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The Essential Guide to Writing History Essays

Katherine Pickering Antonova

Publication Date - 09 January 2020

ISBN: 9780190271169

336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock


The Essential Guide to Writing History Essays is a step-by-step guide to the typical assignments of any undergraduate or master's-level history program in North America. Effective writing is a process of discovery, achieved through the continual act of making choices--what to include or exclude, how to order elements, and which style to choose--each according to the author's goals and the intended audience. The book integrates reading and specialized vocabulary with writing and revision and addresses the evolving nature of digital media while teaching the terms and logic of traditional sources and the reasons for citation as well as the styles. This approach to writing not only helps students produce an effective final product and build from writing simple, short essays to completing a full research thesis, it also teaches students why and how an essay is effective, empowering them to approach new writing challenges with the freedom to find their own voice.


  • Includes chapters on common assignments including: response papers, primary source essays, book reviews, and imaginative essays
  • Combines a general introduction to the goals and methods of historical scholarship with nuts-and-bolts writing instruction
  • Incorporates best practices developed in the field of Composition Studies into the goals and methods specific to history

About the Author(s)

Katherine Pickering Antonova is Associate Professor of History at Queens College of the City University of New York and the author of An Ordinary Marriage: The World of a Gentry Family in Provincial Russia.


"Academic historians often have an easier time creating good scholarly writing than they do explaining how to someone else how to do it. This book is here to help. It will be useful not only in classes focusing on the writing process but as a reference for all history students."--Ruth M. Karras, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, University of Minnesota

"Antonova's book beats other history writing guides because it addresses virtually every type of historical writing assignment. It instructs students how to read, comprehend, and synthesize historical scholarship, and thoroughly demystifies the writing process. I look forward to assigning this book to my students." --E. Taylor Atkins, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, Northern Illinois University

Table of Contents

    1.1 How to Use This Book
    1.2 How to Interpret Instructions
    1.3 What's Different about College History
    2.1 The Virtues of Academic Writing
    2.2 Academic Structure
    2.3 Academic Style
    2.4 The Writing Process
    2.5 The Vices of Academic Writing
    2.6 What Academic Writing Is Not
    2.7 Who Is the Academic Reader?
    2.8 Why Practice Academic Writing?

    3.1 Questions Historians Ask
    3.2 How Historians Work
    3.3 Why Everyone Should Take a History Class
    3.4 What Is the History Major?
    3.5 What Comes after the History Degree?

    4.1 What's Your Goal?
    4.2 Studying Textbooks and Taking Lecture Notes
    4.3 Brainstorming Lists
    4.4 Distilling: Choosing the Right Details
    4.5 Explaining Significance
    4.6 Revising: Packing Your Sentences
    4.7 Revising: Cutting the Crap
    4.8 Revising: Grading Yourself
    4.9 Proofreading: Handwriting, Spelling, and Grammar
    4.10 In-Class Exams: Strategizing

    5.1 What's Your Goal?
    5.2 Reading Academic History (Secondary Sources)
    5.3 Reading: Annotating Your Text
    5.4 Afternotes for a Secondary Source
    5.5 Distilling an Argument
    5.6 Responding to a Reading
    5.7 Revising: Structure and Weight
    5.8 Revising: Showing, Not Telling
    5.9 Revising: Handling Quotes and Paraphrases
    5.10 Revising: Word Choice
    5.11 Revising: Cutting More Crap
    5.12 Revising: Testing Your Draft
    5.13 Proofreading: Grammar and Usage Errors

    6.1 What's Your Goal?
    6.2 Understanding the Prompt
    6.3 Studying for Analytical Essays
    6.4 Brainstorming: Evidence
    6.5 Brainstorming: Claims
    6.6 Brainstorming: Multiple Causes
    6.7 Brainstorming: Addressing Counter-Arguments
    6.8 Drafting: Argument-Based Outlining
    6.9 Revising: Logic
    6.10 Revising: Structure
    6.11 Revising: Showing Your Work
    6.12 Revising: Identifying Style Problems
    6.13 Revising: Transitions
    6.14 Proofreading: Past Tense Verbs

    7.1 What's Your Goal?
    7.2 Types of Imaginative Projects
    7.3 Reading for Imaginative Projects
    7.4 Brainstorming: What to Know or Invent
    7.5 Brainstorming: Taking a Stand
    7.6 Drafting: Playing with Ideas
    7.7 Revising: Substance
    7.8 Revising: Language and Style
    7.9 Revising: Special Formatting
    7.10 Citing and Attributing Sources

    8.1 What's Your Goal?
    8.2 Reading Conversations
    8.3 Drafting: Conversations
    8.4 Drafting: Book Reviews
    8.5 Evaluating Contributions
    8.6 Finding Your Contribution
    8.7 Composing a Title
    8.8 Revision: Structure
    8.9 Revision: Subject and Verb Tests
    8.10 Revision: Using Feedback
    8.11 Revision: Grading Yourself
    8.12 Proofreading: A Checklist

    9.1 What's Your Goal?
    9.2 What Is a Primary Source?
    9.3 How Historians Use Primary Sources
    9.4 Text: Sourcing Documents
    9.5 Text: Document Types
    9.6 Reading Primary Sources
    9.7 Afternotes for a Primary Source
    9.8 What Is Context?
    9.9 What Is Subtext?
    9.10 Brainstorming: Context and Subtext
    9.11 Drafting: Analyzing Subtext
    9.12 Drafting: Significance
    9.13 Revising: Claims
    9.14 Revising: Structure
    9.15 Revising: Quoting Primary Sources
    9.16 Revising: Learning from Models
    9.17 Revising: Grading Yourself
    9.18 Proofreading

    10.1 What's Your Goal?
    10.2 Using Your Library
    10.3 Managing Information
    10.4 Secondary Source Types
    10.5 Tertiary Source Types
    10.6 Internet Sources
    10.7 Judging Relevance
    10.8 Judging Quality
    10.9 Identifying Conversations & Managing Scope
    10.10 Citing Sources
    10.11 Annotating a Bibliography

    11.1 What's Your Goal?
    11.2 Topics and Research Questions
    11.3 Writing Process
    11.4 Argument Types
    11.5 Brainstorming Argument
    11.6 Research Proposals
    11.7 Drafting: Incorporating Sources
    11.8 Drafting: Joining the Conversation
    11.9 Revising: Ideas
    11.10 Revising: Expressing Uncertainty and Limits
    11.11 Revising: Structure
    11.12 Revising: Getting Feedback
    11.13 Revising: Style and Clarity
    11.14 Revising: Grading Yourself

    11.15 Proofreading and Formatting
    11.16 Writing an Abstract

    Appendix 1: Quick Reference
    Appendix 2: Further Reading and Future Writing
    Appendix 3: Note to Instructors

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