Cults Academy History Department by tX3sBy


									Higher History

Improve your Essay
Writing Skills!

a) Questions that ask you to compare the importance of one
   specified factor compared to other relevant factors: questions of
   this kind often begin ‘To what extent…’ or ‘How important…’ eg.

   To what extent was the growth of democracy in Britain after 1830 due to social
    and economic change?

   How important were concerns about the extent of poverty in Britain in the
    Liberal Government’s decision to introduce social reforms between 1906 and
    1914? (2008)

For this type of question, you should start by discussing the factor specified in the
question before balancing this with your discussion of the other factors and
reaching a conclusion

b) Questions that ask you to make a judgement about historical
   events: questions of this kind might begin: ‘How successful…’
   ‘How significant…’ ‘How accurate is it to describe…’ e.g.

   How significant an impact did the welfare reforms of the Labour Government
    1945-1951 have on the lives of the British people? (2009)

   How successfully did British governments achieve their aims in foreign policy
    before the outbreak of the Czechoslovakian crisis in 1938? (Exemplar

For this type of question, you should present a balanced discussion using evidence
that both supports and disagrees with the point for debate before reaching a

NOTE: Sometimes questions can be phrased in the form of a statement:

“By 1928, Britain was a fully democratic country.” How accurate is this view?

All question types are asking you to argue about points not simply
tell a story.

Make sure you know exactly what the question is
asking you before you start writing.

Before you start writing, make sure you are very clear about
what exactly it is asking. For example, you will probably be
awarded very few if any marks if the question is asking you
about the Liberal Government reforms of 1906-14 and your
essay is about the Labour Government reforms of 1945-51


if the question is about the Growth of Democracy and you answer only about
women’s suffrage

You should also be aware that there are different questions that might be asked
about each topic. For example, with regard to the Liberal Reforms, you might be
asked how successful the reforms were or you might be asked about the reasons
why the reforms were introduced. Each of these would have to be answered in a
different way.

Remember, all question types are asking you to analyse and
argue about points not simply tell a story or narrative.

You should be prepared to answer all of the potential questions that might come up
for each topic. You should prepare a plan with a clear structure for each question.
However, it is not advised to memorise a set answer as it is unlikely to fit the
question exactly. Don’t assume the question you want will come up. It is a common
(and costly) mistake to ignore what the question is asking and simply write
down everything you know about the topic. The exam board penalise this
heavily! You will get far more credit if you are seen to be attempting to
answer the set question rather than writing down lots of information, especially
if it isn’t relevant.

                        WATCH YOUR TIMING!

You only have 40 minutes to write each essay but don’t panic! This simply means you
must get to the point of the essay quickly, write concisely and make sure you are
relevant to the question.

It should be possible to write at least 3 sides of
A4 in the given time for each essay, but only if you
have prepared properly and are confident in what
you are writing about.

Many people like to spend a minute or so writing a
very quick plan of what they want to include in
their answer at the side of the page. This keeps
you on the right track in case you forget
something once you start writing up.

It is a common mistake to spend far too long on the introduction and first part of
your essay – inevitably this means you will run out of time later on! Whatever you
do, ensure you leave time for a conclusion.

      It is vital that you spend equal amounts of time on both essays. For
       example, don’t spend an hour on essay 1 and 20 minutes on essay 2
      The exam board make it very clear that candidates who spend longer on
       one essay at the expense of the other almost always perform poorly

An essay has 3 main components:

    the introduction
       Addresses the question, puts the essay in context briefly introduces the
       issues to be discussed and explains any key words in the question.

    the development (main body)
       demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the key issues and argues why
       they are relevant to the question asked

    the conclusion
      Recaps the key points of the essay and comes to a definitive answer on the
      question. It does not bring in any new points!

Each of these is vital to the overall quality of your essay. As mentioned previously,
one of the best ways to prepare for writing a higher essay is to have a clear plan in
mind for each potential question.

Plans do not have to be especially detailed to be effective. For example:

‘How important was women’s contribution to the war effort in gaining the vote in

                        Introduction (context, address question introduce issues)

                      Positive impact of WW1 on women
                      Why this may not have been reason for vote

                        Positive points as well as ineffectiveness of Suffragist
                      Negative reaction to Suffragette Militancy as well as
    positives in highlighting “the cause”.
   Ongoing growth in other areas of British democracy meant pressure for
    female suffrage was growing

   Conclusion (answer the question!)

                                          THE INTRODUCTION

              Your introduction should be reasonably short and to the point. Read the question
              carefully and be sure that you know what you are being asked to write about.

