How to write a better History Paper
Five Tips for Young Students

Tip # 1 Try to pick a topic you're actually interested in.
Most teachers are open to suggestions. For example, if you like sports and you're studying the American Colonial Era, you could look into how kids played back in the 1700s. Were there any organized sports? Was there even any time for play, considering the amount of chores? Be curious. Use your imagination. The more interested you are in the topic you finally get, the more motivated you will be.

Tip # 2 Start early.
It makes all the difference. If you leave it all until the last minute the quality of your paper will suffer badly. At The History Place we get panic e-mail messages from kids who don't have a clue about their topic and have a paper due in a matter of hours. The stress of trying to complete an assignment with one eye on the clock is guaranteed to make it a miserable experience for you. And then your parents will get stressed too!

Tip # 3 Don't just cut and paste.
It's very tempting to copy stuff from the Internet and Encyclopedia CD-ROMs. But you'll wind up with a hodgepodge of various writing styles and levels of expertise all stuck together like a jigsaw puzzle. It'll be quite obvious if your paper reads like it was written by a Ph.D. and you're only in the 8th grade! It's important to go to your local library or bookshop and get books in addition to using any electronic info. Right now, most books are not available on the Internet or on CDs. Then write the paper based on the knowledge you have gained. Another thing to do is to interview persons who either experienced the historical era or who are knowledgeable, such as a college professor.

Tip # 4 Let someone else read it before you turn it in.
Ask a friend or relative for an honest opinion. Sometimes young writers know what they mean as they write, but they don't actually make it clear on paper. If you have any confusing paragraphs your friend can quickly tell you.

Tip # 5 Make sure you follow your teacher's style guidelines.
This refers to requirements for margins, footnotes, the cover page, bibliography etc. Pay attention to all the little (painstaking) details on how your teacher wants you to assemble your project. Then you'll get the wonderful grade you deserve!

Some Helpful Web Sites

Do you have a question about U.S. History? Check out this answer page generously provided by the U.S. National Park Service with E-mail links to a variety of History experts.

The Library of Congress offers an Ask A Librarian page.

This Library of Congress Learning Page has a directory of Internet resources.

Need help choosing a topic? This useful guide at the University of Kansas has thousands of links to every imaginable History topic.

Yahoo also has a big listing of History Web sites.

Need help building your bibliography? You can visit Amazon.com and search their massive inventory to see what books are available on your topic, books you might be able to get from your local library or bookshop.

To check the meaning of a word you can use this online Dictionary.

Want to know more about a particular person? Search 25,000 profiles at the Biography Web site.

Check out The History Place frequently asked History questions page.

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