Can you properly define them? What sort of evidence is required to respond effectively? If you are developing your own topic, what are the important issues and what questions can you pose yourself? Begin reading (or re-reading) your texts or documents. Students often ask: "How can I give you a thesis (or write an introduction) before i have done all the reading?" Obviously, you cannot write a good paper if you haven't done the readings, so be sure to keep. Remember however that merely "reading everything" doesn't guarantee you'll do good writing. Some students rush through assignments, others highlight every line, both thinking that by counting pages or words they are doing well. As you read the important point is to identify critical arguments in the texts.
History Essay : Writing
Be aware also that "historical" writing is not exactly room the same as writing in other social sciences, in literature, or in the natural sciences. Though all follow the general thesis and evidence model, historical writing also depends a great deal on situating evidence and arguments correctly in time and space in narratives about the past. Historians are particularly sensitive to errors of anachronism—that is, putting events in an "incorrect" order, or having historical characters speak, think, and act in ways inappropriate for the time in which they were living. Reading the past principally in terms of your own present experience can also create problems in your arguments. Avoid grand statements about humanity in general, and be careful of theories which fit all cases. Make a point of using evidence with attention to specificity of time and place,. Section 2: Steps in Preparing an Historical Essay. Understand the question being asked. Pay attention to the way it is worded and presented. Be aware, for example, that "evaluate" does not mean the same thing as "describe and neither is the same as "compare/contrast or "analyze." What are the key words?
A strong statement of thesis needs evidence or it will convince no one. Equally,"s, dates, and lists of details mean nothing by themselves. Your task is both to select the important "facts" and to present them in a reasonable, persuasive, and systematic manner which defends your position. To support your argument, you should also be competent in using footnotes and creating bibliographies for your work; neither is difficult, and both are requirements for truly professional scholarship. The footnote is a way of demonstrating the author's thesis against the evidence. In effect, it is a way of saying: "If you don't accept my thesis, you can check resume the evidence yourself." If your instructor is unclear about your argument, he or she may very well go back and check how you are using your original sources. By keeping your notes accurate your argument will always be rooted in concrete evidence of the past which the reader can verify. See below for standard footnote forms.
Resist the temptation, which many students have, to think of a thesis as simply "restating" an instructor's question. The writer should demonstrate originality and critical thinking by showing what the question is asking, and why it is important rather than merely repeating. Your own informed perspective is what matters. Many first-year students ask whether the "thesis" is not just their "opinion" of a historical question. A thesis is indeed a "point of view or "perspective but of a particular sort: it is based not only on belief, but on a logical and systematic argument supported by evidence. The truism that we each have "our own" opinions misses the point. A good critical essay acknowledges that many perspectives are possible on any question, yet demonstrates the validity or correctness of the writer's own view. Thesis and evidence, to make business a good argument you must have both a strong central thesis and plausible evidence; the two are interdependent and support each other. Some historians have compared the historian's craft to assembling and presenting a case before a jury.
Just remember that our subject here—critical, scholarly writing—has special requirements. In what follows we will briefly discuss the nature of historical writing, lay out a step by step model for constructing an essay, and provide a set of useful observations from our experience as instructors regarding problems that most frequently crop up in student writing. Section 1: What Is Historical Writing? Elements, the basic elements of academic essay writing are two: a thesis and evidence, divided into three parts: an introduction, the systematic development of an argument, and a conclusion. All scholarly writing, from the most concise paper to the longest book, follows these basic guidlines. Thesis, historical essay writing is based upon the thesis. A thesis is a statement, an argument which will be presented by the writer. The thesis is in effect, your position, your particular interpretation, your way of seeing a problem.
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The following document was prepared by Professors Matt Matsuda and John Gillis. The authors gratefully acknowledge the pdf following for their aid: ziva galili, rutgers University department of History. Mark wasserman, rutgers University department of History. Professor Kurt Spellmeyer and the rutgers Writing Center Program. Professor Scott waugh and the ucla department of History for their guide to Writing Historical Essays. Butters and george. Gopen at duke university for their guidelines for the Use of Students Submitting Papers for University Writing courses and Other Classes in Trinity college of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering (Durham, north Carolina: duke university department of English, 1992).
Purpose, the purpose of this guide is to provide you with the basics for writing undergraduate history essays and papers. It is a guide only, and its step by step approach is only one possible model; it does not replace consultation with your professor, ta, or instructor about writing questions and getting feedback, nor the excellent tutoring services provided by the rutgers Writing Center program. Writing is a craft. All serious writing is done in drafts with many hesitations, revisions, and new inspirations. Remember always that there is nothing natural about being able to write (we all have to be taught—over many years and writing well is a matter of application, discipline, and effort. You may already write well.
6, it is not unusual to write a literature review or historiographical essay which does not directly draw on primary material. Typically a research essay would need significant primary material. 2 Find your sources. It can be difficult to get going with your research. There may be an enormous number of texts which makes it hard to know where to start, or maybe you are really struggling to find relevant material.
In either case, there are some tried and tested ways to find reliable source material for your essay. Start with the core texts in your reading list or course bibliography. Your teacher will have carefully selected these so you should start there. Look in footnotes and bibliographies. When you are reading be sure to pay attention to the footnotes and bibliographies which can guide you to further sources a give you a clear picture of the important texts. If you have access to a library at your school or college, be sure to make the most. Search online catalogues and speak to librarians. Access online journal databases.
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Part 2, doing your Research. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. A history essay will require a strong argument that is backed up by solid evidence. The two main types of evidence you can draw on are known as primary and secondary sources. Depending on the essay you are writing, you might be expected to include both of these. If you are uncertain about what is expected be sure to ask your teacher well in advance of the essay due date. Primary source material refers to any texts, films, pictures, or any other kind of evidence that was produced in the historical period, or by someone who participated in the events of the period, that you are writing about. Secondary material is the work by historians or other writers analysing events in the past. The body of historical work on a period or event is known as the historiography.
4, for example, your summary could be something like "The first World War was a 'total war' because civilian populations were mobilized both in the battlefield and on the home line front". 4, make an essay plan. Once you have evaluated the question, you need to draw up an essay plan. This is a great opportunity to organise your notes and start developing the structure which you will use for your essay. When drawing up the plan you can assess the quality and depth of the evidence you have gathered and consider whether your thesis statement is adequately supported. Pick out some key"s that make your argument precisely and persuasively. 5, when writing your plan, you should already be thinking about how your essay will flow, and how each point will connect together.
within a larger framework to contextualise. Evaluate: present and support a value-judgement. Argue: take a clear position on a debate and justify. 3 3, try to summarise your key argument. Once you have done some research you will be beginning to formulate your argument, or thesis statement, in your head. It's essential to have a strong argument which you will then build your essay around. So before you start to plan and draft your essay, try to summarise your key argument in one or two sentences. Your argument may change or become more nuanced as your write your essay, but having a clear thesis statement which you can refer back to is very helpful. The main point of your essay should be clear enough that you can structure the essay plan around.
2, for example, if the question was "To what extent was the first World War a total War? the key terms are "First World War and "Total War". Do this before you begin conducting your research to ensure that your reading is closely focussed to the question and you don't waste time. Consider what the question is asking you. With a history essay there are a number of different types of question you might be asked, which will require different responses from you. You need to get this clear in the early stages so you can prepare your essay in the best way. Look at your set essay question and ask yourself whether you are being asked to explain, interpret, evaluate, or argue.