Writing can be difficult. We all know the sensation of starring at a blank piece of paper, questioning what to do and the nagging doubt that if we begin writing, something will go wrong, and you won’t be able to complete your essay. You will be paralysed by the fear that, whatever you do, whatever you write it will be somehow wrong and you will fail your exam. This is a pressure particularly felt by History students. History is a rigorous and complex subject that needs focus and skill to ensure that you do it well at a high level. If you don’t properly understand what is needed of you in a well written History essay, then you will have problems ensuring that you get high grades. Therefore, you need to be sure of exactly what is required of you to ensure that your essay is of the highest possible standard. This article will break down for you exactly what you need to do to make your history essay as effective and interesting as it can possibly be. This article will answer your question as to how to write a history essay.
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The very first thing you must do with your History essay question and any university essay, is to examine the question. The question is your starting point as well as your ending point; to properly understand the question and integrate it into your essay will ensure that the reader understands that you can deal with the ideas raised by the question, provide answers to them and discuss interpretations of both the question and the topic in general that you may disagree with but must be able to grasp in order to properly address the problem that has been set for you. Let us take an example of a question that you may be given to write an essay in response to. A typical history degree will include topics from across history including Medieval Western History, which is a popular topic within History degrees. A question you could be possibly set is “What is the importance of the Black Death in changing the course of Medieval History (1066 – 1483)?” Once you have your question it is time to deconstruct it and see what the core of the question it. This will not only allow you to understand the question and therefore answer it, but it will also provide you with information that you can include in your main essay.
Now that you have analysed your question it is time to consider your plan. When planning your essay, it is important that you ensure that you make it as straight forward as possible. Your essay’s structure shouldn’t be complicated as this will only confuse you when writing it. It should be as simple as possible to ensure that you remember it and that you can adequately use it when you come to do your essay – the most important thing to remember is your content, so make sure your plan isn’t complicated.
Once you have written your plan, it is time to look at the areas that you need to focus on to write an excellent essay. In History, the use of conceptualisation is important as it allows the historian to properly assess what they are talking about and ensure that they don’t include information from other periods which may confuse the reader. Conceptualisation also allows for debate. As we discussed above when analysing the question itself, when thinking about your question and then incorporating it into your essay you must consider what the question means by the Medieval period. Because of our time we know what the questioner considers the period to be but given the Black Death encompassed all Europe, should it not mean that we consider not only how it impacted on English medieval society but also that of the great powers of France and Spain? This is an important area that you can use when discussing your question and ensuring that your argument has authority behind it. It allows your essay to not simply answer the question but to also explore the possibilities that are raised by the question.
The use of Methodology in History is another important element that should be included in your essay. Methodology examines the way that scholars, including yourself, attempt to prove certain points and what type of documentation they would use. For instance, if you were writing about the Black Death contemporary histories are a useful source, as is archaeological evidence found from plague pits, as is the evidence of church records. The list is endless, and it is an open casket which you can use to address whatever points you wish to about the methods used by historians to ascertain certain facts.
Using Historiography is as important as using Conceptualisation and Methodology. They allow the writer of the essay to debate what other Historians think and whether their interpretation of History – what even is History – is accurate or not. Don’t try to over use Historiography too much however; it is good to use theory as to the meaning of History are certain points in your essay, but your main job is to answer the question posed to you.
Once you have analysed your question, planned it, moved on to use Historiography, Conceptualisation and Methodology it is time to write your conclusion. Like your introduction, your conclusion should be strong and rational and ensure that it keep to the point of your essay by reinforcing your answer.
Hopefully, this piece will have helped you to understand how to write a history essay. However, if there is some part you don’t understand then perhaps we can help.
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