How to Write a Historical Paper That’ll Blow Your Professor Away

The public has always been intrigued by a good story about the tainted history of the prison system. The subject of Alcatraz or “The Rock” has become a movie of the same name and a tourist destination of the coats of San Francisco. Digging deep and spending the time it uncovers facts make for a better, and more researched paper. 

Showing you went the extra mile to gather and investigate the information can be the difference between an A or the dreaded words scribbled in red at the top reading, “See me after class.” Here are some tips to write the best historical paper that will impress even the toughest of college professors.

A Good Beginning

Just like your favorite novel, a good beginning to a paper catches your professor’s interest. It doesn’t matter the subject when it comes to comprehension and the use of well-organized thoughts. A paper that jumps from topic to topic isn’t going to fare well in a college course. Be sure to capture the intrigue of the reader (in this case, your professor) but without being too dramatic. You want it to be interesting but not the next best selling fiction novel. 

It needs to be well written and in your own words. Plagiarism is a serious and illegal issue. Your professor has heard it all too. There are programs are designed to check your work. If you need to reference someone or their work, make sure it’s accurate to utilize proper use of quotations if needed. 

Research Your Subject

Research papers should consist of more than hours of staring at your computer screen. If possible, contact (or if you reside nearby) take a trip where the action existed. When writing a paper about, for example, former inmates and life in prison, you may want to speak to the person themselves or the staff. As long as you’re permitted, sitting down and getting a first-hand experience helps create a better, well-researched paper. 

Diving into the history of a well known former inmate through books, newspapers, and online sites may give you a plethora of information. However, if the guards or free former inmates (or the person themselves) doesn’t mind talking, it’s a good opportunity to absorb a wealth of information. Basic details include early family life, what happened before, during, and after jail, the trial, and the crimes themselves.

Don’t Be Afraid to Dig Deep

Historical papers about deceased prisoners may prove difficult if you’re unsure of where to look. Local libraries can assist you in pulling up old newspaper clippings, microfiche, and if famous enough, a documentary. Taking a looking into public death records can list the former addresses and the current one, including family members of the deceased. When contacting family members, remember to be courteous and be prepared to be ignored. 

Many relatives may have chosen to place that part of their lives behind them, leaving you to piece other the information you already obtained. Government websites can have data such as arrest date (or dates) reasons, for arrests, and trial information. During your quest to find information, attempting to find former cellmates or correspondence can encourage you to be more accurate during your search. Include factual information from the mouth of the inmate’s family to help solidify your historical research. Don’t overlook the library and historical videos and local museums that may have their own websites (or better yet, tours to take!). You may be able to contact amateur historians who’d be more than happy to share what they’ve found. Just be sure to always fact check the information, even if it seems legitimate. Being objective can be difficult, however, it’s essential when writing a paper with historical value.