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Degree: History (Bachelors) - Exeter University
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While structuring a History essay will depend somewhat on the type of question being asked ('to what extent,' 'why' and 'how' questions differ), there is certainly a general outline that I would favour using. Here it is:
1) Introduction – laying out your thesis argument. Without a good introduction your essay will struggle to earn top marks, and that is precisely because it is the area where you need to present your essential response to the question; limiting it to the points which defend this argument and preventing yourself from going into detail. Be sure to include each body paragraph point, but beware of elaborating on them.
Essentially: present your argument concisely but with authority.
2) Body paragraphs – defending your argument. The first few paragraphs (two or more depending on the length of the essay) should be based around the main points you’re using to defend your argument. Each of these points should have a separate paragraph, and include not only evidence and examples but – perhaps most importantly – explanations of how these relate to the point being made. However, do not fall into the trap of waffling.
Essentially: convince the reader of your argument.
3) Body paragraph(s) – refuting the opposition. The other set of paragraphs (which can vary again depending on the word count) should set out to derail any opposition that could be used to blow away, or even restrict, your argument. It can often be best here to present the alternative arguments at the start of each paragraph, but then go on to completely discredit them. Again, do this with clear evidence, showing your historical nous and persuasion skills.
Essentially: disprove the alternative arguments.
4) Conclusion – tying up the essay. What you absolutely must not do here is make any further points that have not been dealt with in the body of your essay. In saying that, you should be careful to not just completely mirror the introduction. Instead, you must (thoroughly) simplify your body paragraphs so as to confirm your overarching argument. Therefore, this should be the shortest paragraph; you no longer have anything new to reference. This may seem like a fine line to draw, but it will become fairly easy with practice.
Essentially: neatly conjoin your points to confirm your thesis argument.see more