              The purpose of a good introduction is to show that you understand clearly what the
              question is asking, you can put the essay in context and indicate to the examiner
              what issues will be considered.

              Your introduction should:

                    put the essay in context (refer to dates / time period)

                    Give brief, relevant background details to set the scene

                    Signpost the key issues/factors that will be discussed in the main body of
                     your essay (purpose of the essay). Some people like to number these
                     signposts and follow that order throughout their essay

                    Explain any important words from the question if relevant.

                    address the question (but don’t actually answer it!)

              Example of a good introduction:

              How effective were the Liberal Social Welfare Reforms of 1906-1914 in tackling
              the problems of poverty?

                 At the beginning of the 20th Century, evidence from the work of Booth and
     Set in

                 Rowntree, recruitment for the Boer War and a number of small scale social
                 studies indicated that Britain had a number of serious social problems needing
                 urgent action. During the period 1906-1914, the Liberal Government brought in a

                 series of new laws directed towards ‘the Young’ and ‘the Old’. They also

                 insured many of those in work against sickness and unemployment and
                 improved conditions for millions of vulnerable workers. It is necessary to
                 examine the key social reforms undertaken during these years and attempt to

                 gauge their success in tackling the problems of poverty at the time.

                                        THE DEVELOPMENT (MAIN BODY)
                    You now have to develop the key factors that you ‘signposted’ in your introduction.
                    You should structure the main body of your essay into several paragraphs, each
                    relating to one of the factors you introduced. It helps the structure of your essay
                    if these come in the same order as in your introduction – this is where the
                    numbering can help some people.

                    Remember – the purpose of the main body of your essay is not to write down
                    everything you know about the topic. It is to present a well-balanced, clearly
                    structured argument where you evaluate the issues.

                    In the main body of your essay, you should aim to:

                       introduce the key factor using a topic sentence that refers to the question. This
                        sets up good structure

                       develop the theme of the topic sentence giving historical evidence

                       although it is not compulsory in exam essays, showing an awareness of historical
                        debate makes an essay stronger. NOTE: in the Ext Essay this is expected!

                       make appropriate evaluations or argument relating to the question (remember
                        to address the question at the end of each paragraph in a sub-conclusion!)

                    The contribution of women towards the war effort played an important role in granting ‘votes
                    for women’. Arguably, women forced male politicians to pay attention to their argument and

                                                                                                                          historical evidence
                    acknowledge their right to vote due to their actions which proved they were as important as

                                                                                                                             Develop with
                    men in winning the Great War of 1914 and 1918. Significantly, women filled the jobs left vacant
Argument relating

                    by men recruited into the military. By 1918, 4 million were employed in war-related industries such
                    as engineering and construction as well as filling public sector jobs such as postal service and
   to question

                    transport workers. In 1915, a Women’s Police Service (WPS) was founded. It was not only on the
                    Home Front that women proved their worth. Many such as Vera Brittain gave up comfortable,
                    middle-class lifestyles to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and showed willing to serve
                    behind the lines in dangerous condition. This highlighted to the politicians that women deserved
                    better rights and particularly the right to vote. Historians such as AJP Taylor suggest that

                    women were rewarded for their war effort by being given the vote in 1918. Certainly, women’s
                    status in society was greatly improved by the war and the hostile views of politicians such as
                    Asquith were changed. However, it should be remembered that the bill to enfranchise women was
                    drafted before the war and that many women who contributed to the war effort remained
                    disenfranchised under the Representation of the People Act (1918).

                                       THE CONCLUSION

                               The conclusion is an often neglected part of the essay but it is
                               vitally important. No matter how good your essay is, you will
                               struggle to gain good marks if you have an insufficient
                                conclusion or worse, no conclusion at all!

                            If you know the topic, you should really have a good idea of what
                           you want to say in your conclusion before you start the essay. It is
                           all too easy to have a poorly thought-out conclusion that doesn’t
                           relate to the points you have already made – or perhaps even
                           contradicts them.

           A common failing in the conclusion is to ignore or pay very little attention to
           answering the question, or starting to introduce new points not already covered in
           the essay.

           The main requirement of a conclusion is to:
               Address the question

                 Recap key areas of importance

                 Clearly answer the question

           Example of a good conclusion to:
           How effective were the Liberal Social Welfare Reforms of 1906-1914 in tackling
           the problems of poverty?

