Ways to begin a history essay

Choosing a Topic

Though the essay may seem intimidating to completely finish, practice will make essay writing seem easier, and by following these tips you can ensure the body of your essay impresses your reader. It helps to consider each individual paragraph as an essay within itself. At the beginning of each new paragraph you should have a topic sentence.

The topic sentence explains what the paragraph is about and how it relates to your thesis statement. In this way the topic sentence acts like the introduction to the paragraph. Next you must write the body of the paragraph itself — the facts and evidence which support the topic sentence.

5 Steps to Writing an Historical Essay

Finally, you need a conclusion to the paragraph which explains how what you just wrote about related to the main thesis. Approaching each body paragraph as its own mini essay makes writing the whole paper seem much less intimidating. Another great way to make essay writing easier is to create an outline. Making a through outline will ensure that you always know where you are going. Before you begin writing an essay you should always write an outline. Be as through as possible. You know that you will need to create a thesis statement which contains your challengeable argument, so start there.

Write down your thesis first on a blank piece of paper. Got it?

Now, think about how you will prove your thesis. What are the sub-arguments? Suppose we take our thesis from earlier about Kepler. What are the sub-arguments here? Well fortunately, because we made our thesis very clear the sub-arguments are easy to find. They are the bolded portions below:. Note : The structure we are employing here is called the 5 paragraph essay. When you begin writing essays it is a good idea to master this structure first, and then, once you feel comfortable, you can branch out into different forms. In this structure the first paragraph provides background, the second presents your argument, and the third presents a counter argument which you proceed to rebut.

How To Start A History Essay: 4 Interesting Suggestions

Now that we know what each body paragraph is about, it is time to fill out what information they will contain. Consider what facts can be used to prove the argument of each paragraph. What sources do you have which might justify your claims? Try your best to categorize your knowledge so that it fits into one of the three groups. Once you know what you want to talk about in each paragraph, try to order it either chronologically or thematically. This will help to give your essay a logical flow. The final part of your essay is the conclusion. In a history paper, this type of writing involves referring to primary and secondary sources discussed in Skills Module 2.

Module 4 will explain how to use evidence in your essays. The last sentence of a paragraph might offer a conclusion or summary, or it may include a phrase that links to the idea of the next paragraph. Such links help your reader to follow the parts of your essay's argument. The two most common ways to organize a history paper are chronologically and topically. Another common way would be geographically, such as the thesis about medieval monarchies described earlier. The essay would describe the degree of centralization of the three kingdoms, and explain the factors of conquest and dynastic success for each.

The same thesis could be argued topically, by focusing on factors that determined the power of kings: size of a kingdom, the need for a strong leader, and royal power over the Church. A chronological organization would probably not be as useful for that thesis because it compares countries during the same time period.

Chronological organization works very well when we compare different periods, or when we are explaining change over time. If you find that your essay is simply narrating a story rather than arguing an explanation, try to select factors that will explain what you are describing. Sometimes it is helpful to make an analytical table organized chronologically, geographically, or topically in order to find new ways to organize the information that you find while researching.

This can help you to develop a better thesis and to experiment with different ways of organizing your paper. When you plan your essay and compose the body, it is helpful to work from an outline. The outline will likely change as you research, think, and write, but it will help you to remain focused. Outlines also help you to develop a stronger thesis. An essay that is poorly organized will be difficult for a reader to follow. A poorly planned essay may also be difficult for a student to research or write.

While the structure of your essay is important, a good essay must also consist of clearly written sentences. Clear writing is inseparable from clear thinking. A history course is not a writing course or an English grammar course, but it will require you to think and write clearly, and provide rational arguments that are clearly stated and easily understood.

As you work, keep a writing guide handy as a reference for the rules of English and for tips on style: you find some recommendations at the end of the module. When proofreading your essays, ensure that your writing contain the features and elements described in this module and that it conforms to the standards for organizing history essays. Check to see that your sentences and paragraphs are carefully composed and organized to support your clearly articulated thesis.

After the Opening Line

If they do not, revise your essay before submitting it. After the body of the essay, the final section draws together the conclusion. In a shorter term paper, this will consist of one or two paragraphs. In longer essays the conclusion may be a page or more in length. The conclusion begins by briefly recalling the initial question or problem raised in the introduction. It will then summarize the parts of the essay and remind the reader how evidence supports the thesis of the essay.

Poke holes

Be concise. If any of these elements are missing, the conclusion will be weak and the essay may not convince the reader. At this stage, avoid introducing any new points or evidence in your conclusion—they belong in the body. Sometimes, expert authors of scholarly essays will state the broader implications of the essay's conclusion or make suggestions for further research.

This is not usually one of the goals of an undergraduate term paper. Although the study of the past has implications for how we understand the present, history students should probably avoid moralizing. The scholarly articles and chapters in this course offer some examples of long essays. Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. The Modern Researcher. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, This book is a manual on thinking and writing in the humanities.

Benjamin, Jules R. But there are problems here.

Department of History | School of Arts and Sciences - Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

First, what is to distinguish your work from that of everybody else? The advice above is relevant to coursework essays. But even here, you should take time out to do some thinking.

3 Steps to a Better History Essay

Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important. Every part of an essay is important, but the first paragraph is vital. This is the first chance you have to impress — or depress — an examiner, and first impressions are often decisive. You might therefore try to write an eye-catching first sentence. De Mille. More important is that you demonstrate your understanding of the question set. Here you give your carefully thought out definitions of the key terms, and here you establish the relevant time-frame and issues — in other words, the parameters of the question.

Also, you divide the overall question into more manageable sub-divisions, or smaller questions, on each of which you will subsequently write a paragraph. You formulate an argument, or perhaps voice alternative lines of argument, that you will substantiate later in the essay. Hence the first paragraph — or perhaps you might spread this opening section over two paragraphs — is the key to a good essay.


  1. Quick Links!
  2. How to Start a History Essay Without Boring Your Reader to Death;
  3. personal essay on eavan boland;
  4. argument and persuasion essay on abortion;
  5. help me to write an essay.
  6. literature review on poor academic performance;

On reading a good first paragraph, examiners will be profoundly reassured that its author is on the right lines, being relevant, analytical and rigorous. They will probably breathe a sign of relief that here is one student at least who is avoiding the two common pitfalls. The first is to ignore the question altogether. The second is to write a narrative of events — often beginning with the birth of an individual — with a half-hearted attempt at answering the question in the final paragraph.