How to Write a History Essay with Outline, Tips, Examples and More

History Essay

Samuel Gorbold

Before we get into how to write a history essay, let's first understand what makes one good. Different people might have different ideas, but there are some basic rules that can help you do well in your studies. In this guide, we won't get into any fancy theories. Instead, we'll give you straightforward tips to help you with historical writing. So, if you're ready to sharpen your writing skills, let our history essay writing service explore how to craft an exceptional paper.

What is a History Essay?

A history essay is an academic assignment where we explore and analyze historical events from the past. We dig into historical stories, figures, and ideas to understand their importance and how they've shaped our world today. History essay writing involves researching, thinking critically, and presenting arguments based on evidence.

Moreover, history papers foster the development of writing proficiency and the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. They also encourage students to engage with primary and secondary sources, enhancing their research skills and deepening their understanding of historical methodology. Students can benefit from utilizing essay writers services when faced with challenging assignments. These services provide expert assistance and guidance, ensuring that your history papers meet academic standards and accurately reflect your understanding of the subject matter.

History Essay Outline

History Essay Outline

The outline is there to guide you in organizing your thoughts and arguments in your essay about history. With a clear outline, you can explore and explain historical events better. Here's how to make one:

Introduction

  • Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing opening sentence or anecdote related to your topic.
  • Background Information: Provide context on the historical period, event, or theme you'll be discussing.
  • Thesis Statement: Present your main argument or viewpoint, outlining the scope and purpose of your history essay.

Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context

  • Provide background information on the historical context of your topic.
  • Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay.

Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence

  • Each paragraph should focus on a specific argument or aspect of your thesis.
  • Present evidence from primary and secondary sources to support each argument.
  • Analyze the significance of the evidence and its relevance to your history paper thesis.

Counterarguments (optional)

  • Address potential counterarguments or alternative perspectives on your topic.
  • Refute opposing viewpoints with evidence and logical reasoning.
  • Summary of Main Points: Recap the main arguments presented in the body paragraphs.
  • Restate Thesis: Reinforce your thesis statement, emphasizing its significance in light of the evidence presented.
  • Reflection: Reflect on the broader implications of your arguments for understanding history.
  • Closing Thought: End your history paper with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

References/bibliography

  • List all sources used in your research, formatted according to the citation style required by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include both primary and secondary sources, arranged alphabetically by the author's last name.

Notes (if applicable)

  • Include footnotes or endnotes to provide additional explanations, citations, or commentary on specific points within your history essay.

History Essay Format

Adhering to a specific format is crucial for clarity, coherence, and academic integrity. Here are the key components of a typical history essay format:

Font and Size

  • Use a legible font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • The recommended font size is usually 12 points. However, check your instructor's guidelines, as they may specify a different size.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Double-space the entire essay, including the title, headings, body paragraphs, and references.
  • Avoid extra spacing between paragraphs unless specified otherwise.
  • Align text to the left margin; avoid justifying the text or using a centered alignment.

Title Page (if required):

  • If your instructor requires a title page, include the essay title, your name, the course title, the instructor's name, and the date.
  • Center-align this information vertically and horizontally on the page.
  • Include a header on each page (excluding the title page if applicable) with your last name and the page number, flush right.
  • Some instructors may require a shortened title in the header, usually in all capital letters.
  • Center-align the essay title at the top of the first page (if a title page is not required).
  • Use standard capitalization (capitalize the first letter of each major word).
  • Avoid underlining, italicizing, or bolding the title unless necessary for emphasis.

Paragraph Indentation:

  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches or use the tab key.
  • Do not insert extra spaces between paragraphs unless instructed otherwise.

Citations and References:

  • Follow the citation style specified by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include in-text citations whenever you use information or ideas from external sources.
  • Provide a bibliography or list of references at the end of your history essay, formatted according to the citation style guidelines.
  • Typically, history essays range from 1000 to 2500 words, but this can vary depending on the assignment.

ways to start a history essay

How to Write a History Essay?

Historical writing can be an exciting journey through time, but it requires careful planning and organization. In this section, we'll break down the process into simple steps to help you craft a compelling and well-structured history paper.

Analyze the Question

Before diving headfirst into writing, take a moment to dissect the essay question. Read it carefully, and then read it again. You want to get to the core of what it's asking. Look out for keywords that indicate what aspects of the topic you need to focus on. If you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for clarification. Remember, understanding how to start a history essay is half the battle won!

Now, let's break this step down:

  • Read the question carefully and identify keywords or phrases.
  • Consider what the question is asking you to do – are you being asked to analyze, compare, contrast, or evaluate?
  • Pay attention to any specific instructions or requirements provided in the question.
  • Take note of the time period or historical events mentioned in the question – this will give you a clue about the scope of your history essay.

Develop a Strategy

With a clear understanding of the essay question, it's time to map out your approach. Here's how to develop your historical writing strategy:

  • Brainstorm ideas : Take a moment to jot down any initial thoughts or ideas that come to mind in response to the history paper question. This can help you generate a list of potential arguments, themes, or points you want to explore in your history essay.
  • Create an outline : Once you have a list of ideas, organize them into a logical structure. Start with a clear introduction that introduces your topic and presents your thesis statement – the main argument or point you'll be making in your history essay. Then, outline the key points or arguments you'll be discussing in each paragraph of the body, making sure they relate back to your thesis. Finally, plan a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your history paper thesis.
  • Research : Before diving into writing, gather evidence to support your arguments. Use reputable sources such as books, academic journals, and primary documents to gather historical evidence and examples. Take notes as you research, making sure to record the source of each piece of information for proper citation later on.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate potential counterarguments to your history paper thesis and think about how you'll address them in your essay. Acknowledging opposing viewpoints and refuting them strengthens your argument and demonstrates critical thinking.
  • Set realistic goals : Be realistic about the scope of your history essay and the time you have available to complete it. Break down your writing process into manageable tasks, such as researching, drafting, and revising, and set deadlines for each stage to stay on track.

How to Write a History Essay

Start Your Research

Now that you've grasped the history essay topic and outlined your approach, it's time to dive into research. Here's how to start:

  • Ask questions : What do you need to know? What are the key points to explore further? Write down your inquiries to guide your research.
  • Explore diverse sources : Look beyond textbooks. Check academic journals, reliable websites, and primary sources like documents or artifacts.
  • Consider perspectives : Think about different viewpoints on your topic. How have historians analyzed it? Are there controversies or differing interpretations?
  • Take organized notes : Summarize key points, jot down quotes, and record your thoughts and questions. Stay organized using spreadsheets or note-taking apps.
  • Evaluate sources : Consider the credibility and bias of each source. Are they peer-reviewed? Do they represent a particular viewpoint?

Establish a Viewpoint

By establishing a clear viewpoint and supporting arguments, you'll lay the foundation for your compelling historical writing:

  • Review your research : Reflect on the information gathered. What patterns or themes emerge? Which perspectives resonate with you?
  • Formulate a thesis statement : Based on your research, develop a clear and concise thesis that states your argument or interpretation of the topic.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate objections to your history paper thesis. Are there alternative viewpoints or evidence that you need to address?
  • Craft supporting arguments : Outline the main points that support your thesis. Use evidence from your research to strengthen your arguments.
  • Stay flexible : Be open to adjusting your viewpoint as you continue writing and researching. New information may challenge or refine your initial ideas.

Structure Your Essay

Now that you've delved into the depths of researching historical events and established your viewpoint, it's time to craft the skeleton of your essay: its structure. Think of your history essay outline as constructing a sturdy bridge between your ideas and your reader's understanding. How will you lead them from point A to point Z? Will you follow a chronological path through history or perhaps dissect themes that span across time periods?

And don't forget about the importance of your introduction and conclusion—are they framing your narrative effectively, enticing your audience to read your paper, and leaving them with lingering thoughts long after they've turned the final page? So, as you lay the bricks of your history essay's architecture, ask yourself: How can I best lead my audience through the maze of time and thought, leaving them enlightened and enriched on the other side?

Create an Engaging Introduction

Creating an engaging introduction is crucial for capturing your reader's interest right from the start. But how do you do it? Think about what makes your topic fascinating. Is there a surprising fact or a compelling story you can share? Maybe you could ask a thought-provoking question that gets people thinking. Consider why your topic matters—what lessons can we learn from history?

Also, remember to explain what your history essay will be about and why it's worth reading. What will grab your reader's attention and make them want to learn more? How can you make your essay relevant and intriguing right from the beginning?

Develop Coherent Paragraphs

Once you've established your introduction, the next step is to develop coherent paragraphs that effectively communicate your ideas. Each paragraph should focus on one main point or argument, supported by evidence or examples from your research. Start by introducing the main idea in a topic sentence, then provide supporting details or evidence to reinforce your point.

Make sure to use transition words and phrases to guide your reader smoothly from one idea to the next, creating a logical flow throughout your history essay. Additionally, consider the organization of your paragraphs—is there a clear progression of ideas that builds upon each other? Are your paragraphs unified around a central theme or argument?

Conclude Effectively

Concluding your history essay effectively is just as important as starting it off strong. In your conclusion, you want to wrap up your main points while leaving a lasting impression on your reader. Begin by summarizing the key points you've made throughout your history essay, reminding your reader of the main arguments and insights you've presented.

Then, consider the broader significance of your topic—what implications does it have for our understanding of history or for the world today? You might also want to reflect on any unanswered questions or areas for further exploration. Finally, end with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action that encourages your reader to continue thinking about the topic long after they've finished reading.

Reference Your Sources

Referencing your sources is essential for maintaining the integrity of your history essay and giving credit to the scholars and researchers who have contributed to your understanding of the topic. Depending on the citation style required (such as MLA, APA, or Chicago), you'll need to format your references accordingly. Start by compiling a list of all the sources you've consulted, including books, articles, websites, and any other materials used in your research.

Then, as you write your history essay, make sure to properly cite each source whenever you use information or ideas that are not your own. This includes direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. Remember to include all necessary information for each source, such as author names, publication dates, and page numbers, as required by your chosen citation style.

Review and Ask for Advice

As you near the completion of your history essay writing, it's crucial to take a step back and review your work with a critical eye. Reflect on the clarity and coherence of your arguments—are they logically organized and effectively supported by evidence? Consider the strength of your introduction and conclusion—do they effectively capture the reader's attention and leave a lasting impression? Take the time to carefully proofread your history essay for any grammatical errors or typos that may detract from your overall message.

Furthermore, seeking advice from peers, mentors, or instructors can provide valuable insights and help identify areas for improvement. Consider sharing your essay with someone whose feedback you trust and respect, and be open to constructive criticism. Ask specific questions about areas you're unsure about or where you feel your history essay may be lacking. If you need further assistance, don't hesitate to reach out and ask for help. You can even consider utilizing services that offer to write a discussion post for me , where you can engage in meaningful conversations with others about your essay topic and receive additional guidance and support.

History Essay Example

In this section, we offer an example of a history essay examining the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society. This essay demonstrates how historical analysis and critical thinking are applied in academic writing. By exploring this specific event, you can observe how historical evidence is used to build a cohesive argument and draw meaningful conclusions.

ways to start a history essay

FAQs about History Essay Writing

How to write a history essay introduction, how to write a conclusion for a history essay, how to write a good history essay.

Samuel Gorbold , a seasoned professor with over 30 years of experience, guides students across disciplines such as English, psychology, political science, and many more. Together with EssayHub, he is dedicated to enhancing student understanding and success through comprehensive academic support.

ways to start a history essay

  • Plagiarism Report
  • Unlimited Revisions
  • 24/7 Support
  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • College University and Postgraduate
  • Academic Writing

How to Write a History Essay

Last Updated: December 27, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 243,953 times.

Writing a history essay requires you to include a lot of details and historical information within a given number of words or required pages. It's important to provide all the needed information, but also to present it in a cohesive, intelligent way. Know how to write a history essay that demonstrates your writing skills and your understanding of the material.

Preparing to Write Your Essay

Step 1 Evaluate the essay question.

  • The key words will often need to be defined at the start of your essay, and will serve as its boundaries. [2] X Research source
  • 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.

Step 2 Consider what the question is asking you.

  • Explain: provide an explanation of why something happened or didn't happen.
  • Interpret: analyse information within a larger framework to contextualise it.
  • Evaluate: present and support a value-judgement.
  • Argue: take a clear position on a debate and justify it. [3] X Research source

Step 3 Try to summarise your key argument.

  • Your thesis statement should clearly address the essay prompt and provide supporting arguments. These supporting arguments will become body paragraphs in your essay, where you’ll elaborate and provide concrete evidence. [4] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • 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.
  • 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 front".

Step 4 Make an essay...

  • Pick out some key quotes that make your argument precisely and persuasively. [5] X Research source
  • When writing your plan, you should already be thinking about how your essay will flow, and how each point will connect together.

Doing Your Research

Step 1 Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Step 2 Find your sources.

