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Writing an Essay for a History Class

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/5/2012

All students will take at least one history class in middle school, high school, and college. These classes will most likely require students to write essays, either on tests, as separate assignments, or both. Read the following tips if you are asking yourself how to write a history essay.

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    The Introduction of the Essay

    When writing an essay for history, you should not simply present a list of facts. The facts you present should be organized into themes that support a central thesis or argument. The introduction should state your thesis and outline the main points of your essay. The first paragraph is not too soon to also describe the conclusions which you will draw in the rest of the essay. Stating your conclusions will hook the reader into the essay and make him want to keep reading it.

    Your thesis is very important and should be as clear and specific as possible. Remember, the history essay is an argument that involves critical analysis of the evidence. In developing your thesis, you should ask yourself, “why is this important?” You should take a point of view and analyze the evidence from that point of view. Your thesis should answer why and how the evidence became important over time. For this reason, you might want to write your introduction last, after you clearly develop the arguments in your essay.

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    The Body

    In the body of your essay, present the facts and develop your arguments. You should make each paragraph contain only one idea that is related to and in support of your thesis. Your essay’s body should be developed by theme, by geographic location, in chronological order, or in other order. Just be sure you are organizing the information using specific (and correct) facts and examples.

    In writing an essay for history, you should analyze the facts, not just describe them. To analyze facts, imagine that your writing is teaching someone new to the subject. Try to explain why something happened and why it mattered. You should not hesitate to interpret the material and to offer your own opinions to strongly support your thesis. You should read class assignments and lectures critically and find new ways to approach the material. If you disagree with an author's point of view, share this and tell why.

    Finally, do not forget to use your English composition skills. Use correct grammar, write in complete sentences, and, when appropriate, use past tense instead of present tense verbs. Remember to engage your reader by keeping your writing interesting and varying your vocabulary.

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    The Conclusion

    The conclusion is really important when thinking about how to write a history essay. You can conclude your essay in a few ways. In one type of conclusion, you can restate your introduction. This conclusion should highlight your thesis and give a brief summary of the evidence that proved it in the essay. In another type of conclusion, you can offer your own interpretations, or evaluate the material you have read. You can also point out gaps in the knowledge of history.