How to Write a History Paper Proposal

You've been scribbling notes in your history notebook all semester and now it's time to hand something in.

Being a good student takes more than showing up to class, paying attention, taking notes and doing the readings. You need to know what is expected of you, and then deliver on it. In history courses, some professors require written paper proposals; these are an opportunity for the professor to get to know your research interests and help guide you to better resources and a better argument.

Brainstorm a list of topics that are relevant to the scope of your assignment or course. Pick the one that interests you the most and do some preliminary research to narrow the focus of your topic.

Talk to the reference librarians at your college and ask them to show you the resources available to you.

Skim through the research material you have located to get an idea of what you want to argue in your paper.

Determine the title of your paper and write this in bold centered at the top of the page.

Write a paragraph that introduces your topic. Provide the background information necessary to understand the argument that you intend to make in your paper.

Identify your thesis. This is the key point of your history paper proposal, so make it easy for your professor to find. Be sure that your thesis has a point that can be adequately argued in the space alloted for the final paper word count and isn't considered an established fact.

List at least three points that you intend to use to prove your thesis. These can be in bullet-point form at the proposal stage.

Provide a bibliography of relevant books and journal articles you have found. List them in an appropriate citation format. MLA and Chicago are both appropriate style guides to use for citations in a history paper.

  • A history paper proposal should be one page, single spaced unless otherwise stated by your professor.
  • Visit your tutorial leader or professor during their office hours and discuss any concerns you may have.

Based in Montreal, Quebec, Jennifer Smith has been writing manuals and culture-related articles since 2006. Her work has appeared in The Strand newspaper. She studied art history at the University of Toronto and holds a library and information technician diploma from Seneca College.