Online Writing Center


The Department of History has provided you with this on-line writing center as a resource for you to develop the techniques that will improve your writing.

General Writing Guidelines and Helpful History Websites

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Penning the Past: Advice on Writing in the Historical Disciplines

This website, written by Alyssa E. Lodewick of Brown University's Department of History, provides excellent advice on writing a historical essay, from choosing a topic, formulating an argument, avoiding plagiarism, and using sources. It also includes a helpful bibliography of various writing guides. Highly recommended.

Writing Essays and Reports

This website, created by the University of Victoria, contains several helpful "hints" along with links to other valuable websites that show how to avoid common writing errors and plagiarism, and how to write proper citations and footnotes. Highly recommended.

Tips on Writing History Better

This website, created by the teaching newsletter History Matters!, contains handy and concise hints on writing better, and includes tips from our own Dr. Webre. Highly recommended.

The "Do History" Website

This site, created by Harvard University and George Mason University, uses a cases study to "show… you how to piece together the past from the fragments that have survived."

Doing History: A Guide to Historical Research

This is Lawrence University History Department's website. It provides a "general overview of the kinds of resources now available on the World Wide Web to serious historians of all levels."

The Virginia Center for Digital History

This website, created by the University of Virginia, "promotes the teaching and learning of history using digital technologies."

Rules for Comma Usage


How do I organize a paper effectively?

For an informative and concise website that explains how to organize a paper into introduction, main body, and conclusion, see "Guide to Writing History Papers" by Southern Oregon University's Todd Carney.

How do I use footnotes or endnotes properly?

The History Department encourages the use Chicago Citation Style. For a concise guide, see the Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.

For a quick guide to writing proper footnotes, check Duke University Library's website.

What is plagiarism?

For a definition of plagiarism and how to avoid it, consult "Avoiding Plagiarism" from Bemidji State University Writing Resource Center.

For some other helpful websites, consult Indiana University's "Understanding Plagiarism" and University of Toronto's "How Not to Plagiarize."

Helpful Books on Writing and Research (with links to

Style Guides

  1. William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed., Longman Publishers, 2000
  2. Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th rev. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996
  3. Christopher Lasch with Stewart Weaver, ed., Plain Style: A Guide to Written English, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002

Student Guides to Writing History

  1. Jules R. Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History, 9th ed., New York: St. Martin's, 2004. Most of this book can be found online, including a link on "How to Write a History Paper"
  2. Richard A. Marius, A Short Guide to Writing about History, 4th ed., Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Longman, 2001
  3. Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 4th ed., New York: St. Martin's, 2004
  4. William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students, 2nd ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2004

Historical Writing and Research

  1. Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher, 5th ed., Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004
  2. Wayne C. Booth, The Craft of Research, 2nd ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003
  3. Norman F. Cantor and Richard I. Schneider, How to Study History, Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1967, 1986

Developing Effective Writing Techniques—And What to do When You're Stuck and Your Due Date is Approaching!

  1. William Zinsser, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction, 5th ed., New York: Harper Perennial 1976, 1994
  2. Peter Elbow, Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981