A historian professor explains how to write a history essay that is successful, starting with choosing a topic and ending with polishing your argument. Nearly every history class will require you to write essays. What if you have never written a history essay? What if you are a history major and struggle with essay questions?
Between my undergraduate education and graduate school, I have written more than 100 history papers. I have also supervised more than 100 capstone research papers and served on over 10 graduate thesis committees.
Here is my top advice from history professional essay writers online on how to make an authority history paper.
Six Simple Steps to Writing a History Essay
The assignment or prompt is ready, but you are stuck wondering, “How do I start a history essay?” To make it easier, you should first take these steps before you begin typing. You can be successful whether you are writing a three-page analysis of a source or a fifteen-page research paper. Understanding how to begin a history essay will help you.
Step 1: Learn the History Paper Format
One of many types of history papers may be assigned to you. Persuasive essays and research papers are the most popular types of history papers. You might be asked by history professors to write an analysis paper on a specific source or an essay that reviews secondary resources.
Spend some time looking over the assignment. Ask your professor if you aren’t sure what format of history paper they prefer. No matter what type of paper you are writing, an argument is essential. Strong arguments can save mediocre papers, while weak arguments can ruin otherwise solid papers.
An introduction will be required to set up your topic and argument. The body paragraphs will present your evidence and the conclusion.
Step 2: Select a History Paper Topic
If you are lucky, your professor will provide you with a list of historical paper topics to use in your essay. If the professor doesn’t give you a list of history paper topics, you will need to create your own. How do you choose the right topic to write about? Ask your professor for suggestions. This will save you time and help you get the best ideas.
You can also start with your sources. A solid collection of primary sources is essential for history papers. You must decide which sources you will use, and then create a topic around them. Consider starting a debate. Is there an urgent question that your paper can answer?
For feedback, please run your topic through your professor before you continue. Students tend to choose topics that are too broad or too narrow for a doctoral dissertation. A professor can help you choose a narrow, focused topic that will be a success. This can save you tons of time later.
Step 3: Outline your history essay
You are ready to begin writing. But not yet. Before you start writing the first draft, you’ll need to outline your history essay.
Perhaps you learned how to outline essays in high school. Use this format if it works for you. It was easier for me to create an outline based on the primary quotations that I wanted to include in my paper. My outlines became more like a list with quotes organized in sections. While you are working on your outline, think about the argument. Your final argument is not necessary yet. This might be something that you wait for revisions. Consider your viewpoint on the topic and sources.
Write down your thoughts on the topic and then formulate the central question that your paper will address. This planning step will help you ensure that you don’t miss any important material.
Step 4: Get started on your rough draft
Now it’s time to get started with the writing! Some students prefer to start with the body paragraphs, while others prefer writing the introduction. You can find what works for you.
You can use your outline to include quotes in the body paragraphs. Make sure you also analyze the quotes. Think of your history essay like a lawyer would: The introduction is the opening statement, while the body paragraphs and conclusion are your evidence. Write a conclusion to a history essay. Make sure you tie your evidence back to your thesis statement.
Do not stress about writing the perfect words in your first draft. You’ll be able to refine it later. This draft is sometimes called “sloppy copy”.
Step 5: Revise, Revise, Revise
After you have completed the first draft, start working on the second. Your paper will be stronger and easier to read if you revise it.
Look out for errors and incomplete sentences during revisions. You should look for missing footnotes and pay close attention to your argument. This is the time for you to ensure that all paragraphs in your body contain topic sentences and that your paper conforms to the requirements of your assignment.
If time allows, you can take a day off and return to the paper with fresh eyes. Then, keep revising.
Step 6: Take Extra Time to Read the Introduction
No matter how long your paper is, only one paragraph will determine the final grade: The introduction.
The introduction sets out the scope of the paper, the central question that you will answer, your approach, and your argument. The intro may only be one paragraph in a shorter paper. It’s more common to have several paragraphs in an intro for a longer paper. For example, the introduction to my doctoral dissertation was 28 pages long!
Your introduction should be carefully chosen. Your argument should be clear and concise. Write and rewrite the argument until it is as clear as you can. You might find it difficult to answer the central question in your paper. Instead, you can use this method: Find the central question and then write a single sentence answering the question. My shortcut argument for a 3- to 5-page paper was to say that “X” happened because of A and B and C. Then, I used body paragraphs to analyze and discuss A, B, and C.
Tips to Take Your History Essay to the Next Level
After you’ve completed every step in how to write history essays, there is still time until the deadline. What can you do to take your essay to the next stage? These are some suggestions.
Talk to your professor
Every professor has a different view of papers. While some professors place emphasis on the argument, others prefer to see interaction with the sources. Ask your professor which elements are most important to you. Get feedback on your topic, argument, draft, and your topic. Accept the offer if your professor is willing to read a draft.
Write a Question and Answer It
The first step to a strong history essay is to ask a question. “Why did Rome fall?” “What caused the Protestant Reformation?” What factors influenced the civil rights movement? Although your question may seem broad, you can work to narrow it down. Examples: “What role did Vandal invasions have in the fall of Rome?” “How did Lollard influence the Reformation?” “How successful was the NAACP’s legal strategy?”
Hone your Argument
History papers usually discuss why or how historical events (or changes) occurred. Your argument should answer a historical question. How can you tell if your argument is strong? An intelligent person should be able and willing to disagree. The goal of your argument is to convince the reader that you have the strongest evidence.
All arguments have holes
Every history paper also has counterarguments. Do you have evidence that does not support your argument? It’s important to address it. It’s easier to address the counterarguments than your professor. Add a paragraph to the conclusion of your five-paragraph essay that addresses these counterarguments.
Ask someone to read your essay
This is a great way to save time and help you get feedback from the teacher. Ask your reader for feedback and to point out any contradictions in your argument. Ask them to point out any counterarguments that you didn’t address. Later, you can repay their favor by reading one or more of their papers.
Congratulations, you finished your history essay! Make sure you carefully read the comments of your professor when you receive your paperback. Pay close attention to your paper’s strengths and weaknesses. Use this knowledge to create a stronger essay the next time.