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History Research Guide

Preparing to Write

You have gathered a lot of information. It is unlikely that your text is going to refer to every single scrap of material you have collected. You need to keep an eye on what is relevant to your research question. So before you write, it is important to get organized (yet again) and to take notes:

  • Have you uncovered contradictory interpretations of particular subtopics in your research? If so, which interpretations are these and why are they contradictory? Write this down in a few brief and to-the-point statements. Also write down which interpretation you think is most plausible based on the information you have found.
  • Critically review your main research question, subquestions and synopsis:
    • Adjust or narrow down your research question if necessary.
    • Next, check whether your subquestions still answer your main question. If not, adjust them and write a new synopsis.
  • If applicable, change your synopsis and main question to reflect the results of your research.
  • Identify the answers to your main question and your main findings. Review the structure of your synopsis for its internal logic and make sure one step leads logically to the next. This helps the writing process and makes your paper/thesis much easier to read.
  • Using your subquestions, divide your work into chapters or sections.

In any case, you cannot begin until you have made enough progress on your research and source analysis. In other words, your research question, subquestions and findings have to be clearly delineated, even if certain problems still have to be solved during the writing process.