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AFPRL 20900 Introduction to Caribbean History to 1900

Managing the Research Process

Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students

Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students, produced by Bowdoin College Professor of History Patrick Rael, provides a comprehensive overview of the entire historical research process, including insights into:

The Research Process

Note: The research and writing process is not always linear. Keep in mind you may need to go forward or backwards.

1: Understand the Assignment & Select a Topic

  • Read through and understand your assignment (from UNC). Contact or visit your instructor's office hours with questions.
  • Select a workable topic (from Colorado State)
  • Conduct preliminary investigation into topic using using an Online Encyclopedia or other web based general reference tools. Work to understand your topic and the issues surrounding.
  • Write down 5-10 keywords about your topic including terms, jargon, events, people, places, etc. to use when you search for sources.

Percent time spent on this step: 8%

2: Draft Research Questions and/or a Thesis

Percent time spent on this step: 7%

3: Find/Evaluate Evidence & Sources

Percent time spent on this step: 20%

4: Critically Read & Evaluate Sources

  • Evaluate sources based on your research question or working thesis.
  • Use critical reading strategies (PDF from the University of Minnesota)
    • Take notes on readings while reading. Make notes on margins. Use tools to comment or highlight PDFs.
    • To introduce and situate your thesis within existing conversation on topic?
    • Try close reading (from Harvard) and read to write strategies (from UNC).
  • Conduct more research to fill in gaps as needed (see step 3).

Percent time spent on this step: 25%

5: Develop Structure. Draft Paper with Citations.

Percent time spent on this step: 5%

6: Write First Draft

Keep in mind there are many ways to approach writing your first draft. You do not have to start at the beginning. Instead begin drafting segments or chunks. Concentrate on writing your rough ideas and not on revising.

  • Draft additional segments. Develop connections between segments.
  • Take breaks. Use breaks as a way to keep your brain and your writing fresh.
  • As you incorporate others' ideas or words into your paper be sure to cite your sources with in-text citations. Ask your instructor if you are unsure on which citation style to use (e.g. APA, MLA, etc.).
  • Organize your thoughts and your paper's structure. Try the following techniques:
    • Outlines (from Indiana).
    • Diagram such as brainstorming (from UNC), concept mapping, idea trees or quadrants.
    • Talk out your structure. Record yourself talking about your topic and ideas. Transcribe your thoughts to the computer.
  • Get online or in-person writing support from Hunter College's Rockowitz Writing Center
  • Conduct more research to fill in gaps as needed (see step 3).

Percent time spent on this step: 20%

7: Revise & Rewrite—Focus On Content

Percent time spent on this step: 10%

8: Polish & Put Paper in Final Form

Percent time spent on this step: 5%

Adapted from the University of Minnesota Library's Research Paper Guide