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Lengths of Historical Papers

How long should an historical essay or research paper be? Is there a particular number of pages or words? Is there a magic number for a great paper? In a word, yes. In another word, no.

It all comes down to the individual teacher and school. The size of any piece varies considerably. Some look for very short essays or ones that are the length of a standard research paper. It can get confusing. The answer to it all is to follow the guidelines of the professor. If there are no guidelines, here is a rough one that you can go by.


An essay is typically a very short written piece. Some instructors have been known to require as little as 100 words for an essay or as much as 800 words. A good standard essay can be anywhere from 200-500 words depending on the subject. This translates to about two pages double spaced. The reason that these are usually so short is that most essays are not presenting a thesis and supporting it in the same manner as a research paper. They are just answering a question to show the knowledge of the student.

Research Paper

Research papers are typically lengthy and require quite a bit of research. These papers have been known to be as short as three pages or as long as twenty pages. Once again, this all depends on the class, the instructor, and the subject. Research papers require a thesis and a substantial body to defend it and support the argument. Many research papers could become basis for books as they explore new areas and propose new theories on historical subjects.

The Required Length

When receiving an assignment from a professor, the length of an essay or paper could be described as 300-400 words or 7-10 pages (for example). It is not uncommon for a student to panic and fixate on getting the number of words exactly between 300-400 words. This is a waste of valuable time and excess stress.

Anything asking for a specific number of words is not asking that it be exact. Majority of instructors will tell you that if the paper requires 300-400 words could be 260 or 500 and still be acceptable. The defined number of 300-400 words is to help the student realize that 100 or 700 words is unacceptable. It is a guideline to be used.

On the other hand, when an instructor asks for 7-10 pages in a paper the bare minimum number of pages should be seven complete pages. If you have six and a half pages, do not be surprised that the instructor counts that against you. It is when the instructor says that the paper should be about or approximately 12 pages that you can look to have a paper anywhere from 10-15 pages.

When it comes to your paper, always check with your instructor. Each instructor’s expectations are different as well as the needs for each class and topic. You will be glad that you did this as it will help keep your grades up and show your instructor that you are a proactive student.

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