Since almost everything I have found is something I pulled from a source, how do I write my essay without citing basically every single line?

Edit: Yes, in my paper I am arguing something which will be said in my own words. I am writing a few paragraphs about the historical background of the situation, and that is where my question comes into play.


3 Answers 3


In addition to Pete's answer, I also want to mention that well-known historical facts generally do not require a citation.

For instance:

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865.

This is well-known enough to be assumed as "general knowledge." On the other hand,

The average Pennsylvania farmer in the 18th century did not leave an estate worth 400 pounds, as de Crèvecoeur reports in his Letters from an American Farmer [citation needed].

is sufficiently obscure that it cannot get the same treatment.

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    As a slight addendum, if you assert anything that goes against CW, you'll need to cite it too. So even if you have clear documentation of the fact that (hypothetically) the US Civil War was from 1858-1866, since that differs from CW, citation is necessary if you're going to cite it as such. Commented May 5, 2016 at 2:29
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    @guifa what's CW? Commented May 5, 2016 at 5:10
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    @SergeyDymchenko conventional wisdom (that which is generally held or considered to be true) Commented May 5, 2016 at 5:12

Your question suggests that you think that a "history research paper" is entirely comprised of assertions of historical fact. This is not the case. I strongly recommend that you read some history research papers in order to see what they actually involve. Then look back at the directions for the paper you're given: were you not asked to argue for something or other? If things are still not clear, you need to talk to your instructor: far better to do this than to try write a paper having no idea what such a paper should be.


Generally, in a history paper, you not only state facts, you ought to describe and derive insights from those facts -- that is where the novelty part comes in. Hence, you only need to cite first instance of the distinct facts in your content.

You should assess a set of research papers on history (as Pete suggested) to understand the flow of citations the convention follow. Apart from that, look for places that deviate from conventional wisdom (as commented by @guifa), i.e., statements that contradict widely accepted knowledge. Such instances should also be cited.

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