Skip to Main Content
Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong Baptist University Library

History Subject Guide: Write a paper

Research your topic

 Research your topic

After conducting some preliminary background reading, form your research question. This can guide you through the rest of the process.

Check out this great interactive tutorial on how to develop a research question
(Thanks to Arizona State Library for creating this tutorial and making it freely available!)

Once you are clear on what you are researching, use the resources described in this guide to find background information, books, and articles.

Work through the sources that you find systematically. You cannot include everything in your essay, so select only the most important sources for inclusion. Linear reading (i.e. reading a whole article/book from beginning to end) is not a good strategy. Instead, actively skim the sources you find using the following methodology:

  1. Analyze the title and subtitle
  2. For books, examine the table of contents. For articles, read the abstract
  3. Read the last section first
  4. Read the introduction
  5. Target the most important chapters of a book, or sections of an article

Make notes as you read. Good notes are essential to avoiding plagiarism when it comes time to write. Use online tools to help you make and organize notes.

Look for both quality and quantity in sources. Can you find enough sources to write about your proposed topic, or are there so many that the topic needs to be narrowed further?

When in doubt, ask a librarian!​

The above advice is adapted from Writing History and Grad School Essentials

Write your assignment

 Write your assignment

Common types of essays assigned in history courses:

  • Book reviews: Require not just a summary of the book, but a detailed analysis that places the work in the context of the arguments of other historians
  • Short analytical essays: Require a specific type of analysis of one or more historical source
  • Research essays: Longer assignments that provide more freedom in identifying a topic and forming a hypothesis

For all of the above types of essay, consider the following advice:

  • Create an outline of your essay, including how you will move from one section to another
  • State your thesis early and try to grab your reader's attention
  • Define key terms early
  • Use an appropriate tone: Avoid the first person singular and try to be dispassionate
  • Build your essay with good paragraphs that:
    • Logically transition from the preceding paragraph
    • State the argument of the paragraph
    • Present evidence to support that argument
  • Lead your reader to an interesting conclusion

The above advice is adapted from Writing History



Turnitin is an online plagiarism prevention platform that can compare submitted academic assignments against an extensive database of published and unpublished information, and provide a report on the degree of similarity between the assignment and the material in that database.  

According to University policy, students should be able to submit their assignments to Turnitin and review the similarity report prior to final submission. To facilitate this, the Library maintains a practice Turnitin Assignment on a designated course site on HKBU Moodle. Students can self-enroll into this course to submit their assignments.

Click here for more information about Turnitin