Each essay you complete helps you become more competent and confident. You may also find our page on writing for history to be useful. An essay question will set some kind of task or challenge. Or it might ask you to evaluate the relative significance of a person, group or event. You should begin by reading the essay question several times. Underline, highlight or annotate keywords or terms in the text of the question. Who or what does it want you to concentrate on?
Does it state or imply a particular timeframe? What problem or issue does it want you to address? Begin with a plan 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. Develop a contention 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: Q. Why did the Nazi Party win 37 per cent of the vote in July ? At some point in your research, you should begin thinking about the contention of your essay. I will go through all three, but do not worry. At this stage, for most students, these are an aspiration and not an achievement; but the aspiration is important as it shows you, first, how your degree course is different from A level and, secondly, what you will be expected to be able to do by the end of your university career.
To do well, you should make an effort to begin including each of these elements in your essays. Conceptualisation Many questions relate to key concepts in history. What do you mean by the French Revolution? Is it primarily the violent challenge to royal authority in , the creation of a new political order, a marked ideological discontinuity, the process of socio-economic change, or, if a combination of all of these, which takes precedence and requires most explanation?
What do you understand by causes? These issues need discussing explicitly, out-in-the-open. That is key to a good essay at university level. They should not be left unspoken and unaddressed; and your discussion of them should reflect your awareness that issues are involved in the analysis, and that you are capable of addressing them.
You also need to be aware that there will be different answers and this should guide your handling of the concepts. This leads into Methodology. Methodology In this section, you should explicitly address the issue of how scholars, including yourself, can handle the conceptual questions. This follows the previous point closely.
What sources should scholars use and how should they use them? Citing such works will undermine the credibility of your essay. Do not forget to make notes as you go. Making notes helps you to summarise arguments and ideas, to select points relevant to your essay, to clarify and adjust your understanding of the essay question and of the topic it bears upon. But your main priority should be to discover an argument. Drawing up a Plan Once you have come up with a working argument, you need to draw up a plan to guide the next stage of your research.
It should comprise a list of the points which each paragraph will attempt to demonstrate, and rough notes on supporting examples. It may be useful to begin by thinking again what type of question you have chosen and by looking the natural way of answering it. In order to draw up a plan you will need to evaluate its merits: What points will I need to make in order to sustain this argument?
Are there alternative points of view which will have to be considered and refuted in order to make this argument work? Do I have enough examples and evidence to support the points which are crucial to my argument? Do I need to know more about the examples I'm planning to use? Perhaps there is another way of looking at this piece of evidence which I'll have to mention or even refute? Directed Research Having decided on the line of argument you intend to use, and identified areas where you need more material, search the reading list and bibliographies of the texts you've been using for books and articles which will help you to solve these problems.
Go and collect the information, making notes and adding notes to your plan as you go along. Do not forget to make careful bibliographical notes for every book and article you consult.
You will need this information when it comes to footnoting your essay. Revising your Argument Inevitably, the previous stage will turn up things you hadn't thought of and books with better things to say about the topic. Do not panic. Ask yourself: can your argument be saved with a few adjustments? Does the argument need to be re-constructed from scratch? If so, how can I recycle the information I've already begun to collect? Much will depend upon how confident you now feel about your argument.
Follow your instincts: if the argument feels wrong, look for a better one. It is better to start again than to write an essay that lacks conviction. If complete reconstruction is unavoidable, go back to '5. Drawing up a Plan'. Writing the First Draft Having revised you argument and plan , it's time to write your essay.
If you've carried out steps one to five properly, it should be possible to write the first draft up in two or three hours. An introduction should show how you intend to answer the question, by 1 indicating the line of argument you intend to take, by 2 giving an overview of the organisation of what follows, and by 3 indicating the sort of material or evidence you will be using. It is an effective strategy, especially when writing a short essay, to begin with a bold, attention-grabbing, first sentence which shows the marker that you know what you are doing: that is, answer the question as briefly as possible with your first sentence.
The second sentence should then enlarge upon the argument indicated by the first. Intelligent use of paragraphing is crucial to the success of an essay. Often, it is best to organise the paragraphs so that each makes and defends a point or premise essential the argument of the essay. By 'premise' is meant a point which is part of and essential to the argument of the essay.
It must be entirely clear how your points fit into the argument: essays which meander around the topic leaving the marker to join the dots to comprise an answer are not acceptable, since they fail to demonstrate understanding. It is a good idea to use 'topic sentences' to signal the subject and make explicit the point of each paragraph. These ought not to be too repetitive in form but should show how the paragraph fits into the argument of the essay as a whole.
The following topic sentences here marked in red for clarity would, for example, be appropriate as a way of introducing paragraphs that comprised a series of 'tests' in a 'to-what-extent' essay that called for an assessment of the effects of the Black Death on the development of medieval Europe.
It is also possible to assess the extent of the catastrophe by looking at the level of demand for land in the major urban centres. In Genoa, for example, land prices fell sharply from a high in ofThe essay is used as a form of assessment in many academic disciplines, and is used in both coursework and exams. It is the most common focus for write consultations among students using Learning Development. These lists suggest questions to university of your writing when you are reviewing it. Why essays? To produce a high quality essay you need to demonstrate your ability: to how the precise task set by the title; to identify, appropriate material to read; to understand and evaluate that history to select the most relevant material to refer to in your essay; to construct an effective argument; and to good argumentative essay for esl a well-supported conclusion. The need to use such a wide range of academic skills is probably the main reason why the essay format is so popular with tutors essay an assignment.
Intelligent use of paragraphing is crucial to the success of an essay. Pay attention to the way it is worded and presented. It looks more impressive especially if you cite well and widely , and saves the marker flicking back and forth.
But nothing else really matters.
Each essay you complete helps you become more competent and confident. This is where going "above and beyond" comes in. What are my main points?