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Writing a good Historical Investigation

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  • 3 months later...

Could anyone please help me? I am writing my HI on the extent to which militant actions of the suffragettes were helpful or detrimental towards the introduction of women's suffrage in the UK, and I am really confused...

I think I have understood the other parts, but what sort of thing does under section B? I plan on including a summary of two opposing historiographical views of their actions, but I'm not sure what else belongs there. I have already written a summary about the development of militarism within the WSPU, but that is just general stuff I can find with one footnote to Encyclopedia Britannica.

What kind of other things would go there? I considered the responses of people and politicians, but that goes under analysis, right? I have some letters I am using, but I need to analyse them before I can put them in the summary, so that wouldn't really work, would it? Please help me, I am so confused... :P

don't you ever think about doing your historical investigation about ideologies...

That would be cool indeed. :D I considered writing my HI on the reliability of Wikipedia, but my teacher shot me down... :)

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Could anyone please help me? I am writing my HI on the extent to which militant actions of the suffragettes were helpful or detrimental towards the introduction of women's suffrage in the UK, and I am really confused...

I think I have understood the other parts, but what sort of thing does under section B? I plan on including a summary of two opposing historiographical views of their actions, but I'm not sure what else belongs there. I have already written a summary about the development of militarism within the WSPU, but that is just general stuff I can find with one footnote to Encyclopedia Britannica.

What kind of other things would go there? I considered the responses of people and politicians, but that goes under analysis, right? I have some letters I am using, but I need to analyse them before I can put them in the summary, so that wouldn't really work, would it? Please help me, I am so confused... :P

I'm not familiar with your topic, so I can't provide specific advice, but I'm assuming you've done more than look through Encyclopedia Britannica. Take all of the information regarding the actions of the people you'll analyze later and possibly other, relevant conditions in the UK in the time period that would influence how the actions of the suffragettes were received like who was in office, any violent events in the past that could have influenced how the media portrayed the event or set a precedent for it, etc.

There's a lot of advice for the HI on the internet. Here's one document: http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:LRMU0aNTNP0J:seahawksbears.wikispaces.com/file/view/Historical%2BInvestigation%2BGuidelines%2B2008.doc+historical+investigation+part+b&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESj72hZwA38E-tFGdJWsT5jlcHifgyx0SQOAQGNqhbbqNYPNZPIKTRnuYV1zdt7ySGDRjka1yl1wdHRn6xld_0E7TNhQTwI7pMREH2ihkqE9U4WRwgWCL_gdYKqambEPSKuJYrJb&sig=AHIEtbQ-DPO-lWjvwEDkkyOi2hFDtxEhUw

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I was wondering if I can can get someone's opinion about my HI question. I had to narrow it down since my teacher said my previous question was too confusing. Previous question: To a certain degree, did Richard Leob or Nathan Lepold perpetrate the act of murdering Robert Franks?

My question now: Did Richard Leob or Nathan Lepold commit the act of murdering Robert Franks? I feel like I dumbed my question down, it feels too simple and not really academic sounding.

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Are you asking whether one or the other committed the murder when both plead guilty [according to a brief google search]? What are you going to be arguing in your HI? Are you going to disagree with some widely held claims on the subject? Are you going to synthesize multiple views and refine them? I just want to make sure that this is a topic that you can argue.

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i want to do something like ''What is the likelihood that the death of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was a murder?"

i KNOW that the answer will not be a definite one, but I have great sources for the topic and can expose a range of views.

would this be a good topic??

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i want to do something like ''What is the likelihood that the death of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was a murder?"

i KNOW that the answer will not be a definite one, but I have great sources for the topic and can expose a range of views.

would this be a good topic??

Honestly, I would classify that as forensics science rather that history! If you really have good sources, then perhaps you could change your topic like the impacts of Haile Selassie I's death or something.

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Just wondering, do teachers send in the historical investigations of every student to the IBO? What is the deadline for teachers for sending them in, or if the teachers mark them, when is the deadline for submitting the marks to IBO? I'm worried because I write my diplomas in May of this year and my teacher hasn't even discussed this assignment yet -_-. My friend's is due mid February and if that's around the time that they're due to IBO then....I think my class is screwed :panic:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Internal Assessment in History Process


The historical investigation is a problem-solving activity that enables students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge to a historical topic that interests them and that need not be related to the syllabus. The internal assessment allows for flexibility and should encourage students to use their own initiative. The emphasis must be on a specific historical inquiry that enables the student to develop and apply the skills of a historian by selecting and analyzing a good range of source material and managing diverse interpretations. The activity demands that students search for, select, evaluate and use evidence to reach a relevant conclusion. The investigation should be written in the specific format outlined later in this section.

From the I.B. Guide: A historical investigation consisting of a written account of between 1,500 and 2,000 words, divided into six sections: a plan of the investigation, a summary of evidence, an evaluation of sources, an analysis, a conclusion, and a bibliography or list of sources. The investigation must be a written piece and should be the work of the individual student. Group work is not permitted.

Examples of the types of investigations students may undertake are:

  • a historical topic or theme using written sources or a variety of sources
  • a historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historic buildings
  • a historical problem using documents (this could include newspapers)
  • a local history study
  • a historical study based on oral interviews
  • a historical investigation based on interpreting a novel, film or work of art
  • a historical investigation of cultural issues.

