How to Write a Good History Essay
Essays are pieces of writing aimed to respond to a certain question, issue, or subject matter. Many professors and teachers ask students to write history essays because it’s an effective way to evaluate the students’ knowledge. Writing a history essay is a complex task that requires a student to possess a number of important skills, including interpretation, research, historical understanding, planning, analysis, and, of course, writing. Before you start writing an essay, you should clearly understand the requirements, research the question, and find the necessary information so that you can back your claims with evidence. Writing a proper history essay may be a challenge even for the best students and experts from College-Writers.Com. However, you can train the necessary skills and improve your essay writing over time. Every time you write an essay, you get new experience and become a little more competent.
Study Your Topic
Obviously, you have to know what you’re writing about. Nevertheless, many students forget how important this step is. Even before you start planning the structure of your essay, you should research the question and formulate your own thoughts regarding it. Usually, essay questions are aimed to create a challenge for a student. Most often, students have to agree or disagree with a certain argument. Students may also be asked to explain the causes and effects of a certain effect. Your essay may also evaluate the significance of a certain event, person, or group of people. Read your question a few times and underline the most important words. Think of what will be the main topic of your essay and what aspects of the topic you would like to focus on.
Plan Your Essay
The whole writing process will be much easier if you plan everything in advance. Once you’ve got your essay question, prepare for research and start writing down your ideas and thoughts. What was your first response after you read the question? What additional aspects of the topic you would like to address in your essay? What sources can help you get the necessary information? You may find out that you’re not familiar with some important facts that would be useful when writing an essay. You may also suddenly get stuck, without understanding how to approach your topic at all. In this case, we suggest that you consult your professor or teacher. You may also talk to your friends who are familiar with your area of study. When you start researching the topic, your opinions may change, and you may find some new information that will give you a new perspective.
Once you’ve prepared the general plan and figured out what the purpose of your assignment is, start researching your topic and gather evidence. Before you get to the in-depth research, you can familiarize yourself with the topic by reading concise overviews from secondary sources. However, make sure you use only reliable sources. Sometimes you may find it helpful to refresh your memory before you decide to narrow down your research and focus on something specific. If you find any unfamiliar concepts or terms, make sure to fill all the gaps in your knowledge. We also recommend that you look for information in various sources so that your point wouldn’t be one-sided.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
A good essay must be based on a solid thesis statement (contention) — the main idea of your paper that both answers the essay question and expresses your point. You should build the whole essay around your contention, providing the necessary arguments and backing them with evidence. Don’t forget that your contention should be concise, summing up all the specific opinions and facts from your essay. Try to make your thesis statement convincing, confident, and authoritative. Your readers should see that you’re well-informed about the topic.
Plan the Structure
When you have a strong thesis statement, you can jot down the structure of your essay. You don’t have to make this plan too detailed, just formulate the most important points you’re going to focus on. Your essay should have three main sections: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The body section may consist of several paragraphs. There are many ways to organize your body paragraphs. For example, you can explain events chronologically, or you can also sort your paragraphs based on how relevant they are to the main topic. Signpost every paragraph in its first sentence. When the plan is ready, start writing the first draft of the essay.
Write the Introduction
Many people agree that the introduction is the most important section. The reason is that it’s the first thing your readers see so it has an impact on their opinion about your essay as a whole. The introduction should describe the question and provide your point in a concise form. In the introduction, you should also set the main direction for your argument. Make sure your introduction is catchy and confident. Don’t make it too long and get straight to the point. We also suggest that you provide your readers with the necessary context so that clearly understand the question and your arguments.
Write Complete, Well-Written Paragraphs
Many students fail to make every paragraph complete, properly developing their ideas. They often make their paragraphs too short, writing only a couple of sentences in each one. This is a big mistake, as each paragraph of your essay should be a mini-essay itself, containing 100 to 200 words. Every paragraph should focus on a particular issue or subtopic and explore it, being detailed and specific. At the beginning of a paragraph, write a signpost, which is also called a topic sentence. As we’ve already said, every paragraph should resemble the structure of the whole essay, so it should have its own introductory sentence, followed by a few sentences with evidence and analysis, and ending with a transition sentence that summarizes the whole paragraph and prepares your readers for the next one.
Write the Conclusion
This is the last paragraph of your essay, and it has two important functions. First, it must restate your thesis statement. In addition, it should be a logical ending of the essay. To make your conclusion effective, briefly describe the following events, providing a more broad context for the discussed topic. Your conclusion shouldn’t be as long as the body and it shouldn’t contain any new information. We also recommend that you rewrite your thesis statement because it shouldn’t sound exactly like your contention from the introduction.
Cite Your Sources and Write References
When it comes to history essays, proper citation is especially important. All your claims, ideas, and arguments should be supported by evidence, therefore, you may use many different sources. When you cite the used sources, you not only give credit to people who created the basis for your own work but also make your writing more trusted and authoritative. There are different citation formats so you should ask your professor about the required format.
Proofread and Edit
Before you submit your essay, we recommend that you edit and proofread it. The best way to create a good essay is to write it a few days before the deadline. Forget about your essay for a day or two, and then start editing and proofreading it. Start with fixing grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as incorrect dates, or irrelevant facts. After this, think of how you can improve the overall structure, tone, and clarity of your text. Make sure all the sections of your essay follow each other logically. Avoid too long sentences and check signposting to make sure your ideas are cohesive and clear. Detect any claims that may benefit from additional evidence.
- Write in the past tense only. Given that you’re writing a history essay, you should be especially careful when using different tenses. You write about events that happened in the past so you should use the past tense. However, you can use the present tense when citing modern historians (for example, “Addams writes…”).
- Be concise. Of course, the length of your sentences may vary, but you should try to make every sentence punchy and short. When your sentences are long, there is a chance that your readers may get confused. When proofreading, try to separate too long sentences into two shorter ones.
- Write in the third person. A history essay shouldn’t contain phrases like “I think..” The author of the essay (you) should be a well-informed and authoritative third party. Thus, use the third person only. Keep in mind that the essay is not about your personal opinions but about facts.
- Don’t use generalizations. Sometimes people tend to draw general conclusions from one or two examples, which is incorrect. When writing about history, generalizations often occur when students apply conclusions related to a certain group of people to a larger group of people. Keep in mind that human society has a complex structure so you cannot use phrases like “All Germans supported Hitler” or “All white Americans supported slavery.”
- Use the active voice. The active voice implies that the subject of a sentence performs the action. In contrast, the passive voice implies that the action “is done by the subject.” The passive voice not only negatively impacts the readability of your text but also makes your sentences long and wordy.