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How to Write a Literature Review In History

Lisa Smith May 30, 2019
Need to write a complex historiographic essay or a literature review in history? No worries! In this story, we’ll look into the ins and outs of this type of texts, to clarify things for you a bit.
It’s commonly believed that history is a science, focusing exclusively on documenting events that happened in the past. But history isn’t just about excavating awe-inspiring stories, it’s also about interpreting them.

Historians dedicate their time to analyzing facts and getting a deeper understanding of the implications of certain historical events.
So when it comes to writing a literature review in history, or a so-called Historiographic Essay, its main goal is to explore and analyze alternative viewpoints regarding commonly held beliefs, regarding certain historical events.
When it comes to writing a historiographical essay, there’s no particular canon which students must use. However, in order to improve its coherence and cohesiveness, it must contain the standard introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Ahead, you’ll find a brief guide to history literature review.

Choosing an approach

While there will always be an introduction, body, and conclusion to your text, approaches to structure and compare historiographic literature can differ. Here are three generic approaches to literature review outline for history.
  1. You can focus on reporting the events in chronological order.
  2. Alternatively, you can focus less on the chronology of events and emphasize the contrast between the schools of thought and their vision on the topic at hand.
  3. Another option is to compare the viewpoints of individual historians, without focusing much on differences between schools of thought.

Components of a History Literature Review

The Title

The title must take into account that it will be the first piece of text that the reader will interact with. Thus, it’s imperative that the title clearly reflects the topic and not necessarily the author’s opinion. If using the author’s opinion will stimulate more people to read it, there’s no reason one should refrain from doing so.
To ensure that the title clearly reflects the topic, it should contain one or more central keywords related to the discussed event. This will allow you to craft an informative and persuasive title.

On the other hand, failing to suggest what the review is about, might mislead your reader which may cause frustration. Also, titles must be properly capitalized.

The Introduction

The very beginning of your historiographic essay should feature a thesis. Its main role is to provide the reader with a very condensed version of the opinion you’re trying to convey in the essay.

Similarly, it’s important that you clearly depict the viewpoint you’re going to argue against.

Body of Your Review

The body of your review needs to dissect the issue in multiple parts and underline the most problematic aspect of the opposing viewpoint. Let’s say there is a commonly held belief regarding a historical event.

As a professional, you’ve noticed a set of inconsistencies and you’ve taken the time to thoroughly research the issue.
So at the beginning of your body, you need to inform the reader of the inconsistencies you’ve found and points of disagreement that lead you to further research the topic.

Evidently, your claims and counter-arguments must be backed by evidence and references to peer-reviewed double-blind studies.
The research you cite in your essay must be valid, provide actual scientific insight, and should preferably be published studies that have passed a double-blind peer review.

Similarly, it’s always great if you can extract informative graphs and images from those studies, to make the data more accessible to your readers.

Wrapping Things Up

The conclusion needs to summarize your ideas you’ve provided in the body of your text. Make sure you don’t introduce viewpoints and ideas that have not been mentioned previously in the text.

This part of your text is exclusively for boiling down your research to a closing statement.
However, it’s essential to stress that conclusions aren’t there just to reiterate ideas. The complicated thing about closing your review is to be persuasive. This is most probably the most complicated aspect about how to write a literature review in history.


We hope you received a deeper understanding of how to write a literature review for history class. Writing historiographic essays might be hard, but there’s really nothing utterly complex behind them.

The first time I sat down to write on, I just had a professional literature review writing service, so I always have it as a template.