The following are examples of research questions:

  • How accurately can the battle of Teutoburg Forest be reconstructed through archeological fieldwork?
  • In what ways did the guild system affect the development of Norwich?
  • Why was Charlemagne crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800?
  • What were the contributions of Genghis Khan to the rise of Mongol power?
  • Why was the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas important in the medieval Church?
  • How historically accurate is the depiction of Saladin in the film Naser Salah el Dine, El (1963)?
  • In what ways did the work of Henry the Navigator inspire Portuguese exploration?
  • How did the geisha’s way of life change during the Meiji period?
  • In what ways did the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration use photography as propaganda to support its programmes?
  • How did the experiences of British Second World War veterans serving in Europe compare with those in the Pacific?
  • Why, and with what consequences for its citizens, was Dresden (any affected town could be substituted) bombed in 1945?
  • In what ways did the Chinese communists use the traditional art form of opera to promote their ideology during the Cultural Revolution?
  • To what extent did the experiences of Vietnam veterans in Tulsa, Oklahoma mirror the US public’s overall perception of the war?
  • How did the coverage of the Falklands/Malvinas War differ in the British and Argentine press?
  • To what extent were the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980 affected by Cold War tensions?

Briefly: Planning for the IA

Quick Tips for the Planning:

  • Start by identifying a general area of interest.
  • Narrow it down to a specific question/area of investigation.
  • Choose a working title that may be changed/refined at a later stage.
  • Make sure you can obtain sufficient resources for your planned investigation.
  • Read widely around the area of study and note the resources used.
  • Review your thesis question and refine it if necessary.
  • Take notes from your chosen resources, including exact references.
  • Complete section A (the plan) and show it to your teacher.
  • Re-read your notes and decide where they would fit into the sections of the investigation.
  • Complete your investigation, according to the IBO guidelines.

The IA Sections:

Regardless of the type of historical investigation chosen, every student must produce a written account consisting of the following six sections:

A Plan of the investigation

B Summary of evidence

C Evaluation of sources

D Analysis

E Conclusion

F List of sources

A - Plan of the investigation

A suggested number of words for this section is 100–150.

The plan of the investigation should include:

• the subject of the investigation, which may be formulated as a question

• the methods to be used in the investigation.

This is a relatively brief but important section. A sharply focused question and a clearly structured plan will be more likely to produce a successful investigation.

Grading Criteria

0 There is no plan of the investigation, or it is inappropriate.

1 The research question, method and scope of the investigation are not clearly stated.

2 The research question is clearly stated. The method and scope of the investigation are outlined and related to the research question.

3 The research question is clearly stated. The method and scope of the investigation are fully developed and closely focused on the research question.

B - Summary of evidence

A suggested number of words for this section is 500–600.

The summary of evidence should indicate what the student has found out from the sources he or she has used. It can be in the form of either a list or continuous prose. Any illustrations, documents, or other relevant evidence should be included in an appendix and will not be included in the word count.

This section should be organized and referenced and provide evidence of thorough research.

Grading Criteria


0 There is no relevant factual material.

1–2 There is some relevant factual material but it has not been referenced.

3–4 There is relevant factual material that shows evidence of research, organization and referencing.

5–6 The factual material is all relevant to the investigation and it has been well researched, organized and correctly referenced.

C - Evaluation of sources

A suggested number of words for this section is 250–400.

This section of the written account should be a critical evaluation of two important sources appropriate to the investigation and should refer to their origin, purpose, value and limitation. More than two sources may be evaluated but the emphasis should be on the thorough evaluation of two sources rather than a superficial evaluation of a greater number.

The two sources chosen should be appropriate for the investigation and could, for example, be written, oral or archeological. The purpose of this section is to assess the usefulness of the sources but not to describe their content or nature.

Grading Criteria


Marks Level descriptor

0 There is no description or evaluation of the sources.

1 The sources are described but there is no reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation.

2–3 There is some evaluation of the sources but reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation may be limited.

4–5 There is evaluation of the sources and explicit reference to their origin, purpose, value and limitation.

D - Analysis

A suggested number of words for this section is 500–650.

The analysis should include:

• the importance of the investigation in its historical context

• analysis of the evidence

• if appropriate, different interpretations.

In this section the elements of the investigation identified in section B will be broken down into key issues/points. Consideration of historical context can add weight and perspective to the study. Where appropriate (depending on the scope of the investigation) links can be made with associated events and developments to aid understanding of the historical importance of the chosen investigation.

Grading Criteria


Marks Level descriptor

0 There is no analysis.

1–2 There is some attempt at analysing the evidence presented in section B.

3–4 There is analysis of the evidence presented in section B and references are included. There may be some awareness of the significance to the investigation of the sources evaluated in section C. Where appropriate, different interpretations are considered.

5–6 There is critical analysis of the evidence presented in section B, accurate referencing, and an awareness of the significance to the investigation of the sources evaluated in section C. Where appropriate, different interpretations are analysed.

E - Conclusion

A suggested number of words for this section is 150–200.

The conclusion must be clearly stated and consistent with the evidence presented.

This section is a follow-up to section D. It requires an answer or conclusion, based on the evidence presented, which either partially or fully addresses the question stated or implied in the investigation.

