Skip Nav

5 Steps to Writing an Historical Essay

What is a history essay?

❶In the conclusion, you have to sum up everything that was mentioned in the introduction and the body. HE Hana Elshimy Jun 3,

Hints on how to start a history paper




History essays test a range of skills including historical understanding, interpretation and analysis, planning, research and writing. Writing a good history essay should be rigorous and challenging, even for stronger students. As with other skills, essay writing develops and improves over time. Each essay you complete helps you become more competent and confident. You may also find our page on writing for history to be useful.

An essay question will set some kind of task or challenge. Or it might ask you to evaluate the relative significance of a person, group or event. You should begin by reading the essay question several times. Underline, highlight or annotate keywords or terms in the text of the question.

Who or what does it want you to concentrate on? Does it state or imply a particular timeframe? What problem or issue does it want you to address? Every essay should begin with a written plan. Prepare for research by brainstorming and jotting down your thoughts and ideas. What are your initial responses or thoughts about the question? What topics, events, people or issues are connected with the question? Do any additional questions or issues flow from the question?

What topics or events do you need to learn more about? What historians or sources might be useful? Consult your teacher, a capable classmate or someone you trust. Bear in mind too that once you start researching, your plan may change as you locate new information. Most will start by reading an overview of the topic or issue, usually in some reliable secondary sources. This will refresh or build your existing understanding of the topic and provide a basis for further questions or investigation.

Your research should take shape from here, guided by the essay question and your own planning. Identify terms or concepts you do not know and find out what they mean. In your introduction you should give a clear outline of how you are going to answer the question, and what your argument is. You should give a brief overview of your main points and the type of evidence that you will use to support them.

Try to explicitly answer the question in one sentence, and then expand on how you are going to argue your case. Here you will explain the particular approach you have taken to the essay. For example, if you are using case studies you should explain this and give a brief overview of which case studies you will be using and why. Provide some brief context for your work. Depending on the type of essay you are writing, it will be necessary to provide a brief overview of the main historiographical debates for your topic.

It is important to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of what other historians have written about your topic, and be able to situate your own argument within this broader context.

Have a clear structure. When you come to write the body of the essay it is important that you have a clear structure to your argument and to your prose.

If your essay drifts, loses focus, or becomes a narrative of events then you will find your grade dropping. Your introduction can help guide you if you have given a clear indication of the structure of your essay. The body of the essay is where your argument is really made and where you will be using evidence directly.

Think carefully about how you construct your paragraphs, and think of each paragraph as one micro-sized version of the essay structure. In other words, aim to have a topic sentence introducing each paragraph, followed by the main portion of the paragraph where you explain yourself and draw on the relevant evidence. When you are organising your essay think of each paragraph as addressing one element of the essay question. Keeping a close focus like this will also help you avoid drifting away from the topic of the essay and will encourage you to write in precise and concise prose.

Don't forget to write in the past tense when referring to something that has already happened. Use source material as evidence to back up your thesis. Your evidence will be the heart of your history essay. Introduce your different pieces of evidence by directly quoting them, or by summarising them. Then, analyze them in a way that ties back to and supports your thesis statement. Use only the quotes that best illustrate your point.

If you are referring to a secondary source, you can usually summarise in your own words rather than quoting directly.

Be sure to fully cite anything you refer to, including if you do not quote it directly. Make your essay flow. The fluency of your text is an important element in the writing a good history essay that can often be overlooked.

Think carefully about how you transition from one paragraph to the next and try to link your points together, building your argument as you go. It is easy to end up with an essay that reads as a more or less disconnected series of points, rather than a fully developed and connected argument. Think about the first and last sentence in every paragraph and how they connect to the previous and next paragraph.

Try to avoid beginning paragraphs with simple phrases that make your essay appear more like a list. For example, limit your use of words like: Give an indication of where your essay is going and how you are building on what you have already said.

A good conclusion should precisely and succinctly summarise your argument and key points. You need to make sure your conclusion reflects the content of your essay, and refers back to the outline you provided in the introduction. If you read your conclusion and it doesn't directly answer the essay question you need to think again.

Briefly outline the implications of your argument and it's significance in relation to the historiography, but avoid grand sweeping statements. Once you have written up essay, it is important that you set aside sometime to proofread it thoroughly and work on any revisions. Proofreading is not just about picking out typos and grammar mistakes, but can be a good opportunity to evaluate your work more closely, both for style and content. As you read through, think about the language you use as well as your sentence construction.

Try to cut down any overly long sentences or run-on sentences. Instead, try to write clear and accurate prose and avoid unnecessary words. Concentrate on developing a clear, simple and highly readable prose style first before you think about developing your writing further.

One thing to look out for when you read through your history essay is whether or not you have allowed any overly descriptive passages to creep in. Remember a history essay is an analysis and not just a narrative of events. History students can find themselves re-telling a series of events rather than analysing them and the historiographical debates about them.

When you read through your essay look at each paragraph and ask yourself, "what point this paragraph is making". You might have produced a nice piece of narrative writing, but if you are not directly answering the question it is not going to help your grade.

Check your references and bibliography. Your essay is not complete until you have included and checked all your references together with your bibliography. There are many different style conventions for the formatting of these, so be sure to check with your teacher what style you should be using if you don't already know.

Although it might seem like an annoying task, if you don't use the right style it suggests laziness to the person marking your essay. A bibliography will typically have primary sources first, followed by secondary sources.

If you forgot to include a reference you risk being reported for plagiarism. How can you write an introduction to a historical essay in only words? Just make sure you have a clear thesis that states what your paper is about it. Make sure not to introduce any new points here. Here is a visual representation of what your essay should look like: Several pointers for writing your essay: Here are a few phrases that may help you out as you begin to write: What do you do now???

Follow these 5 steps and you'll be sure to impress your history teacher with your historical writing skills! Create an Introduction Paragraph Creating an introduction paragraph becomes more easy once the thesis has been determined. Open with a broad statement Each sentence should get a little more specific and detailed, but not actually discussing the content of the essay.

The introduction paragraph should conclude with the thesis you have already constructed.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

There are an infinite number of ways to write an essay because any form of writing is a means of self-expression. Your essay will be unique because you are unique: it’s up to you to ensure that it’s uniquely good, not uniquely mediocre.

Privacy FAQs

An essay is a piece of sustained writing in response to a question, topic or issue. Essays are commonly used for assessing and evaluating student progress in history. History essays test a range of skills including historical understanding, interpretation and analysis, planning, research and writing.

About Our Ads

Writing a historiography essay is key when it comes to analysis of past events and occurrence. Unlike a historical paper, a historiography paper focuses on how other scholars viewed history and interpreted it, so the main task here would be to analyze different works recorded at different times of history then provide critique on the same. The first thing you should do when writing a history essay is to study the question very attentively and get its meaning. It may seem too obvious, but still, most history essays are off the point.

Cookie Info

The purpose of this guide is to walk a high school student through an easy step-by-step process of writing an historical essay. Writing an essay for history is not .