Common History Paper Mistakes

Here is a collection of excerpts from student papers that demonstrate common errors that you should do your best to avoid. No names or sources of these excerpts are included. I have included multiple errors for each of the excerpts if those errors were present.

Comma Splices

These are very common. A comma splice is where you combine two complete sentences that should be independent of one another into once sentence with a comma. For example:

Aristotle was talking about the different types of goods, he was talking about all the different way and forms of things that you could do with your life that are going to make your life happy. He is saying if there’s a idea of any type of Good, there’s no way at all for us to get it.

  • The yellow and blue sections should be independent sentences.
  • Passive voice.
  • Infinitive "your." Don't address or involve your audience.

Generalizations & Hyperbole

Especially when there is a word count requirement, many students feel the need to make broad generalizations and to pad their essays with commentary about sources that were "interesting," "difficult to read," "the most amazing," etc. Avoid these types of comments, as they are distractions that weaken your paper. Also see "editorializing" below.

Plato (428-348 B.C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) were Greek philosophers. These two guys are regarded as the greatest 2 people in western philosophy. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words for love and wisdom.

  • Hyperbole and assumption.
  • Spell out numbers smaller than ten.
  • Unnecessary definition. Not relevant to the paper.


This is the process of stating an opinion or making comments on something, even if only academic language is used. 

Next, we have Aristotle and his “Nicomachean Book of Ethics”. Aristotle's idea of ethics is rather complex and is quite sophisticated once you understand it.

  • The title of the book is misquoted. Book titles should be italicized, not in quotation marks.
  • Punctuation always goes inside quotation marks.
  • Avoid editorializing: don't comment on the writing, simply use it in your analysis.
  • Infinitive "we." Don't include yourself or your audience.

Rhetorical Questions

Don't ask your reader questions, as they are unable to answer. Simply state your argument. Additionally, remember to stick to academic language while writing for academic purposes.

But if we could really get to that perfect good, what would that even do? not much really.

  • Rhetorical question. Followed by the author's answer in informal language.

Proofreading Errors

These are easy to fix and entirely avoidable. A couple might sneak in, but proofreading errors can be eliminated by a quick once-over and by having a peer, advisor, or even the instructor look over the paper.

Like he went out into the world after being in the cave for so long and found out things he thought were real but really weren’t. After he figured out all these things, he eventually had to go back and told the others and they made him feel like a fuel.

  • Run-on sentence.
  • Informal language.
  • Do not use contractions.
  • Spell check error/substitution error.

Plato and Aristotle are kinda example the same kinda thing just two different things, Plato is saying that what so great about being the only who gets on in the rom and explores stuff and sees the real sun, trees, sky, [...]

  • This passage contains several obvious errors that could be eliminated by simply reviewing the work before turning it in. Additionally, it appears to have been typed via voice, which introduces opportunity for many errors.