Grading Criteria


Marks Level descriptor

0 There is no conclusion, or the conclusion is not relevant.

1 The conclusion is stated but is not entirely consistent with the evidence presented.

2 The conclusion is clearly stated and consistent with the evidence presented.

F - List of sources

A bibliography or list of sources must be included although this will not form part of the word count.

All sources, whether written or otherwise (including interviews), should be listed. A recognized method of listing sources must be used consistently throughout the investigation. It is recommended that written sources be listed separately from non-written sources, for example, web addresses, oral interviews.

Grading Criteria


0 A list of sources is not included or the investigation is not within the word limit.

1 A list of sources is included but these are limited or one standard method is not used consistently or the word count is not clearly and accurately stated on the title page.

2 A list of sources using one standard method is included and the investigation is within the word limit.

3 An appropriate list of sources, using one standard method, is included. The investigation is within the word limit.

Total: 1,500–2,000 words, 25 marks

Discovering a Topic for Research

One of the most important parts of doing a research report is choosing a topic. By choosing wisely, you can ensure that your research will go smoothly and that you will enjoy doing it.

Choosing a Subject That You Care About

A subject is a broad area of interest, such as African-American history or animal behavior. One way to approach the search for a topic is first to choose a general area of interest and then to focus on some part of it. Make sure that you have a real reason for wanting to explore the subject.

Searching for a Subject:

  1. Spend some time in a library, simply walking up and down the aisles or browsing through the catalog, looking for subjects that appeal to you.
  2. Browse through encyclopedias, almanacs, atlases, dictionaries, your history textbook or recent periodical indexes. Useful indexes include the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature and Historical Abstracts.
  3. If your school or library has any books with lists of ideas for research reports, look through these.
  4. Glance at the tables of contents in your textbooks, looking for subjects that you’d like to know more about.
  5. If you have access to an electronic encyclopedia, a knowledge database, or a computer index that covers general subjects, start with an interesting search word and see where that leads. If you have access to the Internet, you could try browsing the World Wide Web for topics that interest you.
  6. Watch public-television specials, or listen to public-radio programs. See if any of the subjects of the programs capture your imagination.
  7. Look through news magazines for subjects related to current events.
  8. List some novels that you have read or films that you have seen, and think about possible subjects related to these.

Limiting Your Subject / Choosing a Topic:

Once you have a general subject that you are interested in, such as the Spanish-American War or civil rights, the next step is to narrow that subject to a specific topic that can be treated in a research report.

Doing Preliminary Research:

If you already know a great deal about your subject, then you can probably think of a specific topic to research in that subject area. However, if you are not already an expert, it is a good idea to do some preliminary research to identify potential topics. Here are a few suggestions for preliminary research.

Ideas for Preliminary Research

  • Read encyclopedia articles.
  • List questions about the subject, and interview someone knowledgeable about it.
  • Brainstorm with friends, classmates, or relatives to find out what they know about the subject.
  • Check the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature to find general articles on your subject.
  • Find a textbook that covers the general field of study to which your subject belongs. Read about your subject in that textbook.
  • Go to the place in the library where books on the subject are shelved. Choose books at random and look them over.

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Refining the Topic and Creating Interpretive Questions

From the Sturgis Charter Public School Reference Room

  1. Start by identifying a general area of interest
  2. Narrow it down to a specific question

This is a relatively brief but important section. A sharply focused question and a clearly structured plan will be more likely to produce a successful investigation.

Although this stage of a research project sounds simple, it is fraught with challenge and can make or break a project.

If your topic is too broad in scope, you will spin your wheels trying to decide what to include. Beginning researchers worry that they will not be able to find enough sources ("use a minimum of 7 sources"). They want to make sure the topic is BIG enough. When assigned to write about the Cold War, they choose Brinksmanship. By attempting too large a topic, it is all too easy to leave out key points and produce a project that is lightweight and superficial. Any attempt to discuss Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in its entirety is doomed from the start. It took more than 10 years for the U.S. to fight the Vietnam War, so you cannot expect to discuss it in any detail in 5 to 8 to even 10 pages of double-spaced, 11 point prose.

  • A Rule of Thumb: If entire books have been written about the subject, you cannot expect to address it adequately in a five-page (or even a ten-page) paper.
  • Another Rule: If you do write on it anyway, you will end up simply retelling the events rather than analyzing them.

If your topic is too narrow, you will have difficulty finding enough resources and enough to say about the subject. Research projects with too narrow a focus will often lead you to repeat yourself in several different ways in order to fulfill the length requirement. Such projects make for very tedious reading.

Sometimes a student will refine a topic to the point where he or she cannot find enough sources to develop it properly. This situation most often arises because appropriate materials are not easily available. Students at a large university have far more resources than those studying at the local libraries on Cape Cod. Increasingly, however, electronic resources and the internet make it possible for students to explore almost any topic.

In order to avoid problems, look closely at what kinds of material are readily available to you for your research BEFORE you commit yourself to a topic.

Developing Focused Questions for a Research Project

Often Begins With Narrowing Your Topic

  1. Begin by summarizing what you already know about a topic.
  2. Is there a particular aspect of the subject that interests you?
  3. List keywords associated with the large topic and your particular interest.
  4. Find some background information about the topic. Check the Table of Contents, subheadings and the index for ideas to help break a large topic into manageable topics.
  5. Can you narrow the topic by specific time period?
  6. Can you narrow the topic to a particular geographic region?