  • 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.
  • Use the library. If you have access to a library at your school or college, be sure to make the most of it. Search online catalogues and speak to librarians.
  • Access online journal databases. If you are in college it is likely that you will have access to academic journals online. These are an excellent and easy to navigate resources.
  • Use online sources with discretion. Try using free scholarly databases, like Google Scholar, which offer quality academic sources, but avoid using the non-trustworthy websites that come up when you simply search your topic online.
  • Avoid using crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia as sources. However, you can look at the sources cited on a Wikipedia page and use them instead, if they seem credible.

Step 3 Evaluate your secondary sources.

  • Who is the author? Is it written by an academic with a position at a University? Search for the author online.
  • Who is the publisher? Is the book published by an established academic press? Look in the cover to check the publisher, if it is published by a University Press that is a good sign.
  • If it's an article, where is published? If you are using an article check that it has been published in an academic journal. [8] X Research source
  • If the article is online, what is the URL? Government sources with .gov addresses are good sources, as are .edu sites.

Step 4 Read critically.

  • Ask yourself why the author is making this argument. Evaluate the text by placing it into a broader intellectual context. Is it part of a certain tradition in historiography? Is it a response to a particular idea?
  • Consider where there are weaknesses and limitations to the argument. Always keep a critical mindset and try to identify areas where you think the argument is overly stretched or the evidence doesn't match the author's claims. [9] X Research source

Step 5 Take thorough notes.

  • Label all your notes with the page numbers and precise bibliographic information on the source.
  • If you have a quote but can't remember where you found it, imagine trying to skip back through everything you have read to find that one line.
  • If you use something and don't reference it fully you risk plagiarism. [10] X Research source

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Start with a strong first sentence.

  • For example you could start by saying "In the First World War new technologies and the mass mobilization of populations meant that the war was not fought solely by standing armies".
  • This first sentences introduces the topic of your essay in a broad way which you can start focus to in on more.

Step 2 Outline what you are going to argue.

  • This will lead to an outline of the structure of your essay and your argument.
  • Here you will explain the particular approach you have taken to the essay.
  • For example, if you are using case studies you should explain this and give a brief overview of which case studies you will be using and why.

Step 3 Provide some brief context for your work.

Writing the Essay

Step 1 Have a clear structure.

  • Try to include a sentence that concludes each paragraph and links it to the next paragraph.
  • When you are organising your essay think of each paragraph as addressing one element of the essay question.
  • Keeping a close focus like this will also help you avoid drifting away from the topic of the essay and will encourage you to write in precise and concise prose.
  • Don't forget to write in the past tense when referring to something that has already happened.

Step 3 Use source material as evidence to back up your thesis.

  • Don't drop a quote from a primary source into your prose without introducing it and discussing it, and try to avoid long quotations. Use only the quotes that best illustrate your point.
  • If you are referring to a secondary source, you can usually summarise in your own words rather than quoting directly.
  • Be sure to fully cite anything you refer to, including if you do not quote it directly.

Step 4 Make your essay flow.

  • Think about the first and last sentence in every paragraph and how they connect to the previous and next paragraph.
  • Try to avoid beginning paragraphs with simple phrases that make your essay appear more like a list. For example, limit your use of words like: "Additionally", "Moreover", "Furthermore".
  • Give an indication of where your essay is going and how you are building on what you have already said. [15] X Research source

Step 5 Conclude succinctly.

  • Briefly outline the implications of your argument and it's significance in relation to the historiography, but avoid grand sweeping statements. [16] X Research source
  • A conclusion also provides the opportunity to point to areas beyond the scope of your essay where the research could be developed in the future.

Proofreading and Evaluating Your Essay

Step 1 Proofread your essay.

  • Try to cut down any overly long sentences or run-on sentences. Instead, try to write clear and accurate prose and avoid unnecessary words.
  • Concentrate on developing a clear, simple and highly readable prose style first before you think about developing your writing further. [17] X Research source
  • Reading your essay out load can help you get a clearer picture of awkward phrasing and overly long sentences. [18] X Research source

Step 2 Analyse don't describe.

  • When you read through your essay look at each paragraph and ask yourself, "what point this paragraph is making".
  • You might have produced a nice piece of narrative writing, but if you are not directly answering the question it is not going to help your grade.

Step 3 Check your references and bibliography.

  • A bibliography will typically have primary sources first, followed by secondary sources. [19] X Research source
  • Double and triple check that you have included all the necessary references in the text. If you forgot to include a reference you risk being reported for plagiarism.

Sample Essay

ways to start a history essay

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like

Write an Essay

  • ↑ http://www.historytoday.com/robert-pearce/how-write-good-history-essay
  • ↑ https://www.hamilton.edu/academics/centers/writing/writing-resources/writing-a-good-history-paper
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html
  • ↑ http://history.rutgers.edu/component/content/article?id=106:writing-historical-essays-a-guide-for-undergraduates
  • ↑ https://guides.lib.uw.edu/c.php?g=344285&p=2580599
  • ↑ http://www.hamilton.edu/documents/writing-center/WritingGoodHistoryPaper.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-guides/
  • ↑ https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/hppi/publications/Writing-History-Essays.pdf

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

To write a history essay, read the essay question carefully and use source materials to research the topic, taking thorough notes as you go. Next, formulate a thesis statement that summarizes your key argument in 1-2 concise sentences and create a structured outline to help you stay on topic. Open with a strong introduction that introduces your thesis, present your argument, and back it up with sourced material. Then, end with a succinct conclusion that restates and summarizes your position! For more tips on creating a thesis statement, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Lea Fernandez

Lea Fernandez

Nov 23, 2017

Did this article help you?

Lea Fernandez

Matthew Sayers

Mar 31, 2019

Millie Jenkerinx

Millie Jenkerinx

Nov 11, 2017

Samkelo

Oct 18, 2019

Shannon Harper

Shannon Harper

Mar 9, 2018

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

130+ Sexy, Sweet, & Seductive Messages for Him

Trending Articles

How to Answer “How’s It Going?” in Any Situation

Watch Articles

Make Homemade Liquid Dish Soap

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Get all the best how-tos!

Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter

How to Write a History Essay?

04 August, 2020

10 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

There are so many types of essays. It can be hard to know where to start. History papers aren’t just limited to history classes. These tasks can be assigned to examine any important historical event or a person. While they’re more common in history classes, you can find this type of assignment in sociology or political science course syllabus, or just get a history essay task for your scholarship. This is Handmadewriting History Essay Guide - let's start!

History Essay

Purpose  of a History Essay

Wondering how to write a history essay? First of all, it helps to understand its purpose. Secondly, this essay aims to examine the influences that lead to a historical event. Thirdly, it can explore the importance of an individual’s impact on history.

However, the goal isn’t to stay in the past. Specifically, a well-written history essay should discuss the relevance of the event or person to the “now”. After finishing this essay, a reader should have a fuller understanding of the lasting impact of an event or individual.

Need basic essay guidance? Find out what is an essay with this 101 essay guide: What is an Essay?

Elements for Success

Indeed, understanding how to write a history essay is crucial in creating a successful paper. Notably, these essays should never only outline successful historic events or list an individual’s achievements. Instead, they should focus on examining questions beginning with what , how , and why . Here’s a pro tip in how to write a history essay: brainstorm questions. Once you’ve got questions, you have an excellent starting point.

Preparing to Write

What? Who? Why?

Evidently, a typical history essay format requires the writer to provide background on the event or person, examine major influences, and discuss the importance of the forces both then and now. In addition, when preparing to write, it’s helpful to organize the information you need to research into questions. For example:

  • Who were the major contributors to this event?
  • Who opposed or fought against this event?
  • Who gained or lost from this event?
  • Who benefits from this event today?
  • What factors led up to this event?
  • What changes occurred because of this event?
  • What lasting impacts occurred locally, nationally, globally due to this event?
  • What lessons (if any) were learned?
  • Why did this event occur?
  • Why did certain populations support it?
  • Why did certain populations oppose it?

These questions exist as samples. Therefore, generate questions specific to your topic. Once you have a list of questions, it’s time to evaluate them.

Evaluating the Question

Assess the impact

Seasoned writers approach writing history by examining the historic event or individual. Specifically, the goal is to assess the impact then and now. Accordingly, the writer needs to evaluate the importance of the main essay guiding the paper. For example, if the essay’s topic is the rise of American prohibition, a proper question may be “How did societal factors influence the rise of American prohibition during the 1920s? ”

This question is open-ended since it allows for insightful analysis, and limits the research to societal factors. Additionally, work to identify key terms in the question. In the example, key terms would be “societal factors” and “prohibition”.

Summarizing the Argument

The argument should answer the question. Use the thesis statement to clarify the argument and outline how you plan to make your case. In other words. the thesis should be sharp, clear, and multi-faceted. Consider the following tips when summarizing the case:

  • The thesis should be a single sentence
  • It should include a concise argument and a roadmap
  • It’s always okay to revise the thesis as the paper develops
  • Conduct a bit of research to ensure you have enough support for the ideas within the paper

Outlining a History Essay Plan

Outlining a Plan

Once you’ve refined your argument, it’s time to outline. Notably, many skip this step to regret it then. Nonetheless, the outline is a map that shows where you need to arrive historically and when. Specifically, taking the time to plan, placing the strongest argument last, and identifying your sources of research is a good use of time. When you’re ready to outline, do the following:

  • Consider the necessary background the reader should know in the introduction paragraph
  • Define any important terms and vocabulary
  • Determine which ideas will need the cited support
  • Identify how each idea supports the main argument
  • Brainstorm key points to review in the conclusion

Gathering Sources

As a rule, history essays require both primary and secondary sources . Primary resources are those that were created during the historical period being analyzed. Secondary resources are those created by historians and scholars about the topic. It’s a good idea to know if the professor requires a specific number of sources, and what kind he or she prefers. Specifically, most tutors prefer primary over secondary sources.

Where to find sources? Great question! Check out bibliographies included in required class readings. In addition, ask a campus Librarian. Peruse online journal databases; In addition, most colleges provide students with free access. When in doubt, make an appointment and ask the professor for guidance.

Writing the Essay

Writing the Essay

Now that you have prepared your questions, ideas, and arguments; composed the outline ; and gathered sources – it’s time to write your first draft. In particular, each section of your history essay must serve its purpose. Here is what you should include in essay paragraphs.

Introduction Paragraph

Unsure of how to start a history essay? Well, like most essays, the introduction should include an attention-getter (or hook):

  • Relevant fact or statistic
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Interesting quotation
  • Application anecdote if appropriate

Once you’ve captured the reader’s interest, introduce the topic. Similarly, present critical historic context. Namely, it is necessary to introduce any key individuals or events that will be discussed later in the essay. At last, end with a strong thesis which acts as a transition to the first argument.

Body Paragraphs

Indeed, each body paragraph should offer a single idea to support the argument. Then, after writing a strong topic sentence, the topic should be supported with correctly cited research. Consequently, a typical body paragraph is arranged as follows:

  • Topic sentence linking to the thesis
  • Background of the topic
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #1
  • Explanation and analysis of research
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #2
  • Transition to the next paragraph

Equally, the point of body paragraphs is to build the argument. Hence, present the weakest support first and end with the strongest. Admittedly, doing so leaves the reader with the best possible evidence.

Conclusion Paragraph

You’re almost there! Eventually, conclusion paragraphs should review the most important points in the paper. In them, you should prove that you’ve supported the argument proposed in the thesis. When writing a conclusion paragraph keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep it simple
  • Avoid introducing new information
  • Review major points
  • Discuss the relevance to today
Problems with writing Your History essay ? Try our Essay Writer Service!

history essay

Proofreading Your Essay

Once the draft is ready and polished, it’s time to proceed to final editing. What does this process imply? Specifically, it’s about removing impurities and making the essay look just perfect. Here’s what you need to do to improve the quality of your paper:

  • Double check the content. In the first place, it’s recommended to get rid of long sentences, correct vague words. Also, make sure that all your paragrahps contain accurate sentences with transparent meaning. 
  • Pay attention to style. To make the process of digesting your essay easier, focus on crafting a paper with readable style, the one that is known to readers. Above all, the main mission here is to facilitate the perception of your essay. So, don’t forget about style accuracy.
  • Practice reading the essay. Of course, the best practice before passing the paper is to read it out loud. Hence, this exercise will help you notice fragments that require rewriting or a complete removal.  

History Essay Example

Did you want a history essay example? Take a look at one of our history essay papers. 

Make it Shine

An A-level essay takes planning and revision, but it’s achievable. Firstly, avoid procrastination and start early. Secondly, leave yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, outline, research and write. Finally, follow these five tips to make your history essay shine:

  • Write a substantial introduction. Particularly, it’s the first impression the professor will have of the paper.
  • State a clear thesis. A strong thesis is easier to support.
  • Incorporate evidence critically. If while researching you find opposing arguments, include them and discuss their flaws.
  • Cite all the research. Whether direct quotations or paraphrases, citing evidence is crucial to avoiding plagiarism, which can have serious academic consequences.
  • Include primary and secondary resources. While primary resources may be harder to find, the professor will expect them—this is, after all, a history essay.

