History books and papers are all about interpretation of primary sources. You pick a historical event or trend, and then examine the evidence of the time—newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, letters and diaries, official records, and artifacts. Your writing is an argument on how to interpret this evidence, and part of an ongoing conversation with other historians about whether your interpretation (and theirs) are correct.
To write a history paper, you'll need to consult books, primary sources, and scholarly articles to show that you've examined the evidence, read other historians' interpretations, and that you have something new to add. You may choose to argue for a different interpretation, or present compelling new evidence that strengthens an existing argument.
Before you begin searching for articles or books on your topic, you need to identify the right keywords. Consider:
Make a list of the key names and phrases that describe your topic so you can refer back to it when searching.
Get started in one of these databases:
Books are in-depth, subject-specific writing about a particular time period, event, person, or phenomenon. They combine background information with analysis of primary and secondary sources. In short, they are a very valuable resource for history papers.
The CSU-Pueblo Library owns thousands of history books and ebooks. But if we don't have what you're looking for, you may be able to request it from another library.
Primary sources can be accessed in one of two ways: library databases and archives. Large publishing companies collect digitized primary sources and sell them as databases to libraries—the CSU-Pueblo Library subscribes to more than 20 of these. Archives are privately held collections, often at universities and museums. Many archives have digitized their collections and made them freely available online.
Scholarly articles, unlike books, are very narrowly focused. They do not provide much background information or a comprehensive picture of an issue or event. Historians working on a single project will produce several articles as they go along. Therefore they are very useful for understanding how historians examine evidence, formulate theories, and draw conclusions.
One of the most useful elements of a scholarly article is its list of references. This shows you where to find the primary and secondary sources the historian used.