How to Write a History Essay: Format & Structure of a History Paper

How to write history essay: An Essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform, persuade or describe the events written down. An Essay can be descriptive, argumentative, narrative, and expository. History is the study of past events in human affairs or a whole chain of events connected with a person or thing. Writing a history essay is a unque challenge because it combines many forms of essay in itself.

The question could ask you to narrate a series of events as it happened, or to state in your opinion which factors led to what conclusion. Thus writing a history essay has posed a challenge to students because of the confusion it can sometimes pose. However this article aims to rectify that. Here are the things you should know and keep in mind when writing a History essay.

structure of a history essay
structure of a history essay

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1. Evaluate the Question: In a history essay like most other essays it is the question that determines what direction you ought to go. The question determines what you answer. Most students start narrating events from the beginning without first checking to see if that is even required of them in the question. As a result it is easy to veer off point without even knowing.

How to write history paper
How to write history paper

For example, if a question asks for the factors that led to the independence of Nigeria, writing stories about the birth of Ahmadu Bello might not be relevant to the question. Ask yourself, if someone read my essay with that question in mind does it answer his question? If yes then you are on the right path if negative then no matter how many points you marshal you are on a wild goose chase.

Take your time and study the question to be sure that you have totally understood what it entails before you attempt to answer it.

2. Have a plan: Before you start researching have a clear plan. Jot down what it is you are looking for. The Questions usually request a particular info in mind. So have a plan. What events are connected with the question, does the question have a sub text in mind?

how to write a history essay
how to write a history essay

Are there other questions that flow from it? What topic does the question border on. All this will help you stay focused on the task at hand, and be precise in your research.

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3. Research: Merriam-Webster dictionary defines research as careful or dilligent search. Thus to research is to search dilligently and delibrately. American Rocket physicist and engineer said “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” A research is a voyage of discovery of discovery every dilligent student is expected to go on when confronted with a problem or question he does not know.

How to write history essay
How to write history essay

Research is important in every essay and even more when it is about History. History is deals with events and issues that happened in the past therefore the only way to get the information about such events is to research it. Remember that it must be in connection with your question. Zora Neale Hurston said “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”.

For research to be beneficial there must be purpose. Start with an overview of the topic and use as a search word. Look in a variety of places and read difference accounts of historians. This is important because accounts may vary and you will need not only the most impactful but the accurate and unbiased view. Be creative sometimes what you need might be in the most unexpected places.

4. Structure: When you are done with your research and gotten all the information you deem useful. It is now time to plan your structure. Your essay should be anchored chronologically. Be careful not to jump around confusingly. When you write your points be as clear and concise as possible.

Try as much as possible to keep a point to a paragraph. Avoid being vague as it might lead your lecturer to come to the conclusion that you did not read the subject matter adequately. Write out on a sheet of paper how you want your essay to be from start to finish, where each points will be and how many paragraphs you are writing.

Also avoid writing in the passive form. When events happen state who and what made such events. And it goes without saying that when writing about events that occured in history or should be written in past tense.

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5. Conclusion: A strong conclusion is important in an essay. It should reiterate the contention of your essay and all of the points you’ve been trying to make and end your essay in a polished manner without sounding awkward and abrupt.

Avoid introducing new points in your conclusions as that would mean that you have to start explaining those new points in which case its no longer a conclusion or risk leaving it as a cliffhanger and leaving the reader more confused.

A conclusion is to end the paper. To signal that you have written all you deem important on the subject. And lastly avoid summarizing the contents of your essay in the conclusion. Not only is it repititive, it is awkward and in bad taste.

6. Cite your Reference and Sources: A good essay is only as good as your source. Especially History essays. Get as many sources as possible that are related to the subject matter. This is because History has diffirent accounts from diffirent viewers based on many variables.

In order to give an unbiased view of the events that happened you should have at least two primary sources and one secondary source. A primary source is an eye witness through whose eye we view the events that happened. A secondary sources is someone who might nit have been there but due to some privilege was aware of the information or event that occupied. The reason for multiple sources is that even in history the human factor must be accounted for.

For example in writing about World War 1 if you say the” germans started the war because they were too aggressive” and your source is Winston Churchill. The fact that he was on the opposing side and most likely to have blamed them cannot be discounted.

Therefore if your source is wide you can easily analyze the information at hand and come to the most logical conclusion available to you. When you reference try to use the style of reference your lecturer asks of you to avoid confusion and if there is none for most History essays the Chicago Style is most widely used.

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7. Proofread and Edit: When you are done with your essay, it is advised that you take time to read what you wrote. Proof read it for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, improper citations. When you have done so assess your work to see if there are any areas where your essay can be improved.

You can ask friends to read your work to get an unbiased eye. Optimally this should be done a few days to submission so that any last minute changes will not affect the overall structure of your essay adversely.