History Essay Sample

Ready to tackle the history essay format? Great! Check out this history essay sample from an upper-level history class. While the essay isn’t perfect, the professor points out its many strengths.

Remember: start early and revise, revise, revise . We can’t revise history, but you can revise your ideas until they’re perfect.

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

A life lesson in Romeo and Juliet taught by death

Due to human nature, we draw conclusions only when life gives us a lesson since the experience of others is not so effective and powerful. Therefore, when analyzing and sorting out common problems we face, we may trace a parallel with well-known book characters or real historical figures. Moreover, we often compare our situations with […]

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Ethical Research Paper Topics

Writing a research paper on ethics is not an easy task, especially if you do not possess excellent writing skills and do not like to contemplate controversial questions. But an ethics course is obligatory in all higher education institutions, and students have to look for a way out and be creative. When you find an […]

Art Research Paper Topics

Art Research Paper Topics

Students obtaining degrees in fine art and art & design programs most commonly need to write a paper on art topics. However, this subject is becoming more popular in educational institutions for expanding students’ horizons. Thus, both groups of receivers of education: those who are into arts and those who only get acquainted with art […]

UCLA History Department

Steps for Writing a History Paper

Writing a history paper is a process.  Successful papers are not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but are developed over a series of steps.  When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel overwhelmed or intimidated.  If you think of writing as a process and break it down into smaller steps, you will find that paper-writing is manageable, less daunting, and even enjoyable.  Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past.

What is a History paper?

History papers are driven by arguments.  In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.  For example, suppose your professor has asked you to write a paper discussing the differences between colonial New England and colonial Virginia.  It might seem like this paper is straightforward and does not require an argument, that it is simply a matter of finding the “right answer.”  However, even here you need to construct a paper guided by a larger argument.  You might argue that the main differences between colonial New England and Virginia were grounded in contrasting visions of colonization.  Or you might argue that the differences resulted from accidents of geography or from extant alliances between regional Indian groups.  Or you might make an argument that draws on all of these factors.  Regardless, when you make these types of assertions, you are making an argument that requires historical evidence.  Any history paper you write will be driven by an argument demanding evidence from sources.

History writing assignments can vary widely–and you should always follow your professor’s specific instructions–but the following steps are designed to help no matter what kind of history paper you are writing.  Remember that the staff of the History Writing Center is here to assist you at any stage of the writing process.

  • Sometimes professors distribute prompts with several sub-questions surrounding the main question they want you to write about.  The sub-questions are designed to help you think about the topic.  They offer ideas you might consider, but they are not, usually, the key question or questions you need to answer in your paper.  Make sure you distinguish the key questions from the sub-questions.  Otherwise, your paper may sound like a laundry list of short-answer essays rather than a cohesive argument. A helpful way to hone in on the key question is to look for action verbs, such as “analyze” or “investigate” or “formulate.”  Find such words in the paper prompt and circle them.  Then, carefully consider what you are being asked to do.  Write out the key question at the top of your draft and return to it often, using it to guide you in the writing process.  Also, be sure that you are responding to every part of the prompt.  Prompts will often have several questions you need to address in your paper.  If you do not cover all aspects, then you are not responding fully to the assignment.  For more information, visit our section, “Understanding Paper Prompts.”
  • Before you even start researching or drafting, take a few minutes to consider what you already know about the topic.  Make a list of ideas or draw a cluster diagram, using circles and arrows to connect ideas–whatever method works for you.  At this point in the process, it is helpful to write down all of your ideas without stopping to judge or analyze each one in depth.  You want to think big and bring in everything you know or suspect about the topic.  After you have finished, read over what you have created.  Look for patterns or trends or questions that keep coming up.  Based on what you have brainstormed, what do you still need to learn about the topic?  Do you have a tentative argument or response to the paper prompt?  Use this information to guide you as you start your research and develop a thesis.
  • Depending on the paper prompt, you may be required to do outside research or you may be using only the readings you have done in class.  Either way, start by rereading the relevant materials from class.  Find the parts from the textbook, from the primary source readings, and from your notes that relate to the prompt. If you need to do outside research, the UCLA library system offers plenty of resources.  You can begin by plugging key words into the online library catalog.  This process will likely involve some trial and error.  You will want to use search terms that are specific enough to address your topic without being so narrow that you get no results.  If your keywords are too general, you may receive thousands of results and feel overwhelmed.  To help you narrow your search, go back to the key questions in the essay prompt that you wrote down in Step 1.  Think about which terms would help you respond to the prompt.  Also, look at the language your professor used in the prompt.  You might be able to use some of those same words as search terms. Notice that the library website has different databases you can search depending on what type of material you need (such as scholarly articles, newspapers, books) and what subject and time period you are researching (such as eighteenth-century England or ancient Rome).  Searching the database most relevant to your topic will yield the best results.  Visit the library’s History Research Guide for tips on the research process and on using library resources.  You can also schedule an appointment with a librarian to talk specifically about your research project.  Or, make an appointment with staff at the History Writing Center for research help.  Visit our section about using electronic resources as well.
  • By this point, you know what the prompt is asking, you have brainstormed possible responses, and you have done some research.  Now you need to step back, look at the material you have, and develop your argument.  Based on the reading and research you have done, how might you answer the question(s) in the prompt?  What arguments do your sources allow you to make?  Draft a thesis statement in which you clearly and succinctly make an argument that addresses the prompt. If you find writing a thesis daunting, remember that whatever you draft now is not set in stone.  Your thesis will change.  As you do more research, reread your sources, and write your paper, you will learn more about the topic and your argument.  For now, produce a “working thesis,” meaning, a thesis that represents your thinking up to this point.  Remember it will almost certainly change as you move through the writing process.  For more information, visit our section about thesis statements.  Once you have a thesis, you may find that you need to do more research targeted to your specific argument.  Revisit some of the tips from Step 3.
  • Now that you have a working thesis, look back over your sources and identify which ones are most critical to you–the ones you will be grappling with most directly in order to make your argument.  Then, annotate them.  Annotating sources means writing a paragraph that summarizes the main idea of the source as well as shows how you will use the source in your paper.  Think about what the source does for you.  Does it provide evidence in support of your argument?  Does it offer a counterpoint that you can then refute, based on your research?  Does it provide critical historical background that you need in order to make a point?  For more information about annotating sources, visit our section on annotated bibliographies. While it might seem like this step creates more work for you by having to do more writing, it in fact serves two critical purposes: it helps you refine your working thesis by distilling exactly what your sources are saying, and it helps smooth your writing process.  Having dissected your sources and articulated your ideas about them, you can more easily draw upon them when constructing your paper.  Even if you do not have to do outside research and are limited to working with the readings you have done in class, annotating sources is still very useful.  Write down exactly how a particular section in the textbook or in a primary source reader will contribute to your paper.
  • An outline is helpful in giving you a sense of the overall structure of your paper and how best to organize your ideas.  You need to decide how to arrange your argument in a way that will make the most sense to your reader.  Perhaps you decide that your argument is most clear when presented chronologically, or perhaps you find that it works best with a thematic approach.  There is no one right way to organize a history paper; it depends entirely on the prompt, on your sources, and on what you think would be most clear to someone reading it. An effective outline includes the following components: the research question from the prompt (that you wrote down in Step 1), your working thesis, the main idea of each body paragraph, and the evidence (from both primary and secondary sources) you will use to support each body paragraph.  Be as detailed as you can when putting together your outline.

If you have trouble getting started or are feeling overwhelmed, try free writing.  Free writing is a low-stakes writing exercise to help you get past the blank page.  Set a timer for five or ten minutes and write down everything you know about your paper: your argument, your sources, counterarguments, everything.  Do not edit or judge what you are writing as you write; just keep writing until the timer goes off.  You may be surprised to find out how much you knew about your topic.  Of course, this writing will not be polished, so do not be tempted to leave it as it is.  Remember that this draft is your first one, and you will be revising it.

A particularly helpful exercise for global-level revision is to make a reverse outline, which will help you look at your paper as a whole and strengthen the way you have organized and substantiated your argument.  Print out your draft and number each of the paragraphs.  Then, on a separate piece of paper, write down each paragraph number and, next to it, summarize in a phrase or a sentence the main idea of that paragraph.  As you produce this list, notice if any paragraphs attempt to make more than one point: mark those for revision.  Once you have compiled the list, read it over carefully.  Study the order in which you have sequenced your ideas.  Notice if there are ideas that seem out of order or repetitive.  Look for any gaps in your logic.  Does the argument flow and make sense?

When revising at the local level, check that you are using strong topic sentences and transitions, that you have adequately integrated and analyzed quotations, and that your paper is free from grammar and spelling errors that might distract the reader or even impede your ability to communicate your point.  One helpful exercise for revising on the local level is to read your paper out loud.  Hearing your paper will help you catch grammatical errors and awkward sentences.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself while revising on both the global and local levels:

– Does my thesis clearly state my argument and its significance?

– Does the main argument in each body paragraph support my thesis?

– Do I have enough evidence within each body paragraph to make my point?

– Have I properly introduced, analyzed, and cited every quotation I use?

– Do my topic sentences effectively introduce the main point of each paragraph?

– Do I have transitions between paragraphs?

– Is my paper free of grammar and spelling errors?

  • Congratulate yourself. You have written a history paper!

Download as PDF

White-Logo

6265 Bunche Hall Box 951473 University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473 Phone: (310) 825-4601

Other Resources

  • UCLA Library
  • Faculty Intranet
  • Department Forms
  • Office 365 Email
  • Remote Help

Campus Resources

  • Maps, Directions, Parking
  • Academic Calendar
  • University of California
  • Terms of Use

Social Sciences Division Departments

  • Aerospace Studies
  • African American Studies
  • American Indian Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Asian American Studies
  • César E. Chávez Department of Chicana & Chicano Studies
  • Communication
  • Conservation
  • Gender Studies
  • Military Science
  • Naval Science
  • Political Science

How to Write a Good History Essay. A Sequence of Actions and Useful Tips

1 Star

Before you start writing your history essay, there is quite a lot of work that has to be done in order to gain success.

You may ask: what is history essay? What is the difference between it and other kinds of essays? Well, the main goal of a history essay is to measure your progress in learning history and test your range of skills (such as analysis, logic, planning, research, and writing), it is necessary to prepare yourself very well.

Your plan of action may look like this. First of all, you will have to explore the topic. If you are going to write about a certain historical event, think of its causes and premises, and analyze what its impact on history was. In case you are writing about a person, find out why and how he or she came to power and how they influenced society and historical situations.

The next step is to make research and collect all the available information about the person or event, and also find evidence.

Finally, you will have to compose a well-organized response.

During the research, make notes and excerpts of the most notable data, write out the important dates and personalities. And of course, write down all your thoughts and findings.

It all may seem complicated at first sight, but in fact, it is not so scary! To complete this task successfully and compose a good history essay, simply follow several easy steps provided below.

Detailed Writing Instruction for Students to Follow

If you want to successfully complete your essay, it would be better to organize the writing process. You will complete the assignment faster and more efficient if you divide the whole work into several sections or steps.

  • Introduction

Writing a good and strong introduction part is important because this is the first thing your reader will see. It gives the first impression of your essay and induces people to reading (or not reading) it.

To make the introduction catchy and interesting, express the contention and address the main question of the essay. Be confident and clear as this is the moment when you define the direction your whole essay will take. And remember that introduction is not the right place for rambling! The best of all is, to begin with, a brief context summary, then go to addressing the question and express the content. Finally, mark the direction your essay about history will take.

Its quality depends on how clear you divided the whole essay into sections in the previous part. As long as you have provided a readable and understandable scheme, your readers will know exactly what to expect.

The body of your essay must give a clear vision of what question you are considering. In this section, you can develop your idea and support it with the evidence you have found. Use certain facts and quotations for that. When being judicial and analytical, they will help you to easily support your point of view and argument.

As long as your essay has a limited size, don’t be too precise. It is allowed to summarize the most essential background information, for example, instead of giving a precise list of all the issues that matter.

It is also good to keep in mind that each paragraph of your essay’s body must tell about only one issue. Don’t make a mess out of your paper!

It is not only essential to start your essay well. How you will end it also matters. A properly-written conclusion is the one that restates the whole paper’s content and gives a logical completion of the issue or question discussed above. Your conclusion must leave to chance for further discussion or arguments on the case. It’s time, to sum up, give a verdict.

That is why it is strongly forbidden to provide any new evidence or information here, as well as start a new discussion, etc.

