Most historians say that the research is the fun bit and that writing is a struggle.
Essay writing is a key skill at IB and degree level. It demonstrates your historical knowledge and understanding and your ability to analyse and form a judgement. Your ability to structure an essay effectively so that it addresses the question is essential - start learning now!
In general, a good history essay will:
Essentially, most essays follow a simple structure of introduction, main body and conclusion. Within this structure, the student is required to analyse and debate the issues contained within the question set, arriving at a clear judgement in the conclusion. Good essays will therefore have a clear and well explained argument or thesis running throughout.
A good introduction will contain the following points and should also provide a transition to the first paragraph of your essay:
The main body of your essay is made up of a number of paragraphs, each focused on a particular aspect or claim from your thesis. A good history paragraph should contain the following:
The final part of your essay is the last part that your examiner will read so it is essential that you leave a good impression. In the conclusion you should:
Use of Historiography
It is possible to achieve full marks in an IB essay without referring directly to historians. However it is good practice to show your knowledge of historical debates and historiography. Part of your evidence for your historical claims may include the views of historians or direct quotes.
You must ensure though that you use historiography to supplement your arguments not to replace your own factual knowledge.
It is good practice to aim for one or two well-chosen and brief quotes for each of your key arguments. Do not overuse quotations from historians. An IB essay is not about historians' views - your own argument is key.
Bibliography and Referencing
At KCCIS, all history essays are required to follow the Chicago referencing format for quotations, citations and bibliography.
As a general rule, if you paraphrase or quote an author in your work, you need to use footnotes to reference the quote to the full details of the work in your bibliography. The standard footnote appears at the bottom of the page:
x. Author's first name Last name, Title in Italics and in Headline Style (City of Publication: Publisher, Year), page number if relevant.
Whoever is reading your essay can now turn to the reference list/bibliography and look for the entry.
For more information, please download and use the following booklet as a guide to referencing:
How to write a standard history essay
1. Understanding the Question
2. Brainstorming and Research
3. Find Patterns in the Evidence
4. Write your Claim Sentences
5. Write your Thesis
6. Planning your Paragraphs
7. Write your Essay