A good thesis derives from a good question. Since the thesis is your conclusion to a scholarly argument, there must be a clear question at stake. A thesis which does not answer a question, or answers a simple or obvious question, is not a thesis. You need to ask thoughtful questions of your topic and primary source material to develop a good thesis. The best theses are good because the questions they answer are significant, complex, and original.

What does a good thesis question look like? There are many sources for questions which lead to good thesis, but all seem to pose a novel approach to their subject. A good thesis question may result from your curious observations of primary source material, as in "During World War II, why did American soldiers seem to treat Japanese prisoners-of-war more brutally than German prisoners-of-war?" Or, good thesis questions may challenge accepted wisdom, as in "Many people assume that Jackson's Indian policy had nothing to do with his domestic politics; are they right?" Finally, a good thesis question may complicate a seemingly clear-cut topic, as in "Puritans expropriated Indians' land for wealth, but were psychological factors involved as well?"

Developing a Single Research Question

The key to writing a successful research paper is developing a workable and interesting research question and thesis. A good topic is neither too broad nor too narrow.

The question is what you will be answering in your paper. The thesis is the paper’s assertion.

Both elements contain two essential parts: the “topic” and the “comment.”

The “topic” is the subject. So, for example, for history, you might select World War II. As your topic, you might select:

  • Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust
  • French Resistance fighters
  • Dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki

The "comment" is the point. In the research question, the comment is the aspect of the topic you are trying to explore and answer. In the thesis statement, the comment is the point your paper will demonstrate through evidence. So using the examples above, consider the following questions and theses:

Research Questions vs. Thesis Statements

Research Question: To what extent did Pope Pius XII's actions contribute to the devastation of the Jewish Holocaust?

Thesis: Pope Pius XII's failure to speak out against the Nazis' systematic destruction of the Jews contributed to the severity of the Holocaust.

Research Question: How significant was the role of the French Resistance to the success of the D-Day invasion?

Thesis: The assistance of the French Resistance movement did not materially influence the outcome of the D-Day invasion.

Research Question: Was it necessary to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki in order to force Japan's rapid surrender and did this save many U.S. soldiers' lives?

Thesis: The United States did not need to drop the second atomic bomb in order to guarantee a rapid Japanese surrender.

In these examples, the topic is specific; but the paper won't just present information about the topic, it will use evidence to draw a specific conclusion.


Question?: How do I Start a Question?


  • WHO was involved/started this/was the cause of this?
  • WHAT were the changes/ problems /effects/ results?
  • WHAT were the short term/long term causes?
  • WHAT were the main events?
  • WHAT were the main/ some of the significant reasons for this?
  • HOW was this caused/did people organize themselves/rule/make laws/did this change take place/ did this affect other groups?
  • HOW do these people live/work/obtain food/did this change happen/event come about?
  • WHEN did this begin/take place/end?
  • WHY did this happen/people do this/change occur?
  • TO WHAT EXTENT was this a success/a failure/have an impact on people/government/economy/social structure/lifestyle/industry or other things?
  • HOW successful/effective/useful/important/significant was all this ?
  • WHAT were the long term effects/results/consequences of all this?
  • WHAT were the short term effects/results/consequences of all this?
  • WHAT were the overall term effects/results/consequences of all this?

Even More Sample Questions:

Notice that the following questions often combine two or more concepts. They are sometimes focused by time period or specific location. A good question can not be answered simply. Interpretive questions require careful analysis.

“How” Questions

  • How did newspaper reports on the death of President Kennedy vary, and how reliable were they?
  • How successfully did Hitler promote the ideal of the family in the Third Reich?
  • How, when and why was the church/mosque/temple of (name) built and what can be learned from it about the village of (name) in a defined period?
  • How significant was Fidel Castro’s role in the Missile Crisis of 1962?
  • How can our understanding of the origins of the Cold War be aided by a study of different schools of thought on its origins?
  • How did the scientific advances in (communications/ weaponry/transportation/etc.) of the nineteenth century affect the outcome of the Civil War?

“Why” Questions

  • Why did Trotsky leave the Menshevik party and become a Bolshevik, and how important was his role in the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917?
  • Why did the Zulu impi defeat the British Army in the battle of Isandlwana, 1879?
  • Why did America feel justified in dropping the Atomic bomb on two Japanese cities even though they knew how much death and destruction it would bring to innocents?
  • Why didn’t the United States become involved in World War II earlier?
  • Why did Great Britain favor the South during the Civil War?
  • Why did women/slaves/Native Americans/a political group/the president/a foreign government behave or respond as they did during ________________?

“To What Extent” Questions

  • To what extent was the involvement of the United States government and the CIA responsible for the downfall of Salvadore Allende?
  • To what extent were the first Five Year Plans of Stalin and Mao successfully implemented?

Remember that developing a good interpretive question will usually require trial and error. You will need to experiment with several questions before you decide which one works best.

Writing a Thesis Statement

Once you have decided on a specific topic, your next step is to write a thesis statement. This is a sentence or pair of sentences that describes what your IA will accomplish. This statement will control, or guide your research. It is a statement of your main idea. The statement usually contains one or more keywords that tell what the paper is going to accomplish. Keywords that often appear include analyze, classify, compare, contrast, define, describe, determine, establish, explain, identify, prove, and support.