After you finish writing, give yourself some time and put the paper away for a while. When you turn back to it will be easier to take a fresh look at it and find any mistakes or things to improve. Of course, remember to proofread your writing and check it for any grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. All these tips will help you to learn how to write a history essay.

ways to start a history essay

A guide to writing history essays

This guide has been prepared for students at all undergraduate university levels. Some points are specifically aimed at 100-level students, and may seem basic to those in upper levels. Similarly, some of the advice is aimed at upper-level students, and new arrivals should not be put off by it.

The key point is that learning to write good essays is a long process. We hope that students will refer to this guide frequently, whatever their level of study.

Why do history students write essays?

Essays are an essential educational tool in disciplines like history because they help you to develop your research skills, critical thinking, and writing abilities. The best essays are based on strong research, in-depth analysis, and are logically structured and well written.

An essay should answer a question with a clear, persuasive argument. In a history essay, this will inevitably involve a degree of narrative (storytelling), but this should be kept to the minimum necessary to support the argument – do your best to avoid the trap of substituting narrative for analytical argument. Instead, focus on the key elements of your argument, making sure they are well supported by evidence. As a historian, this evidence will come from your sources, whether primary and secondary.

The following guide is designed to help you research and write your essays, and you will almost certainly earn better grades if you can follow this advice. You should also look at the essay-marking criteria set out in your course guide, as this will give you a more specific idea of what the person marking your work is looking for.

Where to start

First, take time to understand the question. Underline the key words and consider very carefully what you need to do to provide a persuasive answer. For example, if the question asks you to compare and contrast two or more things, you need to do more than define these things – what are the similarities and differences between them? If a question asks you to 'assess' or 'explore', it is calling for you to weigh up an issue by considering the evidence put forward by scholars, then present your argument on the matter in hand.

A history essay must be based on research. If the topic is covered by lectures, you might begin with lecture and tutorial notes and readings. However, the lecturer does not want you simply to echo or reproduce the lecture content or point of view, nor use their lectures as sources in your footnotes. They want you to develop your own argument. To do this you will need to look closely at secondary sources, such as academic books and journal articles, to find out what other scholars have written about the topic. Often your lecturer will have suggested some key texts, and these are usually listed near the essay questions in your course guide. But you should not rely solely on these suggestions.

Tip : Start the research with more general works to get an overview of your topic, then move on to look at more specialised work.

Crafting a strong essay

Before you begin writing, make an essay plan. Identify the two-to-four key points you want to make. Organize your ideas into an argument which flows logically and coherently. Work out which examples you will use to make the strongest case. You may need to use an initial paragraph (or two) to bring in some context or to define key terms and events, or provide brief identifying detail about key people – but avoid simply telling the story.

An essay is really a series of paragraphs that advance an argument and build towards your conclusion. Each paragraph should focus on one central idea. Introduce this idea at the start of the paragraph with a 'topic sentence', then expand on it with evidence or examples from your research. Some paragraphs should finish with a concluding sentence that reiterates a main point or links your argument back to the essay question.

A good length for a paragraph is 150-200 words. When you want to move to a new idea or angle, start a new paragraph. While each paragraph deals with its own idea, paragraphs should flow logically, and work together as a greater whole. Try using linking phrases at the start of your paragraphs, such as 'An additional factor that explains', 'Further', or 'Similarly'.

We discourage using subheadings for a history essay (unless they are over 5000 words in length). Instead, throughout your essay use 'signposts'. This means clearly explaining what your essay will cover, how an example demonstrates your point, or reiterating what a particular section has added to your overall argument.

Remember that a history essay isn't necessarily about getting the 'right' answer – it's about putting forward a strong case that is well supported by evidence from academic sources. You don't have to cover everything – focus on your key points.

In your introduction or opening paragraph you could indicate that while there are a number of other explanations or factors that apply to your topic, you have chosen to focus on the selected ones (and say why). This demonstrates to your marker that while your argument will focus on selected elements, you do understand the bigger picture.

The classic sections of an essay

Introduction.

  • Establishes what your argument will be, and outlines how the essay will develop it
  • A good formula to follow is to lay out about 3 key reasons that support the answer you plan to give (these points will provide a road-map for your essay and will become the ideas behind each paragraph)
  • If you are focusing on selected aspects of a topic or particular sources and case studies, you should state that in your introduction
  • Define any key terms that are essential to your argument
  • Keep your introduction relatively concise – aim for about 10% of the word count
  • Consists of a series of paragraphs that systematically develop the argument outlined in your introduction
  • Each paragraph should focus on one central idea, building towards your conclusion
  • Paragraphs should flow logically. Tie them together with 'bridge' sentences – e.g. you might use a word or words from the end of the previous paragraph and build it into the opening sentence of the next, to form a bridge
  • Also be sure to link each paragraph to the question/topic/argument in some way (e.g. use a key word from the question or your introductory points) so the reader does not lose the thread of your argument
  • Ties up the main points of your discussion
  • Should link back to the essay question, and clearly summarise your answer to that question
  • May draw out or reflect on any greater themes or observations, but you should avoid introducing new material
  • If you have suggested several explanations, evaluate which one is strongest

Using scholarly sources: books, journal articles, chapters from edited volumes

Try to read critically: do not take what you read as the only truth, and try to weigh up the arguments presented by scholars. Read several books, chapters, or articles, so that you understand the historical debates about your topic before deciding which viewpoint you support. The best sources for your history essays are those written by experts, and may include books, journal articles, and chapters in edited volumes. The marking criteria in your course guide may state a minimum number of academic sources you should consult when writing your essay. A good essay considers a range of evidence, so aim to use more than this minimum number of sources.

Tip : Pick one of the books or journal articles suggested in your course guide and look at the author's first few footnotes – these will direct you to other prominent sources on this topic.

Don't overlook journal articles as a source. They contain the most in-depth research on a particular topic. Often the first pages will summarise the prior research into this topic, so articles can be a good way to familiarise yourself with what else has 'been done'.

Edited volumes can also be a useful source. These are books on a particular theme, topic or question, with each chapter written by a different expert.

One way to assess the reliability of a source is to check the footnotes or endnotes. When the author makes a claim, is this supported by primary or secondary sources? If there are very few footnotes, then this may not be a credible scholarly source. Also check the date of publication, and prioritise more recent scholarship. Aim to use a variety of sources, but focus most of your attention on academic books and journal articles.

Paraphrasing and quotations

A good essay is about your ability to interpret and analyse sources, and to establish your own informed opinion with a persuasive argument that uses sources as supporting evidence. You should express most of your ideas and arguments in your own words. Cutting and pasting together the words of other scholars, or simply changing a few words in quotations taken from the work of others, will prevent you from getting a good grade, and may be regarded as academic dishonesty (see more below).

Direct quotations can be useful tools if they provide authority and colour. For maximum effect though, use direct quotations sparingly – where possible, paraphrase most material into your own words. Save direct quotations for phrases that are interesting, contentious, or especially well-phrased.

A good writing practice is to introduce and follow up every direct quotation you use with one or two sentences of your own words, clearly explaining the relevance of the quote, and putting it in context with the rest of your paragraph. Tell the reader who you are quoting, why this quote is here, and what it demonstrates. Avoid simply plonking a quotation into the middle of your own prose. This can be quite off-putting for a reader.

  • Only include punctuation in your quote if it was in the original text. Otherwise, punctuation should come after the quotation marks. If you cut out words from a quotation, put in three dots (an ellipsis [ . . .]) to indicate where material has been cut
  • If your quote is longer than 50 words, it should be indented and does not need quotation marks. This is called a block quote (use these sparingly: remember you have a limited word count and it is your analysis that is most significant)
  • Quotations should not be italicised

Referencing, plagiarism and Turnitin

When writing essays or assignments, it is very important to acknowledge the sources you have used. You risk the charge of academic dishonesty (or plagiarism) if you copy or paraphrase words written by another person without providing a proper acknowledgment (a 'reference'). In your essay, whenever you refer to ideas from elsewhere, statistics, direct quotations, or information from primary source material, you must give details of where this information has come from in footnotes and a bibliography.

Your assignment may be checked through Turnitin, a type of plagiarism-detecting software which checks assignments for evidence of copied material. If you have used a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, you may receive a high Turnitin percentage score. This is nothing to be alarmed about if you have referenced those sources. Any matches with other written material that are not referenced may be interpreted as plagiarism – for which there are penalties. You can find full information about all of this in the History Programme's Quick Guide Referencing Guide contained in all course booklets.

Final suggestions

Remember that the easier it is to read your essay, the more likely you are to get full credit for your ideas and work. If the person marking your work has difficulty reading it, either because of poor writing or poor presentation, they will find it harder to grasp your points. Try reading your work aloud, or to a friend/flatmate. This should expose any issues with flow or structure, which you can then rectify.

Make sure that major and controversial points in your argument are clearly stated and well- supported by evidence and footnotes. Aspire to understand – rather than judge – the past. A historian's job is to think about people, patterns, and events in the context of the time, though you can also reflect on changing perceptions of these over time.

Things to remember

  • Write history essays in the past tense
  • Generally, avoid sub-headings in your essays
  • Avoid using the word 'bias' or 'biased' too freely when discussing your research materials. Almost any text could be said to be 'biased'. Your task is to attempt to explain why an author might argue or interpret the past as they do, and what the potential limitations of their conclusions might be
  • Use the passive voice judiciously. Active sentences are better!
  • Be cautious about using websites as sources of information. The internet has its uses, particularly for primary sources, but the best sources are academic books and articles. You may use websites maintained by legitimate academic and government authorities, such as those with domain suffixes like .gov .govt .ac or .edu
  • Keep an eye on word count – aim to be within 10% of the required length. If your essay is substantially over the limit, revisit your argument and overall structure, and see if you are trying to fit in too much information. If it falls considerably short, look into adding another paragraph or two
  • Leave time for a final edit and spell-check, go through your footnotes and bibliography to check that your references are correctly formatted, and don't forget to back up your work as you go!

Other useful strategies and sources

  • Student Learning Development , which offers peer support and one-on-one writing advice (located near the central library)
  • Harvard College's guide to writing history essays (PDF)
  • Harvard College's advice on essay structure
  • Victoria University's comprehensive essay writing guide (PDF)

Schoolshistory.org.uk

History resources, stories and news. Author: Dan Moorhouse

ways to start a history essay

10 Tips for Writing a Perfect History Essay

No doubt, essays are one of the most popular forms of college assignments. History teachers will probably assign you many of them. And for a good reason – this type of work shows your comprehension of the subject, ability to research, analytical skills, and writing itself, of course. When preparing a history essay, one must consider all the requirements, find relevant data and come up with a logical and well-organized paper.

Your main task is to reveal the topic, demonstrating your expertise. Yes, there’s a lot of work ahead, but thanks to the tips collected below, you will easily navigate all the stages of essay writing!

However, before we begin, here’s one extra recommendation. If you struggle to finish your paper before the deadline, don’t worry! More and more learners outsource their homework to experienced authors to have their essays completed at the highest level. Basically, all you have to do is google “ write my essay ,” and a great professional will be found in no time. This is certainly the best way to manage it all when the study load is simply overwhelming.

Make Sure You Understand The Topic Right

In fact, by assigning you an essay, teachers expect you to answer the question posed. At the same time, the work must be well-argued and well-evidenced. To do this, you need to understand the given topic correctly. If it contains controversial phrases and inaccurate expressions, discuss this with the teacher. In addition, they will appreciate your efforts and desire to write a brilliant essay.

It is also important to realize the key mission. It can be one of the following:

  • Explain why historical events took place;
  • Interpret and analyze a topic;
  • Support or disagree with a specific idea;
  • Justify a certain position.

It’s a great idea to focus on keywords – they’ll be defined at the essay’s beginning. And they will help you narrow your search. Otherwise, you run the risk of spending too much time on extra research that will not relate to your topic.

Do a Profound Research

History is certainly a field where every thought requires confirmation by a fact. And for this, you will rely on sources of two types. The first is information from people who participated in the events of that historical period. It can also be photos, texts, and videos created at that time. This will serve as strong evidence.

The second group is references to the works of scientists studying those events. You can also find inspiration in documentaries and fiction books. Why? They will help you feel the spirit of the era and give some great insights.

Organize Your Sources

At first, you may be intimidated by the amount of information that you will have to read. Or vice versa – its lack. However, all history students (especially the ones from the best universities ) have proven ways to find the data they require.

  • The first is positions in your reading list and bibliography course. The teachers recommended these sources for a reason, right?;
  • The second is the library – try to get the most out of it. Talk to librarians, they may be able to point you to excellent materials;
  • Next, come online journal databases. As a college student, you surely have access to them;
  • Look through free platforms like Google Scholar. There are some high-quality academic materials. As for Wikipedia, it’s not a reliable source, but websites cited on it can help you advance your research.

