THB's 'How To Write a Killer History Essay' Watch

thehistorybore
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Note; this can apply to any humanities long essay!

People are always asking about how to write better history essays, and indeed, writing a good essay isn't easy. However, the structure ofthe essay (which is often overlooked) is perhaps the most important thing, along with having a good introduction and conclusion of course. So, I thought I'd explain my technique from start to finish. Therefore, welcome to THB's perfect essay structure and general outline!*

*I'll try and think of a more catchy description, I promise.

BEFORE YOU EVEN PLAN

Have a good, hard think about the question before you even start planning; how am I going to answer it? What would be the best structure? How amI going to set my criteria (I will explain this shortly)? What information/sources will I discuss?

PLAN

This will always be unique to your question, so this I cannot really advise on. I like to make a little table to show what points I'm goingto make about what. Perhaps there will be more tips on this in the future.

INTRODUCTION

To me, the most important part. The reader/marker will work whether the rest of the essay is going to be good or bad based solelyon the introduction. Get this right and the rest will follow.

First, it's important to address any ambiguity in the question; so if there are any key terms (such as authoritarianism, an example of a recentessay of mine) define them! In the case of my recent essay, I discussed whatwould be seen in an authoritarian style of government; and this made it moreclear as to whether certain periods of government were authoritarian or not.

Then, set your criteria. What I mean by this is to say how you're going to measure the facts in relation to the question. For example, inessays that ask 'how far was x successful', say what would have needed to happenfor it to be considered successful!

Then, introduce your argument. Like the amuse bouche at a good restaurant, the introduction should give a flavour of what is to come, without giving away all the secrets. The reader should have an idea of what's to follow, without you putting a load of facts in. Save your facts for the body.

THE BODY; PARAGRAPH STRUCTURING

This is where you get all of your information in. There's a bit of a nonsense habit among teachers of saying 'two or three paragraphs is enough.' The amount of paragraphs you have is totally irrelevant; for each individual point should have its own paragraph.

Each paragraph should be ordered logically and clearly; following the PEE structure (that is point, evidence, explain). It's very common and you've definitely heard of it before, but it's the best way to structure your paragraphs. Now lets talk about how you should select the information in your essays.

There's a tendency for history students to either a) tell a story without any actual point to further the argument you are making and b) cram as much information as possible in. This is how you avoid doing that;

a) It isn't necessary to tell a story; you can assume that your examiner has knowledge of the subject. Recounting a story won't get you marks so don't do it unless it furthers the point you are making in the paragraph.

b) You really don't need to shove in as much information as you can; history essays aren't, contrary to popular belief, about showing off how much you know. Instead, select information that is most relevant to the question and focus on developing your point. It'll get you further.

A good body will be balanced; consider the counterpoints to your argument; why might you be wrong? How could people disagree with you? A good history essay is never polemic.Now on to getting the historiography in. This point is much more relevant to A-Level/Degree level candidates of course, but it can never hurt. You should aim to get a good handful of opinions from historians in there, and not only the ones that agree with you. As we know, history is all about debate and you'll do better for showing that there are people that agree and disagree with you and each other. Your essay will naturally be better developed if you read more, so show off your reading in it!

A general point which I always have to remember is to be concise; no one likes to read waffle; it's irritating and will make the examiner less inclined to mark you well. Make your point clearly and directly, and don't waffle just to meet the word count etc. If you're not meeting the word count, you probably have left areas unexplored!

CONCLUDING

This is when you really wow your reader; where you consider all of the evidence from the body of your essay, and really nail your argument home. A good conclusion will mirror your introduction and be highly analytical. You should never bring new information into your conclusion.

It's important for conclusions to be thoughtful, so think long and hard about the points you are making before you write it! You should close with what I like to refer to as the 'salient point'; to get the higher marks your last sentence should make a point that is original and furthers academic debate on the topic. It's very hard to describe what this will be as it's highly specific to the subject, but usually it will be a conclusion that takes on both sides of the argument.

