The first rule in writing a history essay is to make sure that you answer the question set. This means that everything you write must be relevant to that end.
However brilliantly you may write and however persuasively you may argue your case, if you are not answering the specific question set, you might as well be doing the laundry.
Thinking hard about the question itself, about what it means, the issues it raises, and the various ways it might be answered, is far more important than most students realise.
Having demonstrated your understanding of the relevant parameters of the question, the next task is to find a way of tackling it that does more than simply regurgitate the answers you find in standard textbooks. It is crucial here that you avoid some common pitfalls.
A good history essay marshals plausible evidence in support of its arguments, drawing upon a range of both primary and secondary sources, but is never simply a narrative of events.
Similarly, while you should be familiar with the most influential interpretations, your essay should never simply provide an overview of what other historians have written.
A good history essay comprises a strong central thesis supported by judiciously selected evidence and critical argumentation.
Your task is to critically evaluate the sources, to select the most plausible interpretation of the facts, and to present them in a logical, persuasive, and systematic manner in such a way as to bolster your thesis.
In support of your argument, you must also be competent in using footnotes and include relevant bibliographical information that demonstrates wider background reading.
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