Analyze The Information You’ve Gathered

Even with a lot of materials collected, you can spoil the work if you don’t analyze them properly. This can be compared to a trip to historical places . What is the point of visiting them if you didn’t come up with your conclusions? Analytical skills are some of the most vital to a researcher.

Struggling to understand whether the data is scholarly? Pay attention to these characteristics:

  • Does the author have a position at the university?
  • Is the book (article, review) published by the academic press?;
  • What is the ending of the site that published the information? The endings “.gov” and “.edu” are best suited.

As you explore the data, be sure to take notes—let it be page numbers, specific resources, citations, or references.

Formulate Key Argument

When studying the topic, you will most likely formulate a thesis statement. With a clear idea in mind (maybe one or two sentences of it), you can move on to building a plan and a draft.

The main requirement for a thesis is that it addresses the essay’s topic and is followed by supporting arguments. By the way, you will include them in the body parts along with evidence.

Of course, the arguments may change as the essay is written (you will probably find deeper ideas during the research stage). But the main thing you will start from is a clearly defined thesis statement.

Come Up With a Plan

A plan is a skeleton of your essay. In fact, the more detailed outline you create, the easier it will be for you later. You will also be able to see how consistent your arguments are. Divide the work into three sections: introduction, main part, and conclusion.

ways to start a history essay

Move On To the Introduction

The introduction is of key importance for the work, as it sets the overall tone of the story and intrigues the reader. First, you need to announce the topic and give a broader perspective on the problem. Your task is to make sure that the reader will be interested enough to move on to the next parts of the essay.

Also, indicate how you will answer the main question – give an overview of your arguments and the evidence you use to support them.

When Working On Body, Have a Clear Structure In Mind

This part of the essay requires special attention – it usually consists of three paragraphs:

  • Argument, evidence;
  • Argument, evidence.

In addition to being logical and consistent, the text must be readable and easy to perceive. For this, use transition words – they make the essay flow and link your thoughts together.

Summarize Your Key Points

A brilliant ending perfectly sums up your points of view, arguments, and evidence. Here, you are referring to the outline. Make sure that the conclusion contains the answer to the main question of the essay.

Proofread The Essay

When the last word is written, the work is still not ready. It certainly has errors and typos that are waiting to be corrected. The best advice is to rest a little after finishing the essay because you need to somewhat forget it. Then, use tools like Hemingway and Grammarly to clean up overly complex expressions, grammar errors, and long sentences.

Read the text aloud. Is it easy to read? Is the main idea clear? Great, it means proofreading went well!

To Wrap It Up

Perhaps the main mistake which students make when completing a history essay is describing events instead of analyzing them. Be sure to ask yourself the question: what is the point of this specific paragraph? How does it help support the thesis?

Another key point is references and a bibliography. There are several citation styles, so study them so as not to spoil the end of the work. Yes, it’s rather boring, but it will show the teacher your effort and diligence.

Image Sources

Featured Image: Unsplash

  • ← The History of Bingo and the Evolution of the Game
  • How to Create a History Essay That Will Stand Out →

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

  • 37559 Share on Facebook
  • 2402 Share on Twitter
  • 6922 Share on Pinterest
  • 2996 Share on LinkedIn
  • 5520 Share on Email

ways to start a history essay

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter, Complete with Exclusive History Content

Thanks, I’m not interested

The UK National Charity for History

Password Sign In

Become a Member | Register for free

Essay Writing

Student Guides

ways to start a history essay

  • Add to My HA Add to folder Default Folder [New Folder] Add

History is not just about writing lots of essays! It is also about discussion, debate and evidence. However, there will be, as with many other subjects at A-Level, some essays to write - but it is not as tough as it looks. Essay writing is a skill that you will get better at over time, but you might find the guide below useful to help you along.

How to Write a History Essay

  • Are you new to the 6th form?
  • Are you already in the 6th form but worried about your essay writing skills?
  • Are you moving on to study history at university?

Then this could be just what you need! This guide will not help you to get outstanding grades - that is up to you, but it will prepare you with the skills that you need to produce that masterpiece!

Key Features: The Must Haves

A-Level/Undergraduate essays should contain the following features; although it depends on the type of essay you are writing as to how far you go; for example, a personal study or dissertation will require a great deal of historiography and referencing, whereas class essays may require less. If you are unsure as to how much your teacher will expect, it is best to ask! 

A well considered argument - This is VERY important to get right. It means that you will need to make sure that you clearly state your line of argument and do it convincingly. At the same time, you will also need to give full coverage to other factors/opinions/arguments that are at play - even if it is to rubbish them!

Reference to the question

An introduction

A middle -  the substantive part of the essay, where you present the evidence and arguments

A conclusion

Footnotes and bibliography

Before You Start...

The key to success in any history essay is preparation. This not only includes focussed and wide reading around the topic, but also your preparation of your thoughts and arguments. Richard Harris, experienced history teacher and now lecturer in education at Southampton University provides a very good starting point for essay writing. His plan is designed to get you thinking and planning your structure before you write. You can find a copy of this planning sheet at the end of the guide. 

1) Considered Argument

The key to providing a considered argument is to read widely! What is the historiography (views of different historians) surrounding the topic? What evidence is there to support different lines of argument? Your job is firstly to present these lines of argument.

Secondly, you should critically evaluate these views and evidence as you explain them. Is there evidence to counteract? By providing a considered argument - what we don't mean is that you sit on the fence! Every essay MUST have an argument, but by considered, we simply mean that you should be prepared to consider other arguments/factors, other than your own view, even if it is to critically evaluate them and dismiss their importance! But you must be convincing and be prepared to examine them fully.

At A level, the mark-schemes tend to be stepped into 5 different levels; you cannot progress beyond level 2/3 if you do not provide a well considered argument! The examiner wants to see what your opinion is, but they also want to know that you have not just "plucked" this opinion from nowhere - they want to see that you have considered the topic fully, taken account of all of the views and arguments before making your judgement. Therefore, you should stick to your line of argument throughout, but you should clearly evaluate other points of view, showing your reader how and why they are less valuable arguments than your own. 

2) Reference to the question

Where possible you should show how the evidence you are presenting links back to the question. You should refer back to the question wherever a link or piece of evidence provides some clues to help formulate an answer. This should help you to avoid going off track. Always think as you are writing "does this paragraph help to present the evidence to support my line of argument or help me to answer the question?" 

3) The Introduction

The introduction should set the scene. It should be short and snappy, no more than a few lines, but they are very important as you need to hook your reader in. There should be some very brief background detail to the question. You should also include some brief historiography - what is the main debate among historians about this issue? Who is saying what? You should also at this point wish to state what YOUR argument is going to be.

You should then refer back to the question by stating how you are going to measure/argue your case; a good way to do this is by referring back to the question itself. It should help you to get the question straight in your own mind too and give you some direction. For example, if you have a question asking you how significant an event was, you need to explain what is meant by significance and how you will measure this.

E.g. 'How significant was the Reichstag Fire in the Nazi revolution?'

When this question is analysed, bit by bit it helps us to explain to our reader what the essay intends to cover. 

4) The Middle

This is the substantive part of the essay. This is the bit where you have to present the evidence and arguments. It should predominantly contain your analysis/argument but you must also look at the counter-arguments and the views of historians.

  • Present evidence in a balanced way: You should present your argument/response to the question clearly and effectively, using the views of historians and other evidence to back up the points you make. On the other side, you should also consider the arguments against your own and critically evaluate them in order to show why they are less important/plausible than your own.
  • Present your evidence in a logical order : Try to avoid jumping around. Make a plan before you write that organizes your evidence logically. This could either be in themes or in chronological order.
  • Include analysis: You must make sure that you don't just fall into the trap of presenting evidence without analysis. This reads more like a list! When presenting a piece of evidence or the view of a historian, don't forget to critically analyse. Is the evidence reliable? Is the view of the historian reliable or are they writing from a specific viewpoint? Are there different interpretations? What do you think? Is it a valid point?
  • Refer often to the title: Don't forget to link your points back to the question where possible. It will help your essay and your reader stay focused on the answer to the question!

How to Structure Paragraphs:

It is important to structure your points within the scaffolding of the paragraph well. A good way to do this is to PEE all over your paragraphs!!!

Of course, don't take this literally and ruin your essay - what we mean is to use the PEE formula:

E - Example

E - Explanation.

This is a good habit to get into and a good way to provide structure. Simply make your point, give an example or piece of evidence to back it up, then explain it. What is the context? How or why is it significant/insignificant? How does it fit into the topic? How does it help to answer the question? 

Test yourself:

See if you can spot the PEE on this paragraph which forms part of an answer to the question "Was Edward IV a new monarch?"

"Edward's power did not increase at the expense of the nobility; a key criteria for new monarch status. Edward continued the tradition of letting powerful magnates rule the peripheral regions of the country, such as the North and Wales. This resulted in the creation of a number of large power bases including the Herberts in Wales, Gloucester in the North, the Percys in the eastern marshes and the Woodvilles in London. This was largely due to the small number of noble creations in his reign - he only made nine promotions to high nobility. On the one hand this shows that he was in form control as he had sufficient power and stability without having to make lots of noble creations to gain support, yet on the other hand he was creating a volatile situation as rivalries built up between powerful factions and Edward was cresting a potentially explosive situation which only he could control." 

5) Conclusion

This is the end of the essay. This is the bit where you are expected to answer the question! Here you should sum up in a couple of sentences what your argument is, and why it is the most plausible explanation, being careful to remind the reader of supportive evidence. Finally, you should put the essay in context. Explain the wider context to the question. It might be that there are longer-term or under the surface issues that need further exploration, or it may be that there is a bigger picture in play. By putting your answer in context, we don't mean just adding some extra facts about the period at the end - your setting in context should display your broader understanding of the period. A good example of this is when a student was writing about the Golden Age of Spain:

"In conclusion, the extent to whether this period can be deemed as a "Golden Age" ultimately rests on the context of the time. Although it is true to say that Spain was making advances in several areas, in terms of power, unity, wealth, economy, culture, empire and discovery. The extent of religious and racial persecution however, could be deemed as less golden in terms of morality, even if both policies were successful in terms of strengthening Spain's power base. In the wider context of the time, Spain's achievements seem less golden than they may at first appear. We have to remember that this period saw the Renaissance. The Renaissance affected practically every area of life at the time, and was a new dawn of discovery and thinking -  Leonardo Da Vinci, William Harvey, Martin Luther, Copernicus and Galileo were but a few of the characters that shaped the time;  therefore, if Spain had a golden age, so too did many other countries." 

  • Re-state your argument using the key words from the title
  • Be confident in your argument
  • Hint at a broader context
  • What other issues would you explore, given more time? 

6) Footnotes and Bibliography

At A-Level and undergraduate level, you will be expected to footnote your essays. Because you are not expected to do this at GCSE, this may be a new skill for you, but it is very easy! 

What are footnotes?

When you quote evidence or the views of a historian from a book or periodical, you are expected to let your reader know where you got this evidence from, so that if they wished (very few would) they could go and check your evidence. You can do this by including citations or footnotes.       

How to Footnote

The process of footnoting is slightly different on different computer programs and may differ again if you are using a MAC, but the process is the same, even if you are handwriting.

Footnotes should be numbered and should either appear at the bottom of the page on which they are cited or in a list at the end of the essay. They should include the following information:

1.) Author's name (surname first)

2.) Date and place of publication (found on the first page of the book usually)

3.) Title of book (in italics)

4.) Page reference. 

How to footnote on the computer

If you have Microsoft Office, the simplest way to insert a footnote is by going to the references section on the tool-bar and then following the instructions above. If you are using an earlier version of Office, you should click on insert and then select footnote from the list.

Below is an example to illustrate what a footnote should look like:

"Leo, the holy pope in Rome, passed away; and in this year there was a great pestilence among cattle than man could remember for many years..." [1]   

Footnote extras

  • If the book is a collection of articles or a reproduction of primary source material, it will not have an author, but an editor instead. If the main name on the book is an editor, you need to write the letters (ed.) next to the name.
  • If your next footnote in the sequence is from the same book, but a different page, you do not need to write out all of the information again, you can simply write the word "Ibid" which means same source and then cite the page number. However, you should only do this once in any given sequence. If you have 3 quotes in a row from the same book, the third time, you should write out the information again. 

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is the list of books that you have used to help you write your essay. This may include books that you have quoted from or used as part of your reading.

You should always include a bibliography at the end of your essay which lists the books that you have used. You can use the same format as you would for footnotes. Below is a sample to show you how it should look.

1.) Campbell, J (ed) Cambridge 1982 - The Anglo-Saxons

2.) Swanton, M (ed) J.M Dent 1997 - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle                                                  

The Harvard Footnote System

Another option to make sure you have referenced correctly is to use the simpler Harvard system. This may be a preferred method for the writing of normal class essays, although for a personal study, the use of traditional footnoting is still recommended. Harvard referencing uses the author and the date of the work in the main body of the text, and then has a reference list at the end of the essay which contains the references cited in alphabetical order by author. The reference list contains the full details of the book or journal cited. Because you only refer to a shortened form of works in the main essay (author, date) your essay doesn't get filled with too much reference material. The use of the author/date shorthand does make it easy to locate works in the reference list.

