There are numerous ways of learning about the past. From reading fossils to looking at art, human beings are attuned to studying earlier ages of the earth and of humanity. Historians are very much driven by written resources, inscriptions, manuscripts, and published books, and now including digital materials.
But historians are not just consumers of what others have produced, whether primary sources (from a period in the past) or secondary sources (articles and books written about the past)–they are also producers of new materials based upon the past, whether recent or distant.
Therefore, to the historian, writing is as important as reading, and it is as essential a skill as it is for students of literature. Writing is what we do well as historians, and advanced grammar, an extensive vocabulary, and a pleasing style are all part of what it takes to be an historian.
As history students you will be asked to write short analyses of documents, book reviews, and more extensive research essays.
There are books which can help you to do this, and your instructors may assign useful texts like Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin, “Making Sense: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing.” There is also an array of sources to be found on-line, and below you will find a few useful electronic resources to assist you:
- CBU Writing Centre
- St Mary’s University Department of History
- University of Calgary Department of History