Teaching > RWU HP224 Preservation Research Fall 2002 >

A Short Guide to Writing About History
Marius, Richard and Melvin E. Page. A Short Guide to Writing About History, New York: Longman, fourth edition, 2002.

Marius, Richard and Melvin E. Page. A Short Guide to Writing About History, New York: Longman, fourth edition, 2002 [Find on Amazon]
The Essay In History
  1. Have I narrowed my topic sufficiently?
  2. Do I have a clearly stated argument?
  3. Are my ideas on the subject clear?
  4. Have I told a good story?
  5. Is the evidence on which I based my essay clear?
  6. Have I documented my sources?
  7. Do I write dispassionately and acknowledge other opinions?
  8. Do the first and last paragraphs of my essay mirror each other?
  9. Is my essay written clearly, using the common conventions of written English?
  10. Have I written with my intended audience in mind?

Thinking About History

  1. On what basis can I be certain this source is genuine?
  2. Is the information truly plausible?
  3. Am I confident the source is trustworthy?
  4. Are the details contained in the source accurate?
  5. Do I have any corroborating evidence?Modes of Historical Writing Description
  6. Do my descriptions reflect sensory experience?
  7. Are the descriptions relevant to my essay’s purpose?
  8. Are the impressions and emotions I evoke common enough to be recognized?
  9. Have I based my descriptions on sound evidence?
  10. Have I avoided stereotypical descriptions in favor of more accurate ones?


  1. Why am I telling this story?
  2. What happened, and when did it begin and end?
  3. Who or what caused it to happen?
  4. Who were the major characters in the drama?
  5. What details must I tell, and what can I leave out?
  6. What is the climax of the story?
  7. What does the story mean?


  1. Is the explanation really necessary?
  2. Have I provided a context for this analysis?
  3. Do I define the essential terms?
  4. Have I clearly identified the crucial causes and/or significance?
  5. Are my inferences credible and plausible?
  6. Have I clarified the meaning of what I am explaining?


  1. Is the subject worth arguing about?
  2. Have I gathered enough evidence to make an argument?
  3. Do I represent the views of my opponents in a way they would consider fair?
  4. Have I developed my argument logically?
  5. Is my use of evidence accurate and related to my argument?
  6. Have I tried to prove too much?