An example from the main body of a text:

Within the last ten years, teachers who have attended INSET courses have reported that the courses have helped to increase their competence and confidence in using IT (see, for example, Higham and Morris, 1993; ESRC 1990), yet despite the fact that the passing years have presented opportunities for more teachers to increase their skills in IT, weaknesses identified by McCoy (1992) seem to be still evident (Gillmon, 1998; Goldstein 1997). This suggests that we need to look for explanations other than attendance at INSET courses for the reasons for the apparently poor state of teachers' competence and confidence in IT.

In this text the author is citing entire works by other researchers to support her argument. Notice the use of brackets and the author/s and dates of all works.

Another example from the main body of a text:

One resource provided in the secondary speech genre is the "posited author" (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 312).

Here the quotation is a direct one so a page number has been added. Quotations of no more than two sentences can be incorporated into the main text and marked off with quotation marks, but if you quote a longer passage it must be placed in a separate paragraph and indented from the left and right margins of the main text.

_______________ 

[1] Swanton, Michael (ed), J.M Dent 1997, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pg. 185

Attached files:

  • Essay Planning Sheet 54.5 KB Word document
  • How to write a synoptic essay
  • A-level 'how to' guides

University of Cambridge

Study at Cambridge

About the university, research at cambridge.

  • Undergraduate courses
  • Events and open days
  • Fees and finance
  • Postgraduate courses
  • How to apply
  • Postgraduate events
  • Fees and funding
  • International students
  • Continuing education
  • Executive and professional education
  • Courses in education
  • How the University and Colleges work
  • Term dates and calendars
  • Visiting the University
  • Annual reports
  • Equality and diversity
  • A global university
  • Public engagement
  • Give to Cambridge
  • For Cambridge students
  • For our researchers
  • Business and enterprise
  • Colleges & departments
  • Email & phone search
  • Museums & collections
  • Student information

Department of History and Philosophy of Science

  • About the Department overview
  • How to find the Department
  • Annual Report
  • HPS Discussion email list
  • Becoming a Visiting Scholar or Visiting Student overview
  • Visitor fee payment
  • Becoming an Affiliate
  • Applying for research grants and post-doctoral fellowships
  • Administration overview
  • Information for new staff
  • Information for examiners and assessors overview
  • Operation of the HPS plagiarism policy
  • Information for supervisors overview
  • Supervising Part IB and Part II students
  • Supervising MPhil and Part III students
  • Supervising PhD students
  • People overview
  • Teaching Officers
  • Research Fellows and Teaching Associates
  • Professional Services Staff
  • PhD Students
  • Research overview
  • Research projects overview
  • Colonial Natures overview
  • The Challenge of Conservation
  • Natural History in the Age of Revolutions, 1776–1848
  • In the Shadow of the Tree: The Diagrammatics of Relatedness as Scientific, Scholarly and Popular Practice
  • The Many Births of the Test-Tube Baby
  • Culture at the Macro-Scale: Boundaries, Barriers and Endogenous Change
  • Making Climate History overview
  • Project summary
  • Workstreams
  • Works cited and project literature
  • Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power overview
  • From Collection to Cultivation: Historical Perspectives on Crop Diversity and Food Security overview
  • Call for papers
  • How Collections End: Objects, Meaning and Loss in Laboratories and Museums
  • Tools in Materials Research
  • Epsilon: A Collaborative Digital Framework for Nineteenth-Century Letters of Science
  • Contingency in the History and Philosophy of Science
  • Industrial Patronage and the Cold War University
  • FlyBase: Communicating Drosophila Genetics on Paper and Online, 1970–2000
  • The Lost Museums of Cambridge Science, 1865–1936
  • From Hansa to Lufthansa: Transportation Technologies and the Mobility of Knowledge in Germanic Lands and Beyond, 1300–2018
  • Medical Publishers, Obscenity Law and the Business of Sexual Knowledge in Victorian Britain
  • Kinds of Intelligence
  • Varieties of Social Knowledge
  • The Vesalius Census
  • Histories of Biodiversity and Agriculture
  • Investigating Fake Scientific Instruments in the Whipple Museum Collection
  • Before HIV: Homosex and Venereal Disease, c.1939–1984
  • The Casebooks Project
  • Generation to Reproduction
  • The Darwin Correspondence Project
  • History of Medicine overview
  • Events overview
  • Past events
  • Philosophy of Science overview
  • Study HPS overview
  • Undergraduate study overview
  • Introducing History and Philosophy of Science
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Routes into History and Philosophy of Science
  • Part II overview
  • Distribution of Part II marks
  • BBS options
  • Postgraduate study overview
  • Why study HPS at Cambridge?
  • MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine overview
  • A typical day for an MPhil student
  • MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society
  • PhD in History and Philosophy of Science overview
  • Part-time PhD

PhD placement record

  • Funding for postgraduate students
  • Student information overview
  • Timetable overview
  • Primary source seminars
  • Research methods seminars
  • Writing support seminars
  • Dissertation seminars
  • BBS Part II overview
  • Early Medicine
  • Modern Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
  • Philosophy of Science and Medicine
  • Ethics of Medicine
  • Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine
  • Part III and MPhil
  • Single-paper options
  • Part IB students' guide overview
  • About the course
  • Supervisions
  • Libraries and readings
  • Scheme of examination
  • Part II students' guide overview
  • Primary sources
  • Dissertation
  • Key dates and deadlines
  • Advice overview
  • Examination advice
  • Learning strategies and exam skills
  • Advice from students
  • Part III students' guide overview
  • Essays and dissertation
  • Subject areas
  • MPhil students' guide overview
  • PhD students' guide overview
  • Welcome to new PhDs
  • Registration exercise and annual reviews
  • Your supervisor and advisor
  • Progress log
  • Intermission and working away from Cambridge
  • The PhD thesis
  • Submitting your thesis
  • Examination
  • News and events overview
  • Seminars and reading groups overview
  • Departmental Seminars
  • Coffee with Scientists
  • Cabinet of Natural History overview
  • Publications
  • History of Medicine Seminars
  • Purpose and Progress in Science
  • The Anthropocene
  • Calculating People
  • Measurement Reading Group
  • Teaching Global HPSTM
  • Pragmatism Reading Group
  • Foundations of Physics Reading Group
  • History of Science and Medicine in Southeast Asia
  • Atmospheric Humanities Reading Group
  • Science Fiction & HPS Reading Group
  • Values in Science Reading Group
  • Cambridge Reading Group on Reproduction
  • HPS Workshop
  • Postgraduate Seminars overview
  • Images of Science
  • Language Groups overview
  • Latin Therapy overview
  • Bibliography of Latin language resources
  • Fun with Latin
  • Archive overview
  • Lent Term 2024
  • Michaelmas Term 2023
  • Easter Term 2023
  • Lent Term 2023
  • Michaelmas Term 2022
  • Easter Term 2022
  • Lent Term 2022
  • Michaelmas Term 2021
  • Easter Term 2021
  • Lent Term 2021
  • Michaelmas Term 2020
  • Easter Term 2020
  • Lent Term 2020
  • Michaelmas Term 2019
  • Easter Term 2019
  • Lent Term 2019
  • Michaelmas Term 2018
  • Easter Term 2018
  • Lent Term 2018
  • Michaelmas Term 2017
  • Easter Term 2017
  • Lent Term 2017
  • Michaelmas Term 2016
  • Easter Term 2016
  • Lent Term 2016
  • Michaelmas Term 2015
  • Postgraduate and postdoc training overview
  • Induction sessions
  • Academic skills and career development
  • Print & Material Sources
  • Other events and resources

How to organise a history essay or dissertation

  • About the Department
  • News and events

Research guide

Sachiko Kusukawa

There are many ways of writing history and no fixed formula for a 'good' essay or dissertation. Before you start, you may find it helpful to have a look at some sample dissertations and essays from the past: ask at the Whipple Library.

Some people have a clear idea already of what they are going to write about; others find it more difficult to choose or focus on a topic. It may be obvious, but it is worth pointing out that you should choose a topic you find interesting and engaging. Ask a potential supervisor for a list of appropriate readings, chase up any further sources that look interesting or promising from the footnotes, or seek further help. Try to define your topic as specifically as possible as soon as possible. Sometimes, it helps to formulate a question (in the spirit of a Tripos question), which could then be developed, refined, or re-formulated. A good topic should allow you to engage closely with a primary source (text, image, object, etc.) and develop a historiographical point – e.g. adding to, or qualifying historians' current debates or received opinion on the topic. Specific controversies (either historically or historiographically) are often a great place to start looking. Many dissertations and essays turn out to be overambitious in scope, but underambition is a rare defect!

Both essays and dissertations have an introduction and a conclusion . Between the introduction and the conclusion there is an argument or narrative (or mixture of argument and narrative).

An introduction introduces your topic, giving reasons why it is interesting and anticipating (in order) the steps of your argument. Hence many find that it is a good idea to write the introduction last. A conclusion summarises your arguments and claims. This is also the place to draw out the implications of your claims; and remember that it is often appropriate to indicate in your conclusion further profitable lines of research, inquiry, speculation, etc.

An argument or narrative should be coherent and presented in order. Divide your text into paragraphs which make clear points. Paragraphs should be ordered so that they are easy to follow. Always give reasons for your assertions and assessments: simply stating that something or somebody is right or wrong does not constitute an argument. When you describe or narrate an event, spell out why it is important for your overall argument. Put in chapter or section headings whenever you make a major new step in your argument of narrative.

It is a very good idea to include relevant pictures and diagrams . These should be captioned, and their relevance should be fully explained. If images are taken from a source, this should be included in the captions or list of illustrations.

The extent to which it is appropriate to use direct quotations varies according to topic and approach. Always make it clear why each quotation is pertinent to your argument. If you quote from non-English sources say if the translation is your own; if it isn't give the source. At least in the case of primary sources include the original in a note if it is your own translation, or if the precise details of wording are important. Check your quotations for accuracy. If there is archaic spelling make sure it isn't eliminated by a spell-check. Don't use words without knowing what they mean.

An essay or a dissertation has three components: the main text , the notes , and the bibliography .

The main text is where you put in the substance of your argument, and is meant to be longer than the notes. For quotes from elsewhere, up to about thirty words, use quotation marks ("...", or '...'). If you quote anything longer, it is better to indent the whole quotation without quotation marks.

Notes may either be at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or at the end of the main text, but before the bibliography (endnotes). Use notes for references and other supplementary material which does not constitute the substance of your argument. Whenever you quote directly from other works, you must give the exact reference in your notes. A reference means the exact location in a book or article which you have read , so that others can find it also – it should include author, title of the book, place and date of publication, page number. (There are many different ways to refer to scholarly works: see below.) . If you cite a primary source from a secondary source and you yourself have not read or checked the primary source, you must acknowledge the secondary source from which the citation was taken. Whenever you paraphrase material from somebody else's work, you must acknowledge that fact. There is no excuse for plagiarism. It is important to note that generous and full acknowledgement of the work of others does not undermine your originality.

Your bibliography must contain all the books and articles you have referred to (do not include works that you did not use). It lists works alphabetically by the last name of the author. There are different conventions to set out a bibliography, but at the very least a bibliographic entry should include for a book the last name and initials/first name of the author, the title of the book in italics or underlined, and the place, (publisher optional) and date of publication; or, for an article, the last name and initials/first name of the author, the title in inverted commas, and the name of the journal in italics or underlined, followed by volume number, date of publication, and page numbers. Names of editors of volumes of collected articles and names of translators should also be included, whenever applicable.

  • M. MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  • William Clark, 'Narratology and the History of Science', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 26 (1995), 1–72.
  • M. F. Burnyeat, 'The Sceptic in His Place and Time', in R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind and Q. Skinner (eds), Philosophy in History , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 225–54.

Alternatively, if you have many works to refer to, it may be easier to use an author-date system in notes, e.g.:

  • MacDonald [1981], p. 89; Clark [1995a], p. 65; Clark [1995b], pp. 19–99.

In this case your bibliography should also start with the author-date, e.g.:

  • MacDonald, Michael [1981], Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Clark, William [1995a], 'Narratology and the History of Science', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 26, 1–72.

This system has the advantage of making your foot- or endnotes shorter, and many choose it to save words (the bibliography is not included in the word limit). It is the system commonly used in scientific publications. Many feel however that something is historically amiss when you find in a footnote something like 'Plato [1996b]' or 'Locke [1975]'. In some fields of research there are standard systems of reference: you will find that this is the case if, for example, you write an essay/dissertation on classical history or philosophy of science. In such cases it is a good idea to take a standard secondary source as your model (e.g. in the case of classics, see G.E.R. Lloyd's The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practices of Ancient Greek Science , Berkeley 1987).

