Writing a good undergraduate history essay

The former editor of History Review Robert Pearce gives his personal view.
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Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:. The discount for Federal employees and their spouses and eligible dependents will be applied to out-of-state tuition and specialty graduate programs. It does not apply to doctoral programs. This discount cannot be combined with the Completion Scholarship for Maryland community college students or the Pennsylvania Completion Scholarship.


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Skip to Main Content. Essay Conclusions Learn about the elements of a successful essay conclusion. A good conclusion should do a few things: Restate your thesis Synthesize or summarize your major points Make the context of your argument clear Restating Your Thesis You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement.

Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis: Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. Read the abstract first. If it does, read it. Check the bibliography as above. For the sake of all that is holy, read critically.

How To Write a Good History Essay | History Today

This is absolutely essential. Think about:. The central claim the author is making. Usually there is only one, perhaps two.

Summarise it in one sentence if you can. What is the frame of their argument? When in history is it set? Who are the key actors? Are they responding to another author? Try to position their argument in context. This allows you to:. Critically assess the claims made. Generate a list of three reasons for each line of attack you want to take. Scrap the weakest two. Are there other authors who corroborate their claims?

Are there logical reasons to prefer their argument? Make sure you take notes on everything you read. Put page numbers in those notes.

Writing Historical Essays: A Guide for Undergraduates

In fact, write down a few potentially useful and ideally flexible quotes verbatim. This is one of them. Summary: identify key terms in the question, define those terms, question the question what are the assumptions behind it? Some questions are straightforward. They might ask you to compare and contrast two different ideas, or say which of two theories is the more accurate. Identify the key terms in the question. How are you going to define and operationalise those terms in your essay? Question the question. Every term in a question is ambiguous.

Every question has hidden assumptions behind it.

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies essay writing guide

You can question these assumptions. Sometimes you might think that the assumptions are fundamentally mistaken, or disguise a more important question. Have opinions. How are you going to relate your argument to the existing literature? Who are the key authors you plan to draw on? Make sure you know their arguments reasonably well and have armed yourself with flexible quotes from their work. Figure out if there are arguments which are unresolved and see if you can make a contribution towards resolving them.


Ninety nine percent of the structure of your essay is exactly the same as you learned in secondary school. Start your intro with the central claim of your essay. Next, think about what you need to prove in order to make that claim. What might be the immediate negative reaction of someone reading your central claim? How can you defend yourself against that response? Ideally you want to be able to split your burdens of proof the things you need to prove in order for your argument to be true into a few different points. These will be your paragraphs. Next, I will go on to show that y.

Finally, drawing on Bloggs I will argue that z. Save the twists and turns. When thinking about your argument in the introduction, consider the tips above regarding questioning the question and defining terms. Point: what are you claiming? This is also known as the topic sentence. At the end of the first sentence of each paragraph, I should know what to expect from that paragraph.

Evidence: who has said this thing before you said it? Are there statistics which back up your argument? If so, where are they from?

One final thing: in most essays, there should be a development of thought from one paragraph to the next. In some instances your arguments may genuinely be discrete units, but in most instances they should flow in some way. Try and play around with your structure such that your body paragraphs are in the order that best allows the essay to feel fluent and smooth.