The Purpose of an Historical Research Paper

Updated on January 23, 2018
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

What is the purpose of an historical research paper? It is not what you might think. It is much more in depth than just reciting history or repeating what other books say. A research paper in history is an exercise in exploration and supporting theories.

Don't look at it as a report. Don't look at it as a summation of an event. It is much more than that. It is meant to be an exploration of your topic.

What is a Research Paper?

Too often, a student thinks that their ten page research paper is just a biography on George Washington. It could not be farther from the truth. Yes, information on Washington’s life could easily appear in a research paper, but just stating facts about his life is not research. It is only regurgitation.

A research paper is taking a theory and proving it. Using the example of George Washington, a research paper on him could have a thesis statement of : Washington’s military career under the British crown was crucial in helping him defeat the British during the American Revolution. This thesis is proposing a theory of Washington’s military career and its impact on the entire American Revolution. To many, this statement might be considered ludicrous. To others, it might sound interesting. They want to know more. They want to know why such a statement is made and what can support it. Thus comes the research paper.


The research paper takes that thesis and digs deeper. It lays out all the evidence like a lawyer would at a trial to support their side. It is the paper that shows how the thesis statement is possible and opens the door to new historical possibilities.

A reader comes across the thesis in the first or second paragraph of a research paper and sits contemplating what the writer is about to show them. As they read the evidence and weigh it, they could begin poking holes in the argument or find themselves intrigued to learn even more. They might even turn to the bibliography for more material to read on the subject.

Different Perspectives

When writing a research paper, you need to step back and try to see the subject through a different perspective. If the majority of people look at a topic from one stance, choose another. Try to look through a different lens and understand their arguments.

See what the majority of written pieces are on. What perspectives do they favor? If the majority feel that Johnson was behind the Kennedy Assassination, research to see if there are other possibilities. Take a different perspective and see what evidence you can find to support your thesis.

This can be a very fun part of doing an historical research paper. Even if you aren't a firm believer that someone else shot the President, you can point out other options and where holes are in the Oswald or Johnson theories. (Though Oswald did shoot President Kennedy, the theory would be that he acted alone.

Challenge the Norm

Continue the fun and challenge the norm. Most people think slavery was the sole cause of the American Civil War. Argue something different. Don't even choose states' rights as that is another cause heavily supported. Research all the Southern arguments to pull away from the Union and see if you can find another common thread among the speeches and writings.

Don't follow the crowd. Everyone writes papers on the popular theories. You want to stand out. Find something different and run with it. I have even chosen topics that I disagree with just so I could expand my own knowledge and understand the opposition better. At the end of my paper, I stated my stance but gave credit to the other side for their arguments.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I personally like the idea of having a different opinion on historical topics or rather topics challenging the usual narrative.

      Though something I would want to call out based on my observations, this bid to be different and to be noticed often leads to building fallacious arguments and distorting facts. Again, history is not science and and as it is, much of the research primarily relies on the information that's already in the public domain.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)