Many students can read another person’s essay in history and immediately tell whether or not it is well-written. However, while it’s easy to determine if a piece of writing is strong or weak, it’s harder to provide reasons. We’ve looked at hundreds of history essays and have come up with the essential qualities that make up a really good one:
- It Has a Clear Focus
- It Is Well-Developed
- Audience Awareness
- It Has Good Citations
- The English is Correct
A well-written history essay should have single focus. You shouldn’t attempt to write about a broad topic. Your topic should be specific and identified in a single thesis statement. Each statement in the body paragraphs should link back to and support this thesis statement. Remove all extraneous content and never introduce a new and unrelated idea.
The consideration for what makes a paper “well-developed” is that you provide supporting evidence or examples of some kind following every one of the claims you make in attempting to prove your thesis statement. A well-written essay should never include claims that cannot be back up with some kind of supporting evidence.
You should also present an understanding of audience awareness. You need to tailor your writing towards the overall needs of the larger audience (the class) or the single reader. In most cases, you are submitting the work for your instructor, but if you approach the work as if you are writing to the class as a whole you will make a stronger connection.
All of your essays should be arranged into well-organized paragraphs, each of which presents a single idea, your thoughts or opinions on that idea, and supporting evidence or examples validating your observation. Each paragraph should be linked with the effective use of transition words or sentences and remove all extraneous content unrelated to the topic sentence.
Your essay argument should be back up with good citations. Any direct quotes, paraphrases, or other information used to support your content needs to come from academic resources. Conduct your research in a library to ensure the content you find is credible and accurate.
Finally, you need to ensure your essay in history is correct in terms of grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence construction, word choice, etc. It’s not uncommon for students to struggle with one or more of these elements, but not taking the time to improve your skills can lower your scores significantly over the course of a semester.