First, we should ask ourselves: what makes a good history essay? Probably no two people will agree completely, if for no other reason than that quality is in the eye of the reader – and reflects his or her intellectual home. The following, therefore, ignores philosophical issues and instead offers practical advice on writing an essay that gets top marks.
Writing an essay: a good structure
Whether you are writing an essay in history, politics, art, or German, an essay always follows a clear structure:
Introduction: in the introduction of your essay, you introduce the reader to the topic and the question.
Body: The body of the essay includes the main actions, interpretations, and explanations.
Conclusion: In the conclusion (conclusion), you briefly and concisely summarize the findings and express your own opinion.
Relevance of the essay
You should answer the question well in your essay, that is the most important thing. You can write brilliantly and cite a wealth of convincing evidence, but if your explanations do not fit the question, you might as well write down gibberish. In other words, you need to think very carefully about the question you are asked to answer. Be sure to avoid the mistakes of weaker students who answer a different question than the one the examiner asked. Take your time, look carefully at the wording of the question, and make sure you understand all the concepts thoroughly.
For example, if you are asked why Hitler came to power, you need to define what this process of coming to power consisted of.
Is there a specific event that marks his rise to power?
If his appointment as Reich Chancellor immediately comes to mind, think carefully and ask yourself what actual powers this position gave him.
Was the passage of the Enabling Act more important?
And when did the rise to power actually begin?
Do you need to mention Hitler’s birth and childhood or the hyperinflation of the early 1920s?
If you can determine which years and events are relevant and which are irrelevant, you’re off to a very good start. Then you can decide on the various factors that explain his rise.
Or, if you are asked to explain a particular person’s successes, be sure to avoid writing the first thing that comes to mind. Think about possible successes. In doing so, you will automatically be presented with the problem of defining “success.”
What does it really mean?
Is it the achievement of one’s goals?
Is it objective (a fact) or subjective (a matter of opinion)?
Do we need to consider short-term and long-term success?
If the person benefits from extraordinary happiness, is it still a success?
This exploration of the definition problem will help you create an annotated list of successes. You can then explain these successes, trace their origins, and determine exactly how and why they occurred. Is there a common key factor to the success? If so, this could be the central focus of your response.
Develop more thoughts
The key word in the above paragraphs is “think.” Thinking should be distinguished from remembering, daydreaming, and idle speculation. Thinking is rarely a pleasant endeavor, and most of us manage to avoid it most of the time. Unfortunately, there is no alternative if you want to get top marks. So think as carefully as you can about the meaning of the question, the issues raised, and how you can answer them. You need to think and think – and then you should think again and try to find gaps in your reasoning. At some point, you will almost certainly be confused. Don’t worry: confusion is often a necessary step in achieving clarity. If you are completely confused, take a break. When you return to the question, the problems may have resolved themselves. If not, give yourself more time. You may find that a good idea just pop into your consciousness at unexpected times.
You need to think for yourself and come up with a “good idea” to write a good history essay. You can, of course, follow the herd and repeat the interpretation in your textbook. But here’s where you run into problems. What makes your work different from everyone else’s? Apart from that, it is very unlikely that your school text has addressed the exact question you want to answer.
There are plenty of history experts who are ready to write a paper for you. And if you’re wondering where to find one, here’s a new article about unemployedprofessors.com.
The above advice is relevant to coursework essays. It is different for exams where time is limited. But even here, you should take time out to think. Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important. If you get into the habit of thinking about the most important topics in your course, rather than just absorbing what you’re told or what you read, you’ll probably already have a good sense of what topics are important to examiners.
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