Guide to writing history essays



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The History Essay Handbook

Part I:

A short guide to writing history essays
Part II:

A short guide to style and referencing

in history essays


History Program

School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Murdoch University

(2007)
The History Essay Handbook
Part I:

A short guide to writing history essays


History Program

School of Social Sciences and Humanities

Murdoch University

(2007)

Part I: A Short Guide to Writing History Essays
Table of Contents
A. Introduction
B. Researching your essay
1. Getting started

Selecting an essay topic

Starting your research

Taking good notes

2. Sources

Primary sources

Secondary sources

Internet sources
C. Writing your essay
1. Argument

Three kinds of essay question

The thesis statement

2. Structure

Basic essay structure

‘Open’ and ‘closed’ essays

3. Writing and revising

Plan your essay

Revise your essay

Write like a historian
D. Assessment of essays
1. Assessment criteria

2. Grade level descriptions

E. Plagiarism
1. What is plagiarism?

2. Plagiarism and paraphrasing

Plagiarism in action: An actual case

3. How to avoid plagiarism

A. Introduction
Learning to write an engaging and persuasive essay that makes a sustained argument is one of the chief skills that studying history will teach you. Writing good essays involves work: inspiration and enthusiasm for a particular subject must be backed up by diligent research, careful organisation and thoughtful contemplation of the ideas at stake. At the same time, essay writing is also something of an art, in which your style and ability matures with practice and experience. In a history essay, you are expected to present a well-constructed and clearly expressed argument based on evidence and analysis, usually as an answer to a specific question. History essays are thus more than simple narrative accounts of the past; they should seek to persuade the reader. The guidelines presented here hopefully will be of some assistance as you set about that task.
This guide is intended for all students taking History units, though it will offer different things to different students depending upon their background and previous experience. Though there are obviously significant differences in expectations for Part I, Part II, Honours and Postgraduate students in History, the essential principles of good historical writing are the same for everyone.


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