Develop your skills as an historian

Top tips to develop your skills

1) Read books & journal articles

Read, think, write and talk about whatever you find interesting about the past.

Work out what you think about what you read. For instance, ask yourself: what is the author’s argument? Is it convincing? Why (or why not)? What evidence does the author use to make their argument? What is missing from their approach to the past? What else do historians need to find out? What primary sources would enable historians to understand this topic better?

You might find history books that inspire you by asking your history teacher for recommendations, visiting your local public library, or finding out about books that have just been published in history podcasts or newspaper book reviews. You can also look at:

  • Access to Research - provides free access to many academic journal articles, so that you can search for the latest research on whatever aspect of history interests you. -

  • JSTOR - a searchable digital library of journal articles and books. If your school or local library doesn’t have access, you can normally register for an individual researcher account to read 6 free articles per month. -

Write about your ideas and talk with other people about whatever you find interesting.

Apply these same critical skills to everything you watch, listen to, or visit.


2) Listen to history podcasts


3) Visit museums, archives, or other historic sites


4) Engage with the news


5) Take part in outreach activities   

Primary Source Exercises

These exercises allow you to explore the primary sources that shape Oxford historians’ latest research and teaching. We have also suggested online resources that enable you to develop your own interests in the past and to do original historical research. These research skills will also help you to feel confident when reading a primary source in the History Admissions Test or as part of an interview.