Whatever system you decide to follow for your footnotes, what matters most is that the end-product is consistent.

Keep accurate records of all the relevant bibliographic information as you do your reading for your essay/dissertation. (If you don't you may waste days trying to trace references when you are close to submission deadlines.)

Consistency of style throughout the essay/dissertation is encouraged. There are many professional guides to thesis writing which give you more information on the style and format of theses – for example the MLS handbook (British) and the Chicago Manual of Style (American), both in the Whipple, and a booklet, H. Teitelbaum, How to Write a Thesis: A Guide to the Research Paper , 3rd ed., 126 pp., New York: Macmillan (& Arco), 1994 (in the UL: 1996.8.2620). But don't try to follow everything they say!

Every now and then you should read through a printout of your whole essay/dissertation, to ensure that your argument flows throughout the piece: otherwise there is a danger that your arguments become compartmentalised to the size of the screen. When reading drafts, ask yourself if it would be comprehensible to an intelligent reader who was not an expert on the specific topic.

It is imperative that you save your work on disk regularly – never be caught out without a back-up.

Before you submit:

  • remember to run a spell-check (and remember that a spell check will not notice if you have written, for example, 'pheasant' instead of 'peasant', or, even trickier, 'for' instead of 'from', 'it' instead of 'is', etc.);
  • prepare a table of contents, with titles for each chapter of your essay/dissertation, page numbers and all;
  • prepare a cover page with the title, your name and college;
  • prepare a page with the required statement about length, originality etc.

Email search

Privacy and cookie policies

Study History and Philosophy of Science

Undergraduate study

Postgraduate study

Library and Museum

Whipple Library

Whipple Museum

Museum Collections Portal

Research projects

History of Medicine

Philosophy of Science

© 2024 University of Cambridge

  • Contact the University
  • Accessibility
  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy policy and cookies
  • Statement on Modern Slavery
  • Terms and conditions
  • University A-Z
  • Undergraduate
  • Postgraduate
  • Research news
  • About research at Cambridge
  • Spotlight on...

How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television . Penguin, 1982)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner , Summer 2007)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell . Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine , June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review , 2007)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review , Winter 2008)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun , February 2009)

Reveal a Secret or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." ( Richard Selzer , "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife . Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture . Westview Press, 1999)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time , July 31, 2000)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review , 2009)

  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • 100 Persuasive Essay Topics
  • 'Whack at Your Reader at Once': Eight Great Opening Lines
  • What Is a Compelling Introduction?
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • How To Write an Essay
  • Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
  • Writing a Descriptive Essay
  • How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How to Write a Great Essay for the TOEFL or TOEIC
  • How to Develop and Organize a Classification Essay
  • Contrast Composition and Rhetoric
  • 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
  • What Is Expository Writing?

History Essay Examples

Cathy A.

Top History Essay Examples To Get Inspired By

Published on: May 4, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 31, 2024

history essay examples

Share this article

History essays are a crucial component of many academic programs, helping students to develop their critical thinking, research, and writing skills. 

However, writing a great history essay is not always easy, especially when you are struggling to find the right approach. This is where history essay examples come in handy. 

By reading and examining samples of successful history essays, you can gain inspiration, learn new ways to approach your topic. Moreover, you can develop a better understanding of what makes a great history essay.

In this blog, you will find a range of history essay examples that showcase the best practices in history essay writing. 

Read on to find useful examples.

On This Page On This Page -->

Sample History Essays

Explore our collection of excellent history paper examples about various topics. Download the pdf examples for free and read to get inspiration for your own essay.

History Essay Samples for Middle School

The Impact of Ancient Civilizations on Modern Society

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

The Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution

History Writing Samples for High School Students

The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Society

Grade 10 History Essay Example: World War 1 Causes and Effects

Grade 12 History Essay Example: The Impact of Technology on World War II

Ancient History Essay Examples

The Societal and Political Structures of the Maya Civilization

The Role of Phoenicians in the Development of Ancient Mediterranean World

The Contributions of the Indus Civilization

Medieval History Essay Examples

The Crusades Motivations and Consequences

The Beginning of Islamic Golden Age

The Black Death

Modern History Essay Examples

The Suez Crisis and the End of British Dominance

The Rise of China as an Economic Powerhouse

World History Essay Examples

The Role of the Silk Road in Shaping Global Trade and Culture

The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire

The Legacy of Ancient Greek Philosophy and Thought

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

American History Essay Examples

The Civil Rights Movement and its Impact on American Society

The American Civil War and its Aftermath

The Role of Women in American Society Throughout History

African History Essay Examples

The Impact of Colonialism on African Societies

The Rise and Fall of the Mali Empire

European History Essay Examples

The Protestant Reformation and the Rise of Protestantism in Europe

The French Revolution and its Impact on European Politics and Society

The Cold War and the Division of Europe

Argumentative History Essay Examples

Was the US Civil War Primarily About Slavery or States

The Effects of British Colonization on Colonies

Art History Essay Examples 

The Influence of Greek and Roman Art on Neoclassicism

The Depiction of Women in Art Throughout History

The Role of Art in the Propaganda of Fascist Regimes

How to Use History Essay Examples

History essay examples are a valuable tool for students looking for inspiration and guidance on how to approach their own essays. 

By analyzing successful essays, you can learn effective writing techniques that can be expected in a high-quality history essay. 

Here are some tips that will help you take full advantage of the samples above.

Tips for Effectively Using History Essay Examples

  • Analyze the Structure:

Pay close attention to how the essay is organized, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Look for how the author transitions between paragraphs and the use of evidence to support their argument.

  • Study the Thesis Statement:

The thesis statement is the backbone of any successful history essay. Analyze how the author crafted their thesis statement, and consider how you can apply this to your own writing.

  • Take Note of the Evidence: 

Effective history essays rely on using strong evidence to support their arguments. Take note of the sources and types of evidence used in the essay. Consider how you can apply similar evidence to support your own arguments.

  • Pay Attention to the Formatting and Other Academic Formalities:

The sample essays also demonstrate how you can incorporate academic formalities and standards while keeping the essay engaging. See how these essays fulfill academic standards and try to follow them in your own writing.

  • Practice Writing:

While analyzing history essay examples can be helpful, it is important to also practice writing your own essays. Use the examples as inspiration, but try to craft your own unique approach to your topic. 

History essays are an essential aspect of learning and understanding the past. By using history essay examples, students can gain inspiration on how to develop their history essays effectively. 

Furthermore, following the tips outlined in this blog, students can effectively analyze these essay samples and learn from them. 

However, writing a history essay can still be challenging. 

Looking for an online essay writing service that specializes in history essays? Look no further!

Our history essay writing service is your go-to source for well-researched and expertly crafted papers.

And for an extra edge in your academic journey, explore our AI essay writing tool . Make history with your grades by choosing our online essay writing service and harnessing the potential of our AI essay writing tool.

Get started today!

Cathy A. (Law, Marketing)

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Get Help

Legal & Policies

  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookies Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Refunds & Cancellations
  • Our Writers
  • Success Stories
  • Our Guarantees
  • Affiliate Program
  • Referral Program
  • AI Essay Writer

Disclaimer: All client orders are completed by our team of highly qualified human writers. The essays and papers provided by us are not to be used for submission but rather as learning models only.

ways to start a history essay

ways to start a history essay

How to write a conclusion for a history essay

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Every essay needs to end with a concluding paragraph. It is the last paragraph the marker reads, and this will typically be the last paragraph that you write.

What is a ‘concluding paragraph?

The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay that reminds the reader about the points you have made and how it proves the argument which you stated in your hypothesis .

By the time your marker reads your conclusion, they have read all the evidence you have presented in your body paragraphs . This is your last opportunity to show that you have proven your points.

While your conclusion will talk about the same points you made in your introduction , it should not read exactly the same.  Instead, it should state the same information in a more developed form and bring the essay to an end.

In general, you should never use quotes from sources in your conclusion.

Concluding paragraph structure

While the concluding paragraph will normally be shorter than your introductory and body paragraphs , it still has a specific role to fulfil.

A well-written concluding paragraph has the following three-part structure:

  • Restate your key points
  • Restate your hypothesis
  • Concluding sentence

Each element of this structure is explained further, with examples, below:

1. Restate your key points

In one or two sentences, restate each of the topic sentences from your body paragraphs . This is to remind the marker about how you proved your argument.

This information will be similar to your elaboration sentences in your introduction , but will be much briefer.

Since this is a summary of your entire essay’s argument, you will often want to start your conclusion with a phrase to highlight this. For example: “In conclusion”, “In summary”, “To briefly summarise”, or “Overall”.

Example restatements of key points:

Middle Ages (Year 8 Level)

In conclusion, feudal lords had initially spent vast sums of money on elaborate castle construction projects but ceased to do so as a result of the advances in gunpowder technology which rendered stone defences obsolete.

WWI (Year 9 Level)

To briefly summarise, the initially flood of Australian volunteers were encouraged by imperial propaganda but as a result of the stories harsh battlefield experience which filtered back to the home front, enlistment numbers quickly declined.

Civil Rights (Year 10 Level)

In summary, the efforts of important First Nations leaders and activist organisations to spread the idea of indigenous political equality had a significant effect on sway public opinion in favour of a ‘yes’ vote.

Ancient Rome (Year 11/12 Level)  

Overall, the Marian military reforms directly changed Roman political campaigns and the role of public opinion in military command assignments across a variety of Roman societal practices.

2. Restate your hypothesis

This is a single sentence that restates the hypothesis from your introductory paragraph .

Don’t simply copy it word-for-word. It should be restated in a different way, but still clearly saying what you have been arguing for the whole of your essay.

Make it clear to your marker that you are clearly restating you argument by beginning this sentence a phrase to highlight this. For example: “Therefore”, “This proves that”, “Consequently”, or “Ultimately”.

Example restated hypotheses:

Therefore, it is clear that while castles were initially intended to dominate infantry-dominated siege scenarios, they were abandoned in favour of financial investment in canon technologies.

This proves that the change in Australian soldiers' morale during World War One was the consequence of the mass slaughter produced by mass-produced weaponry and combat doctrine.

Consequently, the 1967 Referendum considered a public relations success because of the targeted strategies implemented by Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Ultimately, it can be safely argued that Gaius Marius was instrumental in revolutionising the republican political, military and social structures in the 1 st century BC.

3. Concluding sentence

This is the final sentence of your conclusion that provides a final statement about the implications of your arguments for modern understandings of the topic. Alternatively, it could make a statement about what the effect of this historical person or event had on history. 

Example concluding sentences:

While these medieval structures fell into disuse centuries ago, they continue to fascinate people to this day.

The implications of the war-weariness produced by these experiences continued to shape opinions about war for the rest of the 20 th century.

Despite this, the Indigenous Peoples had to lobby successive Australian governments for further political equality, which still continues today.

Ancient Rome (Year 11/12 Level)

The impact of these changes effectively prepared the way for other political figures, like Pompey, Julius Caesar and Octavian, who would ultimately transform the Roman republic into an empire.

Putting it all together

Once you have written all three parts of, you should have a completed concluding paragraph. In the examples above, we have shown each part separately. Below you will see the completed paragraphs so that you can appreciate what a conclusion should look like.

Example conclusion paragraphs: 

In conclusion, feudal lords had initially spent vast sums of money on elaborate castle construction projects but ceased to do so as a result of the advances in gunpowder technology which rendered stone defences obsolete. Therefore, it is clear that while castles were initially intended to dominate infantry-dominated siege scenarios, they were abandoned in favour of financial investment in canon technologies. While these medieval structures fell into disuse centuries ago, they continue to fascinate people to this day.

To briefly summarise, the initially flood of Australian volunteers were encouraged by imperial propaganda, but as a result of the stories harsh battlefield experience which filtered back to the home front, enlistment numbers quickly declined. This proves that the change in Australian soldiers' morale during World War One was the consequence of the mass slaughter produced by mass-produced weaponry and combat doctrine. The implications of the war-weariness produced by these experiences continued to shape opinions about war for the rest of the 20th century.

In summary, the efforts of important indigenous leaders and activist organisations to spread the idea of indigenous political equality had a significant effect on sway public opinion in favour of a ‘yes’ vote. Consequently, the 1967 Referendum considered a public relations success because of the targeted strategies implemented by Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Despite this, the Indigenous Peoples had to lobby successive Australian governments for further political equality, which still continues today.

Overall, the Marian military reforms directly changed Roman political campaigns and the role of public opinion in military command assignments across a variety of Roman societal practices. Ultimately, it can be safely argued that Gaius Marius was instrumental in revolutionising the republican political, military and social structures in the 1st century BC. The impact of these changes effectively prepared the way for other political figures, like Pompey, Julius Caesar and Octavian, who would ultimately transform the Roman republic into an empire.