---------

That's about it really! If you have any specific questions, feel free to @ me and I'll do my best to answer them!
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thehistorybore
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usycool1 Can I leave this as sticky? I feel like people may find it useful.
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TheonlyMrsHolmes
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Thank you!
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TheOtherSide.
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Dunno if this can apply to GCSE students, but homeland.lsw, this might have been useful for you.
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You're it.
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bulgylau
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(Original post by TheOtherSide.)
Dunno if this can apply to GCSE students, but homeland.lsw, this might have been useful for you.
Spoiler:
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You're it.
Don't even tell me about it, last night was a nightmare...

thehistorybore
Thank you for this post!!!
I will definitely edit my history work using the points you gave as a guideline!
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TheOtherSide.
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(Original post by homeland.lsw)
Don't even tell me about it, last night was a nightmare...

thehistorybore
Thank you for this post!!!
I will definitely edit my history work using the points you gave as a guideline!
What happened?
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bulgylau
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(Original post by TheOtherSide.)
What happened?
I had almost finished...my computer crashed...lost the majority of my work :getmecoat:
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by TheonlyMrsHolmes)
Thank you!
(Original post by homeland.lsw)
Don't even tell me about it, last night was a nightmare...

thehistorybore
Thank you for this post!!!
I will definitely edit my history work using the points you gave as a guideline!
You're both welcome I just thought it might be a useful resource to have; it's what I have in my head when I write essays!

And homeland.lsw it definitely applies to GCSE 12 markers!
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bulgylau
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(Original post by thehistorybore)
You're both welcome I just thought it might be a useful resource to have; it's what I have in my head when I write essays!

And homeland.lsw it definitely applies to GCSE 12 markers!
My favourite! :woo:
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Thanks! I do have another question, but I don't want to muck up your thread...Is it ok if I ask you it on here?
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TheOtherSide.
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(Original post by homeland.lsw)
I had almost finished...my computer crashed...lost the majority of my work :getmecoat:
Woah...

I'm so sorry about what happened! :console:
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Were you able to finish it in the end?
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TheOtherSide.
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Oh, and thank you thehistorybore for this life-saving guide!
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by homeland.lsw)
My favourite! :woo:
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Thanks! I do have another question, but I don't want to muck up your thread...Is it ok if I ask you it on here?
Well I like them :P And of course, ask away! The thread is here for people to ask me any history related questions
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by TheOtherSide.)
Oh, and thank you thehistorybore for this life-saving guide!
You're welcome!
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bulgylau
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(Original post by thehistorybore)
Well I like them :P And of course, ask away! The thread is here for people to ask me any history related questions
How would you recommend actually revising for history?
I keep finding myself copying chunks of text from the textbook without it actually sinking in. :I
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by homeland.lsw)
How would you recommend actually revising for history?
I keep finding myself copying chunks of text from the textbook without it actually sinking in. :I
Yeah that never really works; copying things just makes the information go through your eye and out through your pen.

Personally, I'm a note taker; I treat all the passages in a book like a comprehension task. Read it through, and try and condense a passage into a handful of bullet points. It'll help you engage with the text more and help you remember it!

What I did for my A-Level revision was along these lines, except I kept condensing things down. So, I first wrote what I liked to refer to as my 'book'; notes on the everything I needed to know. Then I condensed that down to even fewer notes, and repeat until you're left with two or three pages of notes that cover your whole course. It takes a while, but it's worth it; you're left with a couple of pages to read on the morning of your exam that cover your whole course. Call it revisionception!
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thehistorybore
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Airmed do you have anything to add on to this?
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bulgylau
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(Original post by thehistorybore)
Yeah that never really works; copying things just makes the information go through your eye and out through your pen.

Personally, I'm a note taker; I treat all the passages in a book like a comprehension task. Read it through, and try and condense a passage into a handful of bullet points. It'll help you engage with the text more and help you remember it!

What I did for my A-Level revision was along these lines, except I kept condensing things down. So, I first wrote what I liked to refer to as my 'book'; notes on the everything I needed to know. Then I condensed that down to even fewer notes, and repeat until you're left with two or three pages of notes that cover your whole course. It takes a while, but it's worth it; you're left with a couple of pages to read on the morning of your exam that cover your whole course. Call it revisionception!
Thank you...I'll try that tonight
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by homeland.lsw)
Thank you...I'll try that tonight
It'll take you more than an evening mate! Stick with it but it should work
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(Original post by thehistorybore)
Airmed do you have anything to add on to this?
I would say that if you struggle writing introductions first, leave it until last. By that time you have a great essay and you will know what your argument was so you can clearly list it out in the introduction. That's what I do and it really helps.
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username1635677
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For my introductions I do DOA (dead on arrival) structure:
DEFINE the key terms in the question
OUTLINE your argument
ANSWER the question and give your own interpretation
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