Skills for Writing History Essays

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It is known that an ideal essay should be thorough, objective and well-structured. Before you start writing, do plan your work. Draft a list of points to be included in the essay so as to ensure that you would not miss any one of them.

The introduction serves to draw readers’ attention to the essay. So, you may give a brief summary and link the introduction closely to the body. In some cases, there are important terms, like totalitarianism and modernisation, which should be explained with a definition. You can write the definition in the first paragraph. This will show your good understanding of history and make the essay more complete. It is also a nice idea to write about the history background.

The body is expected to develop in a tidy manner. There are two major approaches, factor approach and time approach, to accomplish this. The first one is to elaborate your answer according to different aspects covering politics, economy, society, culture and diplomacy. It is crucial to analyse comprehensively and avoid being lop-sided.

To what extent was the US a decisive factor in Japan’s economic development in the period 1945-2000? Superficially, the question is asking for economic factors. But if you think sensibly, you will learn that it actually requires elaboration on the internal policies and reforms implemented by the US, including various aspects apart from that on economy. Definitely you cannot miss out the points on external factors, which should be taken into account.

Time approach can be applied to essays that require a strong time sense. Q.5 in 2007 past paper is a decent example. Candidates are expected to describe the trend of economic development throughout the 20th century. So, you may divide the period into several stages and discuss their respective characteristics.

Objectivity is highly crucial for essay writing. When tackling essay questions with phrases like ‘to what extent’, ‘assess’, write on both...
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