosing a Subject
Your subject will be based on one of the topics from class. If your chosen subject turns out to be very large you will probably need to narrow your focus. It is not possible to adequately cover huge subjects in only five paragraphs. If there is a subject you would like to write you paper on that is not on the list you may consult with your instructor for special permission to write on that topic.
The title of your report should be a brief headline of what your paper is about, probably six words or less. Or, your title might focus on an interesting and important aspect of the subject designed to grab the reader’s attention.
The Thesis Statement
The thesis is a one-sentence statement about the focus of your report. It states the main idea or point-of-view you will support in your paper. You might not discover the thesis until you have completed most of your research. The thesis may change as you continue to research or write your report. Here is an example of a thesis statement: “Julius Caesar was ambitious and power-hungry, but he restored order to the Roman world.” The thesis statement should be included in the introduction of the paper. A thesis statement is not simply stating the subject of your paper, such as “This paper is about Julius Caesar.”
The introduction is the two or three sentences of your paper provides an overview of the information presented in your paper. Try to begin the introduction by finding a way to connect the reader to your subject; you might mention a modern day situation that relates to your subject. Include the thesis statement in the introduction, and provide a brief preview of the main points you will cover.
Main Body of the Report
Keep to the subject
The main body of the paper will contain paragraphs explaining the key points you wish to make about your subject. These paragraphs should stick to the main subject of the paper and make title and thesis of the paper. Discard information that does not help to explain the subject of the paper.
Use logical organization
Do not jump around! Paragraphs dealing with similar information should be grouped together. (Using good note cards makes this easy.) You might wish to organize your paper chronologically; that is, those events that happened first are described first, and later developments are described later in the paper. Or you might choose to cover ideas in their order of importance.
Explain terms and ideas
Clearly explain terms and concepts used in your paper. You will probably have a good explanation if you tell what it is and why it is important.
Remember, sources appear in two places, in-text citations in the main body of the report, and they are listed in the Bibliography at the end. Your paper should have a minimum of three sources, one of which is from primary source material. Before writing your paper review Primary vs. Secondary Sources and S.O.A.P.S.
Use Your Own Words
While it is good to include quotes from reliable sources in your paper, most of the paper should be written in your own words. Do not copy directly from any source unless you put quotes (“ ”) around the material and identify the source. When paraphrasing another person’s work, do not use quotes, but still make it clear where the information came from. Otherwise, you are guilty of plagiarism.
Although your paper should be written in your own words, it should be based on solid research and historical fact. Your paper should not include unsupported opinions. Your opinions matter only if you back them up with factual information.
Do not use contractions
Contractions such as don’t and can’t are generally not used in formal writing such as a research report or a journalism article. Contractions may be used as part of a direct quote, however.
Include the Human Perspective
A report that is nothing but facts will be less interesting than a report that describes how people reacted to events. Try to tell your reader how people felt about what happened to them. This is a good place to use some quotes.
The conclusion is probably the best place to offer your own ideas and judgments about the historical events described in your paper. First, restate the main point or points you have attempted to make. State any conclusions you have reached. If historians have conflicting views of the historical event, you might wish to support one of them and state your reasons. You might also wish to suggest why the information presented in your paper is beneficial or how it might be used in the future. The conclusion should be approximately one or two paragraphs in length.