One method of tackling such an essay would be to distinguish five or six areas of similarity and contrast, and to devote a section of the essay to each area - a section in which you would assess the degree of similarity and reach a sub-conclusion. The conclusion would then require a summation of the various 'sub-conclusions'. It needs to be stressed that none of these types of question calls for a narrative approach.
You will never be asked to produce a narrative of what happened. In rare circumstances, a few sentences of narrative may form part of the evidence cited in support of a point, but the essay as a whole should be organised according to a logical structure in which each paragraph functions as a premise in the argument.
The analytical and expository voice will always prove more effective than the narrative mode of writing. Preliminary Reading The aim of your initial reading should be to identify an argument which answers the question - one which you find plausible and can carry through with conviction.
For this purpose, it will be useful to read at least two or three items, including a recent book covering the general area in which the topic falls. Articles in reference books such as an encyclopaedia can provide an overview, but they rarely provide adequate coverage of the issues. Citing such works will undermine the credibility of your essay. Do not forget to make notes as you go. Making notes helps you to summarise arguments and ideas, to select points relevant to your essay, to clarify and adjust your understanding of the essay question and of the topic it bears upon.
But your main priority should be to discover an argument. Drawing up a Plan Once you have come up with a working argument, you need to draw up a plan to guide the next stage of your research. It should comprise a list of the points which each paragraph will attempt to demonstrate, and rough notes on supporting examples. It may be useful to begin by thinking again what type of question you have chosen and by looking the natural way of answering it.
In order to draw up a plan you will need to evaluate its merits: What points will I need to make in order to sustain this argument? Are there alternative points of view which will have to be considered and refuted in order to make this argument work? Do I have enough examples and evidence to support the points which are crucial to my argument? Do I need to know more about the examples I'm planning to use? Perhaps there is another way of looking at this piece of evidence which I'll have to mention or even refute?
Directed Research Having decided on the line of argument you intend to use, and identified areas where you need more material, search the reading list and bibliographies of the texts you've been using for books and articles which will help you to solve these problems. Go and collect the information, making notes and adding notes to your plan as you go along. Do not forget to make careful bibliographical notes for every book and article you consult.
You will need this information when it comes to footnoting your essay. Revising your Argument Inevitably, the previous stage will turn up things you hadn't thought of and books with better things to say about the topic. Do not panic. Ask yourself: can your argument be saved with a few adjustments? Does the argument need to be re-constructed from scratch? If so, how can I recycle the information I've already begun to collect?
Much will depend upon how confident you now feel about your argument. Follow your instincts: if the argument feels wrong, look for a better one. It is better to start again than to write an essay that lacks conviction. If complete reconstruction is unavoidable, go back to '5. Drawing up a Plan'. Writing the First Draft Having revised you argument and plan , it's time to write your essay.
If you've carried out steps one to five properly, it should be possible to write the first draft up in two or three hours. An introduction should show how you intend to answer the question, by 1 indicating the line of argument you intend to take, by 2 giving an overview of the organisation of what follows, and by 3 indicating the sort of material or evidence you will be using.
It is an effective strategy, especially when writing a short essay, to begin with a bold, attention-grabbing, first sentence which shows the marker that you know what you are doing: that is, answer the question as briefly as possible with your first sentence.
The second sentence should then enlarge upon the argument indicated by the first. If the person benefits from extraordinary good luck, is that still a success? This grappling with the problem of definition will help you compile an annotated list of successes, and you can then proceed to explain them, tracing their origins and pinpointing how and why they occurred. Is there a key common factor in the successes?
If so, this could constitute the central thrust of your answer. This should be distinguished from remembering, daydreaming and idly speculating. Thinking is rarely a pleasant undertaking, and most of us contrive to avoid it most of the time. So think as hard as you can about the meaning of the question, about the issues it raises and the ways you can answer it. You have to think and think hard — and then you should think again, trying to find loopholes in your reasoning.
Eventually you will almost certainly become confused. If you get totally confused, take a break. When you return to the question, it may be that the problems have resolved themselves. If not, give yourself more time. You may well find that decent ideas simply pop into your conscious mind at unexpected times. You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook.
But there are problems here. 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. Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important. The Vital First Paragraph 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.
The key to a good body portion of your essay is to remember to only discuss 1 major idea per paragraph. Make districtions between you major ideas in order to help support your thesis. Here you should wrap up you main ideas that you have thoroughly discussed and argued throughout your body paragraphs.
Make sure not to introduce any new points here.
.Why did the Nazi Party win 37 per cent of the vote in July ? Identify terms or concepts you do not know and find out what they mean. For example, the following contention might form the basis of an essay question on the rise of the Nazis: Q. Citing such works will undermine the credibility of your essay. Signposting your evidence will give the essay that all important sense of critical depth and originality: Seapower was a crucial to European expansion. Every paragraph should be clearly signposted in the topic sentence.
.Do not introduce lots of fresh evidence at this stage, though you can certainly introduce the odd extra fact that clinches your case. Do not panic. Here you should wrap up you main ideas that you have thoroughly discussed and argued throughout your body paragraphs.
One way of answering the question would be set up a series of 'tests', as it were, that can be investigated in turn. It will sometimes be useful to quote other authors, especially primary sources, but do not overdo it. Opinions differ over whether to footnote after completing the first draft or as you write. Editing your Essay You will need to edit: for grammar, spelling and punctuation; to remove unnecessary verbiage, colloquialisms and jargon; to ensure that the footnotes and bibliography conform with the required style sheet; and for the coherence and quality of your writing. There were critical moments, such as in the late eleventh-century conquests of Sicily and Sardinia, when
To reference this page, use the following citation: J. Does the argument need to be re-constructed from scratch? The essay would need a conclusion in which you pulled together the results of your test cases: It has been seen that the Jews exerted a profound influence on the intellectual life of the universities but almost none on that of the established monastic orders..
Robert Pearce is the editor of History Review. Essays test understanding by asking you to select and re-organise relevant material in order to produce your own answer to the set question. Also, take account of the feedback you get from teachers.
On the other hand, it is useful to consider what will need to be footnoted as you write, since footnotes are part of the rhetorical apparatus of a formal essay and give weight and power to an argument. Quite often in essays students give a generalisation and back it up with the opinion of an historian — and since they have formulated the generalisation from the opinion, the argument is entirely circular, and therefore meaningless and unconvincing. What are your initial responses or thoughts about the question? Or it might ask you to evaluate the relative significance of a person, group or event. If so, how can I recycle the information I've already begun to collect? If you have difficulty locating information, seek advice from your teacher or someone you trust.