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5 Steps to Writing an Historical Essay

Let the figures speak for themselves

❶What would constitute a good history essay? In other words, aim to have a topic sentence introducing each paragraph, followed by the main portion of the paragraph where you explain yourself and draw on the relevant evidence.

A History Essay Should Answer the Question(s)

24 History essay topics we’ve covered recently


Once you have a plan, start drafting your essay. Write a compelling introduction. Many consider the introduction to be the most important part of an essay. The introduction is important for several reasons. It is where you begin to signpost the direction your essay will take. Aim for an introduction that is clear, confident and punchy. Get straight to the point — do not waste time with a rambling or storytelling introduction. Many history students fall into the trap of writing short paragraphs, sometimes containing as little as one or two sentences.

This sentence introduces the paragraph topic and briefly explains its significance to the question and your contention. Good paragraphs also contain thorough explanations, some analysis and evidence, perhaps a quotation or two. The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay. A good conclusion should do two things. You should always avoid introducing new information or evidence in a conclusion. A history essay is only likely to succeed if it is appropriately referenced.

Your essay should support its information, ideas and arguments with citations or references to reliable sources. Referencing not only acknowledges the work of others, it also gives authority to your writing and provides the teacher or assessor with an insight into your research.

More information on referencing a piece of history writing can be found here. Every essay should be proofread, edited and, if necessary, re-drafted before being submitted for assessment. Essays should ideally be completed a few days before their due date, then put aside for a day or two before proofreading. Look first for spelling and grammatical errors, typographical mistakes, incorrect dates or other errors of fact. Think then about how you can improve the clarity, tone and structure of your essay.

Does your essay follow a logical structure or sequence? Is the signposting in your essay clear and effective? Do you repeat yourself? Do paragraphs need to be expanded, fine-tuned or strengthened with more evidence?

When writing your introduction there are a few ideas you need to keep in mind: Some people may prefer to write their thesis first as we have done here, or some may choose to begin writing their introduction paragraph and then figure out the thesis as they get there. Neither way is wrong! The majority of your work will appear here, in the body of the essay. 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. All parts of the essay count, but the most vital one would be the first paragraph. Write to create the first impression — or depression — of an essay. Still, answering the question by stating relevant issues and timeframe is very important. Most of the time, an essay might have an impressive first paragraph that eventually gets muddled up in the middle.

One can prevent this from happening by dividing the question that needs an answer into small and manageable parts. This promotes coherence that can make the essay easy to read and understand. A good way to do this is to start the middle paragraph with a generalization that is linked to the question.


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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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