How To Write A History Essay
When writing a history essay these are the steps that you will need to follow:
1. Look closely at your set question:
- First of all look at the question carefully and underline what you consider to be the most important words.
2. Getting the right materials:
- Look at the reading list for your history essay.
- If you take out about 6-8 books that should be more than enough.
- When in the library make sure to leaf through the contents page and look for any chapters that are especially relevant to your question.
- Don’t be afraid to use any resource that is available to you such as journals and the Internet.
- It is important that you do not simply and aimlessly read the materials that you have acquired; your reading should be targeted.
- When reading your mind should always be switched on and focused on the particular question you are trying to answer. If what you are reading is not relevant, move on to another chapter or book.
3. Structuring your history essay
- Think about how you might structure your history essay. What categories or factors are important for your question?
- For example, if your question asks you to assess why the League of Nations failed you will want to think of important reasons such as the fact that the United States was not a member of the organisation or that states continued to settle international disputes by traditional methods of diplomacy.
- Drawing up an essay plan is a very good idea. This will allow you to see what knowledge you already have about the question and where there may be gaps in your knowledge. You can then look to fill these gaps with reading targeted at those specific areas.
- In the introduction you should spell out precisely what it is that you intend to write in the essay and in what order.
- You should also point out what it is you are trying to argue throughout the essay.
- In the main body you should concentrate on the factors that you consider to be important in answering the question and you should be able to flesh them out in detail.
- Make sure to present each factor in a clear way by introducing it in the opening sentence of that paragraph.
- In the conclusion you should make a definitive judgement, often this involves establishing a hierarchy of importance.
- If, for example, the question asks you what the most important reason was for the outbreak of World War Two you should attempt to single out one factor and justify why you have chosen to highlight it.
4. Write a First Draft
- It is certainly not a good idea to write your essay all in one go; instead you should be looking to write it in stages.
- This first draft does not need to be the finished article, feel free to make it as neat or as messy as you want, just make sure that you understand what you have written!
- Once you’ve finished it, read over your first draft. What are the areas that you have done well and what needs to be improved?
- You can repeat this process as many times as you like. The more drafts that you write the better your essay will become. For example, for an important thesis you may want to write 10 or 20 drafts.
5. Producing a Polished History Essay
- You should constantly be re-reading your history essay before you finish it. Use this as a checklist to make sure you have finished your essay:
- Look at the language in your history essay. Could you use better words or sentences in your essay?
- Next look at how you split up your essay. Is it split up into neat and tidy paragraphs? Is it easy on the reader’s eye?
- Have you used enough facts and quotes in your essay to back up your arguments? Facts and quotes should not be the only thing in your essay; you will also need a clear and cogent argument. Remember to use your supporting evidence like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support, not illumination.
- Finally have you followed the correct guidelines for small details like footnotes and the bibliography?
There you have it. If you follow these simple guidelines the quality of your history essay will improve immeasurably.
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