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Writing Process - History as Evidence


History can be explained as the interpretation of writing including historical documents, speeches, newspapers, artifacts, and pamphlets. Textbooks tend to hide interpretation and conflict.  Each secondary source is the interpretation of an author and primary sources are the raw materials for constructing interpretations. By incorporating and analyzing primary and secondary sources you will begin question and answer key events from the past. Consider the demands of the writing tasks you use.  History as a Evidence-Based writing task, not just a description of events or summary.  Your analytical and historical argument will make a claim (thesis) and be supported with historical evidence.  Writing a thesis is difficult and often needs to be reworked, rewritten and revised again.  Reading multiple texts is essential in understanding history and your ability to write an evidence-based historical argument.  To understand history and to complete evidence-based writing task, students must consider the following:

  1. History supports your reading comprehension, historical context, and historical thinking.
  2. Approaching history as evidence-based interpretation:  reading historical texts and considering them as interpretations. 
  3. Use the following acronym SOAP to question a primary source document: Source, Occasion, Audience, andPurpose.
  4. Develop your interpretation with supporting historical evidence.

Analyzing the documents & Answering the Document Based Questions

  1. Read the documents. As you analyze the documents, take into account SOAP: Source, Occasion, Audience, and Purpose.
  2. Consider what you already know on the topic.  Then read each document and question carefully. Underline key words and phrases that address the document based question.
  3. Using the documents provided as well as your own knowledge of history.  EXAMPLE:  Discuss the different attitudes or positions that the American Colonists and the British soldiers and officials took toward the Boston Massacre.  Try to decide what is accurate from what is bias and inaccurate. 

History as Evidence-Based Writing

You must always support what you are writing with evidence, whether from primary or secondary sources. Use the below process to help yourself organize.


Organize your thoughts using a graphic organizer. Include everything you think you already know, as well as what you want to know. You can create an outline as a graphic organizer.


Build your background knowledge. Confirm that your prior knowledge is correct, and get a general sense of the topic and the different points of view around the topic. Take notes on all your findings and track your sources!

Write a thesis (claim à argument).  Share your thesis with the class, teacher and others.  REVISE until perfected.


Find evidence (additional facts) to support your thesis.  Look at primary and secondary sources. Take notes on your findings and track sources!


Write a draft using your graphic organizer/outline and notes. Remember to refute the arguments against your thesis (different viewpoints) and provide evidence in each paragraph.  Cite your sources!!


Have several people read your paper and give feedback. See conference poster for feedback examples.


Make corrections, deletions, and additions based on the feedback of others as well as new research.  Repeat until feedback does not include any actionable tasks.


Be proud of your work. 


In Other Words:  What the Writing Process Really Looks Like

Writer’s workshop, a common instructional format for teaching writing, is based on the process in which “real” writers engage. A bedrock idea behind writer’s workshop is that these “real” writers take pieces of writing, usually on topics they choose to write about, through a series of stages–prewriting/brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. The cycle is generally thought of as something like this:
Over time, with pressures from roll-outs of published programs and test preparation, this cycle can become formulaic in the classroom. resulting in “writer’s workshop” structures that looks something like this:

Not only is this forced fit model far removed from the original conceptualizations of writer’s workshop, it can also lead to pretty stale writing experiences and student writing. In fact, we find that our writing process looks less like the neat circle above (and certainly not like the regimented weekly schedule) but more random and spontaneous, like this:

Furthermore, our definitions of reasonable work within each stage of the writing process tend to be pretty broad. We are less and less surprised by the way play and seemingly off-task “behavior” helps us break through the places we are stuck in our writing. Prewriting, drafting, even revision, often happen in our heads as we bike, swim, dance, cook, etc. We have grown to think of all these diversions as anything but, giving them their rightful, prominent place in our writing process. Below, you will find lists of the types of work that may occur in each of the stages of our writing process. As you will notice, the lists all end with “and more…” indicating that there are many, many more ways to engage in the particular writing stage. We would love to hear about the work you and/or you students do in the different stages of the writing process? We would also love to hear about the ways that “off-task” behavior helps your writing.