How to write an essay on history

The essay form in the classical perception gives space to subjectivity, formal and artistic uncertainty, paradox, and imagery. But the listed characteristics of the history essay either do not correspond to the proposed parameters or poorly reach them.

A history essay demonstrates associative links between historical concepts, facts, and phenomena, which form a strictly formalized presentation of thoughts with a sufficient basis of argumentation. It requires exceptional rigor and logic, accuracy of expression, balance, objectivity, and carefulness in selecting material and its argumentation. 

At the same time, the history essay should clearly state the work’s main idea. The result should be manageable with trivial examples and evidence, freedom of creative imagination, and extensive reasoning. It should not acquire a vividly emotional form. If there is an original position on the expressed problem, it should be illustrated with convincing evidence. It is desirable that the essay traced the knowledge of historiography and used quotations (most clearly show the statement and opinion).

Generally, writing on history is characterized by a sufficient share of conservatism, comparable to a scientific article that analyzes some critical problem.

Thus, we can distinguish the main features of the history essay:

  • The presence of a specific topic;
  • Small volume;
  • Fluency in the topic and its comprehension (understanding);
  • Possession of the algorithm for disclosing the topic;
  • Depth of disclosure of the problem at the theoretical level;
  • The logic of reasoning;
  • Integrity (internal semantic unity);
  • Consistency of crucial theses and statements, consistency of judgments;
  • Argumentation of the main provisions put forward, a sufficient number of the most striking and essential examples and evidence;
  • Analysis (decomposition of the problem into its components) of information;
  • To a lesser extent – free composition and openness (no claim to full, exhaustive disclosure of the topic);
  • Use of various forms and methods by which the content of the work is filled (integrative);
  • Independence;
  • You have your view on the subject of reasoning.

It is possible to reason on a given topic only by deeply understanding the subject’s essence and, without making logical mistakes, following the algorithm of essay writing and evaluation criteria.

The main criterion for evaluating the essay is the degree of disclosure of the content: based on knowledge and understanding of the topic, its comprehensive, logical, reasoned exposure should be carried out. Having identified clear criteria for evaluating essays, it is possible to assess students’ work according to the degree of their implementation.

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the theoretical material The student defines the phenomena, events, facts, and concepts under consideration clearly and thoroughly, giving relevant examples; all the sensations, events, points, and ideas raised are directly related to the studied topic.
  2. Analysis, the student skillfully uses the techniques of comparison and generalization to analyze the relationship of events and phenomena, applying the categories of research, accompanied by a reasonable interpretation of the examples given.
    1. Use of information space
    2. The pupil uses different sources of information. Other points of view are presented, and their assessment is expressed. Data are arranged in a form that is easy to read and understand
    3. Making judgments
    4. The work demonstrates clarity and consistency in reasoning. Arguments accompany the theses put forward.
    5. Presentation
    6. The form of presentation is given secondary importance in the assessment, but the grade may be reduced with careless design and many grammatical and stylistic errors that complicate understanding.

The structure of the essay, like any work, should be built according to the traditional plan: 

1) introduction, 

2) central part, 

3) conclusion.

  1. In the introduction, you can think of introductory phrases related to the main fundamental phenomena, events, and facts, the analysis of which is necessary for the work. You can refer to personal experience or presentation, draw an analogy with similar phenomena in history, raise problems or questions, write a quote, proverb, or winged expression; start from the most important generalization that leads to the main idea of the essay. 

At this stage, it is essential to show that you understand the problem in front of you, formulate it in your own words, to ask questions that need to be answered in the course of work. You can determine the relevance and importance of the essay topic.

  1. The content of the majority should include two components (the problem is analyzed from at least two sides), and each paragraph containing an analysis of one of any provisions built on the model: statement-argument-explanation (or strengthening the statement). First of all, it is necessary to think over the semantic pieces of the central part (structure), then the thesis (view of the position), then the arguments (evidence, examples). Attention to logic, semantic unity, accuracy, brevity, evidence, and expressiveness. It is necessary to use evidence of your position – historical examples of facts, statistics, statements of famous personalities, and other confirmations that reveal the essay’s main idea. At this stage of work, you first need to think through the main statements, collect the most important arguments and analyze them. It is better if a plan is drawn up and examples and evidence are selected for each point.

The proof is a set of logical methods of substantiating the truth of a judgment with the help of proper and related decisions, but different from it: argumentation or proof should be based on the data of science and practice. Beliefs can be found in prejudice, ignorance of people, and the appearance of evidence (which should not be typical for history essays). Proof or argumentation is a reasoning that uses facts, accurate judgments, and scientific data and convinces us of the truth of what is being discussed. Any proof has a structure that includes: a thesis, arguments, conclusion, or value judgments. The idea is a judgment that needs to be proved. Arguments are categories used to establish the truth (facts, statistics, quotations, laws of science, etc.). The conclusion is an opinion based on the analysis of facts.

.Value judgments are opinions based on beliefs or attitudes. The thesis and argument can be connected by methods of induction (from the particular to the general), deduction (from the general to the specific), and analogy (comparison).

Depending on the problem (question), the analysis can be carried out based on the following categories: cause-effect, general-particular, form-content, part-whole, stability – variability.

The structure of the essay (by paragraphs) can be represented as a logical chain: statement – explanation – example + statement – explanation – example = generalization – statement – conclusion or explanation – example – statement + explanation – example – statement = generalization – conclusion. Or statement – example – explanation – conclusion + statement – example – explanation – conclusion = general conclusion. The components within the semantic block and the blocks themselves may vary.

In constructing an essay, it is essential to know that one paragraph (semantic block) can have only one statement and one or more proofs.

The main body should have at least two parts, each ending with a current conclusion. In one of the parts, usually the first, the child states that the phenomenon (event, personality …) has a positive characteristic. In the other part of the work, it is necessary to dwell on the problems associated with this phenomenon (event, personality …).

3. The conclusion should summarize or briefly explain the content of the majority again; focus on the significant decision, emphasize the meaning and significance of what has been written, express your attitude, and return to the topic of the essay with a summary of what has been reported. But most importantly, it is necessary to answer the work’s central question. At the same time, all the most important ideas are briefly summarized, the general result of the reasoning is summed up, and, possibly, the direction of further reason on this topic is proposed. At the same time, it is necessary to avoid repetition and paraphrasing of thoughts already given in the central part of the essay. The conclusion should be brief and presented as the main conclusion or value judgment that may leave room for further review.