To come up with a thesis statement, you will probably have to do a good deal of preliminary research. That is because before you can write a thesis statement, you need to know enough about your topic to have a general idea of what you want to say in your paper. Your thesis statement may change as you do your research, and that is O.K.

What is your thesis?

First of all, a thesis is to an essay what a topic sentence is to a paragraph. In other words, the thesis is the controlling idea of an essay. A good thesis should clearly convey to the reader the focus of your paper without being too broad or too specific. Your thesis statement should state your main topic and encompass the main points that you addressed in questions two and three.

Points to remember in writing your thesis:

  • The thesis statement should be a complete sentence.
  • The thesis should be stated in the third person.(No I, you, your, we, our,)
  • The thesis should not be stated in an obvious manner (Do not begin “In this report I will write about…”)
  • The thesis should be the last sentence of the introductory paragraph in the first draft.
  • It is also important to note that your thesis may change as you do more research on your topic. Make sure that your final thesis corresponds with the focus of your pape


Sample Thesis Statements:

1. The Union armies made several key maneuvers in the Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, as well as in the occupation of Tennessee that were pivotal to the war and led to eventual victory for the North and defeat of the Confederacy.

2. American General Douglas MacArthur was foolish to break with President Harry Truman’s Korean War policy because of his previous disagreements with Truman, his recent intelligence failure regarding Communist Chinese intervention in the conflict, and the possibility of direct Soviet intervention.

Finding and Recording Sources

Once you have written a thesis statement, you are ready to put together a list of potential sources. This list of sources that might be useful to you in writing your paper is called a working bibliography. You will already have used some sources during your preliminary research, and you will probably want to include some or all of those sources in your working bibliography. As you continue to research and draft, you may discover that some of the sources in your initial list are not useful, and you might find new sources to add to the list.

Before you decide to add any source to your list, however, be sure to evaluate it.

Evaluating Possible Sources

After you locate a potential source, you need to decide whether it will be useful to you. The following questions will help you to evaluate a source:

  1. Is the source authoritative? An authoritative source is one that can be relied upon to provide accurate information. Consider the reputation of the publication and of the author. Are they well respected?
  2. Is the source unbiased? An unbiased source is one whose author lacks any prejudices that might make his or her work unreliable. For example, a newsletter article claiming that there is no relationship between smoking and disease would probably be biased if written by someone who works for a tobacco company.
  3. Is the source up-to-date? For some topics, such as ones associated with current events or with new technology, up-to-date sources are essential, so check the date on the copyright page of your source. For other topics, the copyright date may be less important or not important at all. If, for example, you were writing about 19th-century pioneer women in Wyoming, the old diaries and letters of such women would be excellent sources.
  4. Is the work written at an appropriate level?Materials that are written for children are usually simplified and may be misleading. Other materials are so technical that they can be understood only after years of study.
  5. Is the source highly recommended? One way to evaluate a source is to ask an expert or authority whether the source is reliable. You can also check the bibliography in a respected source. If a source is listed in a bibliography, then it is probably considered reliable by the author or editor who put that bibliography together.

Every time you find a possible source, follow these steps:

Evaluating and Recording Sources

  1. Evaluate the source. (see above)
  2. Select a blank 3”x 5” index card to use as a bibliography card. (see next page)
  3. Find the appropriate bibliographic form using the examples provided. Then write on the card a complete bibliographic entry for the source. Make sure you capitalize and punctuate the entry properly.
  4. In the top right-hand corner of the card, record a source number and circle it.
  5. At the bottom of the card, record the place where you found the source.
  6. If the source has a catalog number, record that number as well.
  7. Stack the card with the rest of the cards that make up your working bibliography.

Preparing Bibliography Cards

Every time you find a source that may be useful for your research report, you need to prepare a bibliography card for it. All of your bibliography cards, taken together, make up your working bibliography. A bibliography card serves three basic purposes. First, it enables you to find the source again. Second, it enables you to prepare documentation for your paper. Documentation is material included in a research report to identify the sources from which information was taken. Third, it enables you to prepare the Works Cited list that will appear at the end of your report. The Works Cited list is a complete record of the sources referred to in the report.

Bibliography card contains all or most of the items described below.

  1. A bibliographic entry gives essential information about a source, such as its author, its title, the place and/or date of its publication, and the pages (of a book or magazine) on which it was found. The first line of the bibliographic entry begins in the upper left-hand part of the card. Additional lines are indented a few spaces.
  2. A source note tells where you found the source. The source listed on the card above was found at the North Branch of the local public library. The source note will help you find the source again if you need to do so.
  3. A source number is written in the upper right-hand corner of the card and circled. Assign a different number to each source you find. You will use this number to refer to the source on note cards containing material from that source.
  4. A card catalog number, if appropriate, should be included. Books and some other materials in libraries are assigned catalog numbers. If your source comes from a library and has a catalog number, you should write that number in the lower right-hand corner of the card. The catalog number will help you to find the source again.

How would information from source above appear on your paper: (More than three authors)

Bibliography: Danzer, Gerald A., J. Jorge Klor de Alva, Larry S. Krieger, Louis E. Wilson, and

Nancy Woloch, eds. The Americans. Evanston, Ill.: McDougal Littell, 2005.