Additional resources

ways to start a history essay

What do you need help with?

Download ready-to-use digital learning resources.

ways to start a history essay

Copyright © History Skills 2014-2024.

Contact  via email

Search form

Yale awards nine honorary degrees.

The nine recipients of Yale honorary degrees in 2024.

Front row, from left, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Judith Rodin, Peter Salovey, Mahzarin Banaji, and Hortense Spillers.  Second row, from left, László Lovász,  Kehinde Wiley,  Mario Capecchi, and Stephen Breyer. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

During its 323rd graduation ceremony on Monday, Yale conferred honorary degrees on nine individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields.

This year’s honorary degree recipients included the eminent social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji; retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer; Nobel Prize-winning molecular geneticist Mario Capecchi; health policy leader Risa Lavizzo-Mourey; mathematician and computer scientist László Lovász; research psychologist and global thought leader Judith Rodin; literary critic Hortense Spillers; and visual artist Kehinde Wiley ’01 M.F.A.

And also receiving an honorary degree was Yale President Peter Salovey, who presided over his final Commencement as Yale’s leader before his planned return to the faculty this summer.

The awarding of honorary degrees, which has been a Yale tradition since 1702, recognizes pioneering achievement or exemplary contribution to the common good.

The honorary degree recipients and their citations follow:

Mahzarin Banaji Social psychologist Doctor of Social Science

“ Groundbreaking scholar whose pioneering work has helped establish the role that unconscious processes play in governing human social action, you have educated us to appreciate how our judgment of others may spring, not from conscious dislike or animosity, but from implicit biases we do not recognize or understand. These ‘mind bugs’ occur outside of our awareness or control and give rise to prejudices based on race, gender, age, and other characteristics. Intrepid investigator whose work has opened minds and hearts by illuminating what leads us to categorize others, we are pleased to admit explicit bias in your favor as we honor a beloved former Yale faculty member with the degree of Doctor of Social Science. ”

Stephen Breyer Jurist, retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Doctor of Laws

“ Supreme court justice for over a quarter century, you are known for your pragmatic philosophy, a belief that the judiciary must adapt to changing society and consider real-world consequences for human beings when deciding cases. Your fact and data-driven decisions in matters involving school integration, the rights of criminal suspects, a woman’s prerogative to control her own body, and many more, mark you as someone who shares Justice Holmes’ belief that the important thing is ‘not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.’ Quintessential enlightenment man, Yale celebrates a justice who reminds us that judges must hew to principle, not politics, as we honor you with the degree of Doctor of Laws. ”

Mario Capecchi Molecular geneticist Doctor of Science

“ Born in Verona to a mother who was taken to Dachau, you lived alone on the streets during the Holocaust from age four, scrounging for food, until, through a set of miraculous circumstances, you were brought to the United States. Without any formal schooling until you were nine, you rose to share the Nobel Prize in medicine for the development of gene targeting in mouse embryo stem cells, a discovery that has led to major advancements in human disease, drug development, and more. Inspiring scientist, whose life lessons teach us all and whose story exemplifies the triumph of the human spirit, we award you the degree of Doctor of Science. ”

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey Health policy leader Doctor of Medical Sciences

“ Trailblazing physician, geriatrician, and first woman and first African American to be president and chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, you have devoted your career to empowering communities and corporations to making equitable health care a shared value. Your persuasiveness has prevailed on big corporations to heed your cry of ‘Less sugar! Less sugar!’ and to help create a healthier America. Yale salutes a visionary who is insistent that all Americans — from every zip code in our nation — can live longer, healthier, better lives, as, with a big glass of delicious water, we toast and award you the degree of Doctor of Medical Sciences. ”

László Lovász Mathematician and computer scientist Doctor of Engineering and Technology

“ Brilliant mathematician and theoretical computer scientist, your pathbreaking contributions in combinatorics, a branch of pure mathematics, have led to real-life applications in computer science, engineering and technology, statistics, and science that serve and advance humankind.  Over time you have received nearly every award a mathematician can earn, including the Abel Prize, the highest award in mathematics. We are honored that you have agreed to receive one more, from the university where you taught and conducted research for over a half decade, and which itself is honored to present you with the degree of Doctor of Engineering and Technology. ”

Judith Rodin Global thought leader Doctor of Humane Letters

“ Pioneering leader who served as the first woman president of both the University of Pennsylvania and the Rockefeller Foundation, you have helped reshape two great institutions to face the needs of modern times. In both, your creative and forward-looking ideas — from health psychology to resilient cities — galvanized initiatives that emphasized change amidst challenge. Yale celebrates as well your twenty-two years in New Haven as a Yale faculty member, educator, dean of the graduate school, and university provost. A resilient and transformational leader wherever you go, Yale salutes an innovator we still think of as ‘one of our own,’ as we proudly confer on you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. ”

Peter Salovey P resident of Yale University Doctor of Humane Letters

“ When you step down in June as Yale’s 23rd president, you will enter history as the Yale professor who has held more senior leadership positions at the university than anyone in its 322-year history. Beginning with your presidency of the  Graduate and Professional Student Senate  when you were a Ph.D. student, you have been, serially, chair of the Psychology Department, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, dean of Yale College, provost, and president — a cornucopia of senior positions held by no other Yale historical personage, ever.

“ When you were appointed, you said you hoped to help a great university create a more accessible, a more innovative, and a more excellent Yale. You have done all three. Yale now has a dramatically wider array of socioeconomic and geographic diversity across its student body, departments, and schools. New buildings have brought together scattered faculty who now work with and learn from each other. New Haven’s economy is strengthened because of your partnership with its mayor. And the new faculty and academic collaborations in schools and programs that you have prioritized have made Yale more innovative and forward looking in developing ways to address society’s greatest challenges.

“ From the start of your presidency your stated aim has been inspiring Yale as a community where students, staff, and faculty collaborate with one another to make a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. As you return now to the faculty after a suitable rest, no doubt to galvanize students as the excellent teacher you always have been, Yale offers its thanks, as we gratefully confer on you your fourth Yale degree, doctor of Humane Letters. ”

Hortense Spillers Literary critic Doctor of Humanities

“ Inspiring Black feminist theorist and critic, your foundational work, embedded in your deep historical and literary knowledge, challenges received thought and provides us a profound understanding of how race and gender shape the modern world. In three books and dozens of essays, you rewrite the American grammar book, claiming the insurgent ground as you revolutionize how we consider and write about our nation’s history and culture. Pioneering thinker, we celebrate the marvels of your inventiveness, and your enduring contributions to letters, as we proudly confer on you the degree of Doctor of Humanities. ”

Kehinde Wiley ’01 M.F.A. Visual artist Doctor of Fine Arts

“ Internationally renowned painter and sculptor, whose portrait of President Obama hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, your arresting portraits, like all pioneering art, break the category, depicting ‘common’ people in traditional styles that raise questions about privilege, power, authority, and representation. Artist recognized around the world for your vibrant and imaginative work, and an awardee of the W.E.B. Du Bois medal for ‘contributions to African and African American culture, and advocacy for intercultural understanding and human rights,’ Yale honors you with a second Yale degree, Doctor of Fine Arts. ”

  • Commencement 2024: A celebration of community
  • Yale College 2024: Meet some of the graduates
  • ‘Until we meet again’ — Baccalaureate and Class Day at Yale

Campus & Community

ways to start a history essay

Peter Raymond appointed Oastler Professor of Biogeochemistry

Yale Prison Education Initiative graduate applauding at the ceremony

YPEI graduation marks first B.A. presentation in a Connecticut prison

ways to start a history essay

First U.S. trial of drug for e-cigarette cessation shows positive results

ways to start a history essay

YSPH graduates urged to adopt a ‘healthy disregard for the impossible’

  • Show More Articles

COMMENTS

  1. How to write an introduction for a history essay

    1. Background sentences. The first two or three sentences of your introduction should provide a general introduction to the historical topic which your essay is about. This is done so that when you state your hypothesis, your reader understands the specific point you are arguing about. Background sentences explain the important historical ...

  2. How to Write a History Essay: Examples, Tips & Tricks

    Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context. Provide background information on the historical context of your topic. Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay. Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence.

  3. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    the History Paper The Challenges of Writing About (a.k.a., Making) History ... s¬Start small. Read a few documents closely with an eye for patterns or common themes. Do you see a way to ... the expectations for your essay, ask your instructor for clarification. Above all else, listen to your instructor's guidance, ...

  4. How to Start a History Essay Without Boring Your Reader to Death

    Obviously, the quote from Edison more accurately captures Edison's work ethic and his thoughts about persistence. Plus, it's much more engaging. Check out these other great quotes that bring history (and your paper) to life. "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."—. Albert Einstein.

  5. How to Write a History Essay (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Have a clear structure. When you come to write the body of the essay it is important that you have a clear structure to your argument and to your prose. If your essay drifts, loses focus, or becomes a narrative of events then you will find your grade dropping.

  6. Writing a history essay

    To write an effective essay, students should examine the question, understand its focus and requirements, acquire information and evidence through research, then construct a clear and well-organised response. Writing a good history essay should be rigorous and challenging, even for stronger students. As with other skills, essay writing develops ...

  7. How to Write a History Essay

    Step 1: Understand the History Paper Format. You may be assigned one of several types of history papers. The most common are persuasive essays and research papers. History professors might also ask you to write an analytical paper focused on a particular source or an essay that reviews secondary sources.

  8. History Essay: Topics, Tips and the Outline

    Firstly, avoid procrastination and start early. Secondly, leave yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, outline, research and write. Finally, follow these five tips to make your history essay shine: Write a substantial introduction. Particularly, it's the first impression the professor will have of the paper. State a clear thesis.

  9. PDF HOW TO WRITE YOUR HISTORY ESSAY 1. How to think about your question

    that point of view. This is your thesis, i.e. the point of view which ties the evidence together in the most satisfying way. Debaters start with a thesis, and then find evidence to defend it; historians start with the evidence and work towards a thesis. Don't try to force a thesis: steep

  10. Steps for Writing a History Paper

    Once you are satisfied with your argument, move onto the local level. Put it all together: the final draft. After you have finished revising and have created a strong draft, set your paper aside for a few hours or overnight. When you revisit it, go over the checklist in Step 8 one more time.

  11. History Essay: A Complete Writing Guide for Students

    Writing a history essay requires a lot of work and experience. A student needs to show a high level of knowledge and understanding of historical events, as well analytical and research skills. No wonder many students find it challenging to compose a well-written essay! To achieve success, use the following tips to level-up your writing abilities

  12. PDF WRITING A GREAT HISTORY PAPER

    Writing a history paper requires much more than just sitting down at a computer. It involves a lot of early planning, detailed research, critical thinking, skilled organization, and careful writing and rewriting. The first rule of essay writing is to start early so that you have plenty of time to follow these steps.

  13. A guide to writing history essays

    Essays are an essential educational tool in disciplines like history because they help you to develop your research skills, critical thinking, and writing abilities. The best essays are based on strong research, in-depth analysis, and are logically structured and well written. An essay should answer a question with a clear, persuasive argument.

  14. 10 Tips for Writing a Perfect History Essay

    By the way, you will include them in the body parts along with evidence. Of course, the arguments may change as the essay is written (you will probably find deeper ideas during the research stage). But the main thing you will start from is a clearly defined thesis statement. Come Up With a Plan. A plan is a skeleton of your essay.

  15. Essay Writing / Historical Association

    The key to success in any history essay is preparation. This not only includes focussed and wide reading around the topic, but also your preparation of your thoughts and arguments. Richard Harris, experienced history teacher and now lecturer in education at Southampton University provides a very good starting point for essay writing.

  16. How to organise a history essay or dissertation

    Sachiko Kusukawa. There are many ways of writing history and no fixed formula for a 'good' essay or dissertation. Before you start, you may find it helpful to have a look at some sample dissertations and essays from the past: ask at the Whipple Library.

  17. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

  18. 13 Engaging Ways to Begin an Essay

    There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers. ... Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by ...

  19. 30+ History Essay Examples to Help You Get Started

    Tips for Effectively Using History Essay Examples. Analyze the Structure: Pay close attention to how the essay is organized, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Look for how the author transitions between paragraphs and the use of evidence to support their argument. Study the Thesis Statement:

  20. How to write a conclusion for a history essay

    1. Restate your key points. In one or two sentences, restate each of the topic sentences from your body paragraphs. This is to remind the marker about how you proved your argument. This information will be similar to your elaboration sentences in your introduction, but will be much briefer. Since this is a summary of your entire essay's ...

  21. Yale awards nine honorary degrees

    In three books and dozens of essays, you rewrite the American grammar book, claiming the insurgent ground as you revolutionize how we consider and write about our nation's history and culture. Pioneering thinker, we celebrate the marvels of your inventiveness, and your enduring contributions to letters, as we proudly confer on you the degree ...