5 Tips For History Essays

published by Kevin Zahner

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5 Tips For Writing History Essays
Writing a history essay doesn't have to be so daunting. Try these critical steps, and the results will look more like historical thinking than a descriptive report.
1. Understand the Problem
2. Find and Interpret Sources
3. List, Group, & Label Evidence
4. Write a Response Statement (thesis)
5. Develop an Essay (body paragraphs)
List your evidence and group it according to similarities. Use themes to label the groups, but be sure to choose specific themes like "new labor systems" instead of something too broad like "economics."
As you search, you'll need to make quick decisions about which sources are worth reading. Think about the origin and the purpose of the source as they relate to the value and limitation. In other words, can you trust it? And, how does it help support the main point?
We naturally ask questions as we attempt to understand a problem. Write every question that comes to mind. Use the "W" questions to guide your inquiry. The questions you write will help you make choices in the next step.
This is your argument. Make sure the reader is not left with questions about the position you are taking to respond to the problem. A strong thesis will help the reader understand the time period and themes you are using to organize the evidence.
A thesis is like a moving truck. It carries your evidence organized into boxes with themes as labels. Each paragraph unpacks a box from the truck - the thesis.
This is where you get to tell the story. Include two to four pieces of evidence to support the main point each paragraph develops. The main points are based on the thesis statement and the themes that you used to organize your evidence. It's time to unpack your ideas.  
It's a blank canvas
Start from scratch!