Footnote: 1Gerald A. Danzer and others, eds., The Americans (Evanston, Ill.: McDougal Littell, 2005), 912.

Gathering Information

After you have written a thesis statement and have prepared a working bibliography, you are ready to begin gathering information for your report. Begin with the most promising sources recorded on your bibliography cards—the ones that are the most general, the most authoritative, or the easiest to find. Keeping your thesis statement clearly in mind, start searching through your sources, looking for information that applies. Do not read, view, or listen to every part of every source. Concentrate on the parts that relate to your topic and your purpose.

Some non-print sources, such as on-line encyclopedias, have indexes or special search features that can help you to find the exact items of information that you need. If you conduct interviews as part of your research, you will be able to prepare questions beforehand so you can gather information that is directly related to your topic and purpose.

Preparing Note Cards

There are three basic types of notes:

  • A direct quotation repeats the words of a source exactly. Quotation marks are used around the quoted material.
  • A paraphrase states an idea expressed in a source, but not in the same words.
  • A summary is a shortened statement of an idea in a source. In other words, it says the same thing in fewer and different words.

Take notes on 4” x 6” cards. Use cards of that size to distinguish your note cards from your 3” x 5” bibliography cards. (Or use your own system but do distinguish between the two) Use a separate card for each note so that you can rearrange your notes later on. Try to limit each note to one or two sentences on a single idea. Focusing on one idea on each card makes it easier to group and reorganize your cards.

When you quote, it is extremely important that you copy each letter and punctuation mark exactly. In paraphrasing or summarizing, you need to make sure that when you put the material into your own words, so you do not change the source’s meaning.

Give a page reference for any information taken from a source, except an entry in an encyclopedia or a dictionary:

  • Information from a single page—write the page number after the note.
  • Information from two or more consecutive pages—write the numbers of the first and last pages, as follows: 1–4. For consecutive numbers greater than 99, use only the last two digits of the second number, as follows: 110–15.
  • Information from nonconsecutive pages in a periodical—write the number of the first page followed by a plus sign, as follows: 76+.

When to Quote, Paraphrase, and Summarize

  • Direct quotation. Use a direct quotation when an idea is especially well stated in a source—that is, when a passage is very clear, beautiful, funny, or powerful. Also use a direct quotation when the exact wording is historically or legally significant or when you are reproducing a definition. Only a quotation, for example, can adequately illustrate the sharp wit of John Randolph of Roanoke, who once told an acquaintance he did not like: “Sir, you remind me of a rotten mackerel in the moonlight—you shine and you stink.”
  • Paraphrase. Use the paraphrase as your basic note form—the form that you always use unless you have a good reason to quote or summarize your source.
  • Summary. Use a summary when a passage in a source is too long to be effectively quoted or paraphrased.
  • Quotation plus summary or paraphrase. Write this kind of note when you want to quote a source but need to give more explanation to make the quotation clear.

More on Quotations

Direct quotations if they are short should be set off by quotation marks and included in the text of your paper. Longer quotations (four lines or more) should be indented 10 spaces from the left and right margins and single-spaced but not placed in quotation marks.

Quotations should be used with care. Too often they become a substitute for the hard work of doing one’s own writing and, indeed, one’s own thinking. Insert quotations when they add something that might otherwise be lost.

Be accurate in the use of quotations. It is never correct to alter a quotation without notifying the reader. Indicate the omission of a word or phrase with an ellipsis (three alternately spaced periods): thus, “the three congressmen . . . could not agree”; if the omission follows the end of a sentence, place the ellipsis after the period. . . .

Words, phrases, and explanations inserted in a quotation must be placed in [brackets]. Errors of fact, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the like that appear in quoted material should be indicated by [sic] so that such errors will not be attributed to you.

Long quotations (four lines or more) should be indented and typed single-spaced without quotation marks. Place periods and commas “inside quotation marks,” but “colons and semicolons outside”; that is the way it is done.

Effective Note Taking

  1. Keep your topic, thesis statement, and audience in mind at all times. Do not record material unrelated to your topic.
  2. Make sure that summaries and paraphrases accurately express the ideas in your sources.
  3. Be accurate. Make sure to copy direct quotations word for word, with capitalization, spelling, and punctuation precisely as in the original. Make sure that every direct quotation begins and ends with quotation marks.
  4. Double-check statistics and facts to make sure that you have them right.
  5. Distinguish between fact and opinion by labeling opinions as such: “Dr. Graves thinks that . . .” or “According to Grace Jackson . . .”
  6. Quote only the important parts of a passage. Indicate words you have left out by using points of ellipsis—series of three spaced dots ( . . . )—enclosed in brackets. Use only the three dots when cutting material within a sentence. Use a period before the dots when cutting a full sentence, a paragraph, or more than a paragraph. Use a period after the dots when you cut material from the end of a sentence. Also use brackets ([ ]) to enclose any explanatory information that you add within a quotation.
  7. Always double-check page references. It’s easy to copy these incorrectly.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Offering the work of another as one’s own, without proper acknowledgment, is plagiarism; therefore, any student who fails to give credit for quotations or essentially identical expression of material taken from books, encyclopedias, magazines, and other reference works, or from the themes, reports, or other writings of a fellow student, is guilty of plagiarism.

