Study Guide

Suggestions for Studying, Reading, and Test-Taking from the Department of History

In order to help students improve their study habits, writing ability, and test-taking skills, the faculty of the Department of History has drafted the following set of suggestions or guidelines.  Individual instructors may want to alter or amend these proposals to reflect more closely their personal sentiments and the needs of their particular classes.  In any case, this material is offered solely for the benefit of students who should feel free to use these suggestions at their discretion. 




One method among many for reading the text profitably (and most other written material) is called the SQ3R – survey, question, read, recite, and review.


On Writing a History Paper

A good paper has three three identifiable parts: (1) an introduction (2) a body (3) a conclusion.  The purpose of the introduction is to identify and present to the reader your thesis and some of the major points you will be discussing in the essay.  The body of your paper should consist of a number a paragraphs in which (at some length) you describe, analyze and present evidence to support your thesis.  The conclusion (your last paragraph) is a summation of your paper.  Re-state the thesis and explain (briefly) how your evidence supported your argument.  If you choose, you may use your conclusion to hypothesize about the larger significance of your thesis.

Each paragraph should begin with a “lead” sentence, which alerts the reader as to the content of the paragraph.  Remember that a paragraph consists of several sentences, which should expand upon the content of the lead (or thesis) sentence.

Most writers illustrate their ideas by citing examples from outside readings.  Generally, if you use more than three (3) words written by another individual in your sentence you must put quotation marks (“”) around either the phrase or the entire At the end of the sentence containing the quotation place a footnote (see below). Use either the bottom of the page or a separate page at the end of the paper labeled NOTES to identify the author of the quote.  Writers who do not follow the above format run the risk of being accused of plagiarism.  To plagiarize is “to steal and use (the ideas or writings of another) as one’s own.”1 Plagiarism is a criminal offense. A person caught plagiarizing may be dismissed from the University.

William Morris, ed., The American Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969), p. 1001. The correct citation for any article is as follows: Gerda Lerner, “Early Community Work of Black Club Women," The Journal of Negro History, 59:2 (April 1974), 158-167

If you are unsure how to begin working on your history assignment, start by preparing an outline.  You might contact your History or English professor for assistance or make use of the resources in the Writing Place.  Remember the more prepared you are, the more helpful we can be!

Four final thoughts on writing a history paper:

On  Writing A Book Critique

A book Critique is not a book report.  A book report summarizes the main points of the text and provides additional descriptive details of those points.  A book critique evaluates the work of an author.  This is done by identifying the author’s main idea (the thesis), by analyzing the “soundness” of the thesis and by assessing how well it is developed.  Be critical.  Ask yourself, does the evidence used by the author support his/her argument? 

A popular format used when writing a critique follows: 

Finally, be sure to follow the guidelines for writing a paper. If you base your argument of the work of other scholars, be sure to provide the proper citations.




Objective tests

Essay Test

Parts of the above were adapted from 101 Easy Ways to Get Better Grades    (Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1979), and Robert V. Daniels, Studying History:  How and Why (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966).



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