Before starting to write a history essay, let’s make it clear for you what a primary and secondary source documents are.
A document that was created by participants of the time you have chosen to investigate, a document created at the time the events happened is called a primary source. The main peculiarity that makes it unique is not the content but rather the time it was made at.
Secondary sources are those works written by scholars for the further investigation. As a person who studies this or that even, it is necessary to support your idea by points of view of scholars. So, secondary sources are twice removed from the actual event you’re writing about.
When you need to hand in a well-researched paper (a history essay), you have to analyze as much primary and secondary sources as possible. Read and discover to what extent your topic is investigated. After you get acknowledged with all available information, you are ready to write your paper.
Pay attention to the following issues while reading primary historical documents:
- When and was this particular document written? What are the format and the intended audience of the document? Are there any illustrations that help the reader perceive the purpose of the document?
- Who is the author of the document? What is the purpose of the document?
- Does the text reflect such factors as the class, race, gender, ethnicity, or regional background of its author/narrator?
- Does the author describe contemporaneous historical events or ignore them? Why? What stylistic means and expressive devices are used in the text?
How to create an accurate topic for a historical essay? Your essay should ask a good historical question, reflect the connection to other works and highlight a persuasive thesis.