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Writing History

A Guide for Students

Sixth Edition

William Kelleher Storey

Publication Date - February 2020

ISBN: 9780190078416

160 pages
5 x 7-3/4 inches

In Stock

The most concise and hands-on guide to writing for history students


An indispensable resource for thousands of history students over five editions, Writing History: A Guide for Students provides a wealth of tips and advice to help students research and write essays for history classes. Bringing together practical methods from both history and composition, it covers all aspects of writing about history, including finding and researching topics, interpreting source materials, drawing inferences from sources, and constructing arguments. It concludes with three chapters that discuss writing effective sentences, using precise wording, and revising.

Using numerous examples from the works of cultural, political, and social historians, Writing History serves as an ideal text for any history course that asks students to conduct research. The sixth edition offers better guidance on how to begin a research paper and expanded sections on oral history and visual and material sources

New to this Edition

  • Better guidance in the opening section on how to begin a research paper, including advice on how to form a research question and a hypothesis
  • Expanded sections on oral history and material sources

About the Author(s)

William Kelleher Storey is Professor of History at Millsaps College. The author of several monographs and textbooks, he is currently writing a biography of Cecil Rhodes.


"Writing History is practical, well-organized, and thought-provoking. My students have presented wonderful projects as their final exercises with the help of this book. This book gives me the vade mecum I have long sought in my thirty years of teaching history."--Willard Sterne Randall, Champlain College

"Storey has cultivated an authorial voice that is frank without being condescending, and manages to meet the students where they are, gradually leading them into and through the research process. Student feedback has led me to conclude that Writing History is the most effective and engaging guide for undergraduates."--Mark Hersey, Mississippi State University

"Writing History is outstanding. This is the first time that I have seen these tips articulated so completely in a writing textbook. The text makes excellent use of important historians' contributions as concrete examples, which other texts do not."--Eileen Ford, California State University Los Angeles

Table of Contents

    1A Explore Your Interests
    1B Find a Historical Motive
    1C Focus Your Interests Early
    1D Work with Bibliographies
    1E Search Preselected Databases on the Internet
    1F Use Reference Sources to Begin a Project
    1G Conduct a General Search on the Internet
    1H Scan the Search Results
    1I Get a Quick First Impression
    1J Critically Assess Sources on the Internet
    1K Speak with a Librarian
    1L Speak with Your Professor
    1M Approach Your Topic from a Particular Angle
    1N Browse for More Sources
    1O Form a Hypothesis
    1P Craft a Proposal
    1Q Write an Annotated Bibliography
    1R Talk to People About Your Topic
    1S If You Have to Abandon a Topic, Do It Early
    Flowchart Chapter 1: Constructing an Argument Based on Sources

    2A Distinguish Primary Sources from Secondary Works
    2B Refine Your Hypothesis with Who, What, Why, Where, and When
    2C Be Sensitive to Points of View in Your Sources
    2D Select the Most Important Source Materials
    2E Take Notes by Being Selective
    Flowchart Chapter 2: Taking Notes

    3A Collect and Report Your Sources Carefully
    3B Incorporate the Ideas of Others with Care and Respect
    3C Know the Difference Between Summaries and Paraphrases
    3D Learn How and When to Quote
    3E Use Ellipses and Brackets, But Do Justice to Your Sources
    3F Learn How to Use Quotation Marks
    3G Don't Plagiarize
    3H Be Honest, But Don't Give Unnecessary Citations
    3I Choose a Citation System That Suits Your Audience
    Exercise: How to Cite

    4A Be True to Recognized Facts
    4B Transform Facts into Evidence
    4C Check Your Facts
    4D Check the Internal Consistency of Primary Sources
    4E Check Primary Sources Against Each Other
    4F Compare Primary Sources with Secondary Works
    4G Conduct Interviews Systematically
    4H Compare Sources to Make Inferences
    4I Make Inferences About Visual and Material Sources
    4J Move from Inferences to Arguments
    4K Make Reasonable Inferences from Your Sources
    4L Make Inferences That Are Warranted
    4M Avoid Unwarranted Comparisons
    4N Avoid Anachronistic Inferences
    Flowchart Chapter 4: Understanding Sources

    5A Craft a Thesis Statement
    5B Create a Draft Outline of an Analytical Essay
    5C Create a Draft Outline of a Narrative Essay
    5D Complete Your Outline
    5E Start to Write a First Draft
    5F Grab Your Reader's Attention, But Do It Gently
    5G State Your Intellectual Interests Early
    5H Review the Historical Literature
    5I Build Your Essay with Good Paragraphs
    5J Define Your Key Terms Early
    5K Set an Appropriate Tone
    5L Treat Other Writers with Consideration
    5M Account for Counterarguments
    5N Lead Your Readers to an Interesting Conclusion
    Flowchart Chapter 5: Writing Your First Draft

    6A Combine Chronology with Causation
    6B Get a Sense of Change and Continuity
    6C Select the Key Participants in Your Story
    6D Find Your Own Voice as a Narrator
    6E Choose Your Own Beginning and End
    6F Write a Narrative with Well-Chosen Details
    6G Write a Narrative to Support an Argument
    Flowchart Chapter 6: Representing the Past

    7A Choose Verbs That Are Precise
    7B Make Passive Sentences Active
    7C Write in the Past Tense
    7D Avoid Split Infinitives If You Can
    7E Put Verbs in Your Sentences
    7F Put Your Ideas in an Intelligible Order
    7G Begin a Sentence on Common Ground and Gradually Build a New Point
    7H Place the Emphasis at the End
    7I Construct Parallel Forms for Emphasis
    7J Form the Possessive Correctly
    7K Break the Rules If You Must

    8A Be Concise
    8B Write in Language That Your Audience Can Understand
    8C Avoid Pretentious Language
    8D Avoid Colloquial Language
    8E Be Sensitive to the Politics of Diction
    8F Be Sensitive to Gender-Specific Language
    8G Avoid Euphemisms
    8H Choose Figurative Language Carefully
    8I Use Metaphors and Similes Judiciously
    8J Use Color, But Avoid Clichés
    8K Use Foreign Words That Are Familiar to Your Audience
    8L Check for These Common Diction Problems

    9A Get Some Perspective on Your Draft
    9B Work with a Peer Editor
    9C Revise Your Draft
    9D Evaluate Your Own Arguments and Narratives
    9E Evaluate Your Sentences and Word Choices
    9F Proofread the Final Draft
    9G Keep the Rules in Mind, But Enjoy Your Writing
    Flowchart Chapter 9: Writing Your Final Draft?

    Answers for Exercise: How to Cite

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