Plagiarism will render the offenders liable to serious consequences, possibly receiving a zero (0) on the paper. Ignorance of proper methods or specific applications will not be accepted as an excuse for plagiarism. If there is any doubt about whether or how to cite a source, the student should consult me or visit the school Library.


Material is probably common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five other sources.

The common knowledge standard: If you fail to cite a source that I believe should be cited, and you insist it’s common knowledge, the burden of proof is upon you. A typed bibliography of five sources must be given to me, complete with page numbers. Bottom Line: It is less work to cite the source than prove it is common knowledge. As such:

You will not be penalized for too many citations. If in doubt, cite the material. I will note on your first draft whether or not the citation is appropriate. Eventually, through trial and error, you will learn what is appropriate for citation and what is common knowledge.

Developing a Rough Outline

At some point early in your research, you will come to know enough about your topic to begin to develop a rough outline. A rough outline is useful because it will help you to focus your search for information. Your rough outline should list some key ideas or subtopics that you expect to include in the body of your report. As you learn more about your topic, your rough outline will change and grow, but even a short, incomplete rough outline can be useful.

A rough outline can consist of just a few entries or of many. In a rough outline, main entries are usually begun at the left-hand margin, and subentries are introduced by dashes.

The Note-Taking / Outlining Cycle

Writing is a cyclical process. At any point in the process, you can stop what you are doing and return to an earlier point. For example, you might decide after doing a little research to return to the very beginning and to choose a new topic, or you might decide to change your thesis statement. In other words, you are free to return to the beginning and to start the writing cycle all over again.

Nowhere in the process of preparing a research report is the cyclical nature of writing more obvious than in the gathering of information. During this stage, you will continually go back and forth between your rough outline and your note cards. As you do research and take notes, you will acquire more and more information that you can use to improve your outline. As you change the headings in your outline, you will want to reorganize your note cards, to change the guidelines on the note cards, and to take new notes related to your outline’s headings. Your notes and your outline will grow and change together—each feeding into the other.

Organizing Your Material

Again, writing an IA is a cyclical process. The more research you do, and the more information you gather on note cards, the more you will understand your topic. The more you understand your topic, the more detailed you can make your rough outline. The more detailed your rough outline becomes, the more you will understand what additional information you need to gather.

At first your rough outline will probably not be very detailed. To develop a detailed outline, you will need to consider, over and over again, how best to organize the information that you are gathering. Of course, as you write and research, the organization can and probably will change.

Here is an example of an outline for an IA

An investigation into social history

Question: How successfully did Hitler promote the ideal of the family in the Third Reich?

A Plan of the investigation

• To establish what Hitler’s ideal for the family was.

• To measure how far his vision accorded with reality.

B Summary of evidence

• Background: position of family/women prior to 1933.

• Duties of women defined as: children, church, kitchen (kinder, kirche, küche).

• Hitler’s ideals: Mein Kampf and other contemporary sources, for example, speeches.

• Evaluation of evidence: historians of social history of Third Reich.

C Evaluation of sources

• Comparison of two historical studies, for example, Crew, D F. 1994. Nazism and German Society 1933–1945. Routledge; Noakes, J and Pridham, G. 1984. Nazism 1919–1945, Vol 2. State, Economy & Society 1933–39. University of Exeter.

D Analysis

• The place of family in Nazi ideology.

• Role of men: penalties on bachelors.

• Ideal of women as mothers/wives/employees as promoted by Hitler and Goebbels.

• Reality of women’s position: Lebensborn (homes for unmarried mothers); employment patterns—demands of war and rearmament.

E Conclusion

• Evaluation of myth of German family as measured against evidence of family life from social history studies. Discussion of pressures/outside influences that undermined family policy.

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The Internal Assessment- The Actual Writing Process

Drafting Your IA

After completing a draft outline and arranging your note cards to match the outline, you are ready to begin writing your rough draft of each section of the IA. The comforting thing about a rough draft is that it does not have to be perfect. You can rework your draft as often as you like and watch it take shape gradually. In other words, you do not have to hit a home run your first time at bat. You can have as many chances at the plate as you want.

The Style of the Draft

The IA is objective, formal writing. Therefore, you should avoid making the paper personal and subjective, and you should avoid using informal language. Do not use such words as I, me, my, mine, we, and our. Do not state opinions without supporting them with facts. Do not use slang, informal language, or contractions.

Assembling the Draft

A rough draft is just that—it is rough, or unfinished. As you draft, do not worry about matters that you can take care of later, such as details of spelling, grammar, usage, and mechanics. Instead, concentrate on getting your ideas down in an order that makes sense.

Use your outline as a guide. Explore each main point, supporting the idea with evidence from your note cards. When you use information from a note card in your draft, include the source number from the note card and circle it. Noting the source number is extremely important because during revision you will have to find the source in order to document it.

Incorporating summaries and paraphrases

Working summaries and paraphrases into your report is quite easy. Simply write them out as part of your text and include a source number at the end of the summarized or paraphrased material. Just be certain to use transitions to connect the material smoothly to the sentences that precede or follow it.

The Draft as a Work in Progress

As you write, you may occasionally discover gaps in the information that you have gathered. In other words, you may find that you do not have in your note cards all the information you need to make some point. When this occurs, you can stop and look for the information, or you can simply make a note to yourself to find the information later on. Either approach works well.

