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5 Steps to Writing an Historical Essay

A History Essay Should Answer the Question(s)

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Every essay should begin with a written plan. Prepare for research by brainstorming and jotting down your thoughts and ideas. What are your initial responses or thoughts about the question?

What topics, events, people or issues are connected with the question? Do any additional questions or issues flow from the question? What topics or events do you need to learn more about? What historians or sources might be useful? Consult your teacher, a capable classmate or someone you trust. Bear in mind too that once you start researching, your plan may change as you locate new information.

Most will start by reading an overview of the topic or issue, usually in some reliable secondary sources. This will refresh or build your existing understanding of the topic and provide a basis for further questions or investigation.

Your research should take shape from here, guided by the essay question and your own planning. Identify terms or concepts you do not know and find out what they mean. Be creative with your research , looking in a variety of places. If you have difficulty locating information, seek advice from your teacher or someone you trust.

All good history essays have a clear and strong contention. A contention is the main idea or argument of your essay. It serves both as an answer to the question and the focal point of your writing. Ideally, you should be able to express your contention as a single sentence. For example, the following contention might form the basis of an essay question on the rise of the Nazis:.

At some point in your research, you should begin thinking about a contention for your essay. Remember, you should be able to express it briefly as if addressing the essay question in a single sentence, or summing up in a debate.

It should sound like the voice of someone well informed about the subject and confident about their answer.

Once most of your research is complete and you have a strong contention, start jotting down a possible essay structure. This need not be complicated, a few lines or dot points is ample.

This will usually be a minimum of 3 paragraphs more or less depending on how many points included in you thesis. Between each major idea you need to use creatively phrased transition statements that allow the flow of the essay to not be disrupted. The key to a good body portion of your essay is to remember to only discuss 1 major idea per paragraph. Make districtions between you major ideas in order to help support your thesis. The conclusion is the easiest part of your essay.

Here you should wrap up you main ideas that you have thoroughly discussed and argued throughout your body paragraphs. Make sure not to introduce any new points here. Here is a visual representation of what your essay should look like: Several pointers for writing your essay: How did the Cold War affect American's freedom of speech, political activity, and dissent?

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You need to think for yourself and come up with a ‘bright idea’ to write a good history essay. You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook. But there are problems here.

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An essay is a piece of sustained writing in response to a question, topic or issue. Essays are commonly used for assessing and evaluating student progress in history. History essays test a range of skills including historical understanding, interpretation and analysis, planning, research and writing.

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Writing an essay for history is not necessarily the same as it may be for an English class. Through the next few pages we will cover a basic overview of the process while also pointing out some "do's and don'ts" of writing an historical essay. A Good History Essay. What would constitute a good history essay? Reasons will vary, but it will all boil down to the intellectual level of the reader. A History Essay Should Answer the Question(s) In this type of essay, relevance holds the key, which means that the question regarding the issue has to be answered.

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