How to Write a Historiographical Essay

Write a Historiographical Essay

Throughout the course of your studies, you may be asked to write a historiographical essay. Concerning itself mainly with secondary sources, a historiographical essay discusses the body of research, debate and discussion on a particular historical topic. If you are at a loss, here are some tips to get you started.

Settle on a topic. If you are writing this essay for a class, you may be assigned this. Otherwise, you will have to create your own. Make sure it is clearly defined, arguable and has substance.

Collect your secondary sources. In general, the works should be no more than 30 years old. It is important to get as many books as you possibly can on the topic to facilitate a more detailed, varied and complete essay.

Begin to read. It will take you forever to read each and every book through, so read strategically, using the index to point you toward information that is relevant to your topic.

Take notes. Write down what each author has to say about the topic and examine the viewpoint critically. Keep in mind where the author has come from, the time and context they wrote in, and their approach and methods. This will better help you understand their arguments.

Next, gather your notes and examine how each view contributes to and shapes the discussion. What or who does each author agree or disagree with and how? How are they similar and how do they differ? Is scholarship on the subject lacking or has it run its course? Why?

Once you have your notes, you can begin writing your paper. Your introduction should include the historical topic you are exploring. The rest of the paper will evaluate the body of work you have read in order to present a cohesive picture of opinions and debate.

  • It's always worth your time to proofread for any errors in grammar or content.

Sophie Levant is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Having attended Michigan State University, her interests include history classical music, travel, and the German language. Her work has been published at eHow and Travels.