The need to fill gaps is one proof that drafting is still discovery time. In addition to discovering gaps to be filled, you may discover better ways to organize parts of the report, ideas in your source materials that conflict, or parts of your topic that you have not yet explored. You may even find a whole new approach to your topic, one more interesting or workable than the one you have taken. Remain open to the discoveries that occur as you draft. Be willing to return, if necessary, to earlier stages of the writing process to do more research, to rethink your thesis statement, or to change your outline.

About Grammar and Form

History writing requires care. Its contents must be accurate and appropriate, its form grammatically correct and stylistically effective. Words need to be spelled correctly, and punctuation used properly. The definite rules for grammar, spelling, and word usage are quickly learned but easily forgotten. The grammar book used in English is usually a valuable reference book and should be kept handy. And, of course, a writer's best friend is a dictionary.

Completing Your IA

After you have finished your documentation, you are ready to proofread your report and to prepare your final manuscript. Proofreading is the process of checking your work for errors in spelling, grammar, usage, level of language, capitalization, punctuation, and documentation. The final manuscript is the copy of your report that will be read by your teacher and by others.

Proofreading Your IA

The first step after revising your report and preparing your documentation is proofreading it to eliminate errors. When you proofread, use symbols like those shown below. Keep the following guidelines in mind when you proofread a research report.

  • Double-check the spellings of proper names, such as the names of people and places.
  • Check to see that the quotations you have used fit grammatically into the sentences in which they appear.
  • Check to see that your language is not too informal.
  • Check all titles of works to make sure that these rules have been followed:
    • You have capitalized the first and last words and all other words except a, an, and the; coordinating conjunctions; and prepositions that have fewer than five letters.
    • You have punctuated them properly.

    [*]Check every sentence to make sure that it has an end mark. If the sentence ends with a parenthetical citation, make sure that the citation appears before the end mark. In the case of a long, indented quotation, the citation should follow the end mark.

    [*]Check every quotation in the body of the text to make sure that it begins and ends with quotation marks. Make sure that quotations within quotations in the body of the text are enclosed in single quotation marks. If a quotation is more than four lines long, it should be set off from the text and indented without quotation marks.

    [*]Check to see that you have used points of ellipsis properly in edited quotations.

    [*]Make sure that every quotation, summary, or paraphrase is followed by a parenthetical citation. Make sure that every citation corresponds to an entry in the Works Cited list.

    [*]Check every quotation against your note cards to make sure that it is accurate.

Preparing Your Final Manuscript:

After proofreading, you need to prepare your final manuscript. The manuscript form for your IA is included in the next section. You may also wish to refer to the sample research report.

After preparing the final manuscript, proofread it one last time.

Your final manuscript shall include the following pages in order: The TITLE page, a Table of Contents, and the BODY of the INVESTIGATION including all SIX SECTIONS. They are to be stapled together in the upper left hand corner. Do not place in a folder or report cover!

Congratulations! You have just finished your IA.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey this may be a really stupid question but I'm doing my history IA on the long term medical effects of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and I'm wondering if

this interview can be a legit source


Or should I stick to using two books as sources.. ? Thanks for any help I'd really appreciate it =)

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Hey this may be a really stupid question but I'm doing my history IA on the long term medical effects of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and I'm wondering if

this interview can be a legit source


Or should I stick to using two books as sources.. ? Thanks for any help I'd really appreciate it =)

You can use it as a source, but I wouldn't use it in your Section C. The page you provided only seems to be a summary of the interview rather than the interview itself, and it seems to be a bit to descriptive/narrative. While you can use some parts of it for your IA, the source really isn't related to your study enough, if what your asking about is if you can use it for Section C. If you were able to find the interview, I would recommend that you use it. :)

Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you can use more than two books as sources in the History IA. If you're talking about section C, yeah, then try to only focus on evaluating two sources.

Edited by JoeGuff
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  • 1 month later...

Isn't the History IA marked out of 20?

At my school, the grade boundaries were around (from what I can remember):

18-20: 7



...and so on.

I'm quite sure that these vary from year to year but those were the approxiamate numbers.

It is a total of 1500-2000 words and out of 25 marks.

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I need help with narrowing my topics for EE and HI.

HI: I'm writing about Marie Antoinette, whether she was guilty for French Revolution or she was just victim.

EE: I want to write my EE about woman emancipation at the beginning of XX. century. change in woman rights, how suffragettes were formed and how fashion changed for woman between 1900- war times (for ex. trousers)


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Your IA topic on Antoinette sounds definitely too broad; try focusing on one event/aspect and how that contributed to the French Revolution, such as propaganda done in her name, or the Affair of the Necklace.

Your EE topic is something I'm not very familiar with myself, but I would suggest maybe looking at either just Europe or just North America?

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Hey this may be a really stupid question but I'm doing my history IA on the long term medical effects of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima and I'm wondering if

this interview can be a legit source


Or should I stick to using two books as sources.. ? Thanks for any help I'd really appreciate it =)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Anyone who study China please help,

I am thinking of doing my IA on China Cultural Revolution.. and will be focusing in terms of the effects on Teenagers.

Will it be too broad? :o

How can I be more specific? the cult of Mao in Cultural Revolution's effect on the Teenagers?

Edited by jeffreychann
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  • 2 weeks later...

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