              In conclusion, the Liberals had a degree of success in tackling the problems of

              poverty with their Social Welfare Reforms. Their reforms to help ‘the Young’
              and ‘the Old’ certainly helped the weakest in society yet did not go far enough
              to remove all of the problems of the time. They also insured many of those in

              work against sickness and unemployment though again this did not eradicate

              the problems. They also passed a raft of reforms to improve conditions for
              millions of vulnerable workers. Though they were not completely effective
              with theses reforms, it is fair to say that they considerably improved the lives

              of many people across Britain. It is also worth remembering that the Liberals

              did not set out to create a full Welfare State as Labour did in 1945 but they
              certainly laid the foundations for it.

For a Higher History essay, you are expected to demonstrate a mature style of
writing. Never use informal language and avoid slang words, abbreviations and
contractions such as ‘eg’ and ‘etc’. Also, avoid using the first person: ‘I think that…’;
‘In my opinion…’; ‘In this essay I will discuss…’.

You should also avoid too much narrative. While you obviously need to demonstrate
to the examiner that you have a good knowledge of the topic, this must be done in
the context of a relevant discussion. Simply ‘telling the story’ of what happened
– no matter how detailed – will score poorly.

So how can you avoid being too narrative?

      Try to write in a discursive rather than narrative style of writing.

      Make sure you address the question at every opportunity, making specific
       reference to the wording of the question where appropriate

      Make sure your essay is structured in such a way that each paragraph
       discusses a key factor relating to the question

      Use topic and linking sentences at the start of each paragraph which make
       reference to the question, rather than simply ‘storytelling’

For example

‘Arguably, the militant campaign of the suffragettes did more harm than good
for the cause of female enfranchisement.’ – topic sentence setting up argument

‘Although the reports from Booth and Rowntree were important in making the
Liberals take action, it could be argued that the poor recruitment for the Boer
War was of greater significance.’ – linking sentence

      Have short sub-conclusions at the end of each paragraph that focuses on
       the wording of the question.

      Use effective linking words and phrases.

Using linking words and phrases will greatly enhance the structure, flow and style
of your essay and make it sound more discursive:

      “In order to discuss / ascertain / determine ……”
       “It is necessary to consider…..”
      “There were many reasons why…..”
      “There are differing views about….”
      “Historians differ in their interpretation of …..”

Main Body: Sentence beginnings:
       “Firstly / Secondly / Finally it is necessary to consider…”
       “Another factor which played an important role in ….”
       “Arguably the most significant factor.…”
Linking points/analysis:

    “Subsequently…”                             “Furthermore…”
    “Nonetheless…”                              “Additionally…”
    “Consequently…”                             “Thus…”
    “This resulted in…                          “Clearly…”
    “For example …”                             “As a consequence…”
    “Similarly…”                                “Arguably…”
    “It can be argued that…”                    “It is possible that…”
    “Some historians have argued that…”          “Most significant was…”
    “This was significant because …”            “Moreover…”

Counter argument;

     “This view has been challenged by…”         “Conversely…”
     “However…”                                  “In contrast…”
    “On the other hand…”                         “Although…”
    “Yet…”                                       “This view is disputed by…”
     “In conclusion…”                            “It is clear that…”
     “To sum up…”                                “Overall…”
     “As a result …”                             “In the end…”

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Usually, there are differing views on historical issues.

Although it is not essential in Paper 1 essays, examiners like you
to show that you are aware of historical debate on each of the
topics. This is known as historiography. In extended essays you
should include historiography!

A well-written essay can be enhanced by making reference to
historians’ views. However, historiography must be relevant
and should fit into the natural flow of your essay. It is not
necessary to ‘name drop’ specific historians although you may quote or paraphrase
historians if you think it will enhance the quality of your essay.

For example:

Using a quote
When referring to the growing strength of the Nazis, AJP Taylor said, "It was the
depression that put the wind in Hitler's sails".

Summarising a Historians view
AJP Taylor has argued that the effects of the Depression worked to the Nazis’

Similarly, well-chosen primary source quotations can improve your essay but there
should not be too many. Use short quotations that can easily be remembered –
these are usually more effective anyway.

For example:

Most politicians believed the militant suffragette campaign was irresponsible.
Churchill stated ‘their cause has marched backwards.’

                                     - 11 -
            (From Learning and Teaching Scotland)

1.    Introduction

    Sets out the issue clearly in its wider context.
    Identifies the relevant factors – pointing the reader/examiner in the
     direction the essay is going to take.
    Demonstrates a solid line of argument.
    Captures the reader’s interest and attention.
    Links up with the main, development section.

    Should not answer the question.
    Should not present any information that is not addressed in main body.

2.    Knowledge and understanding/evidence (in the development)

    There is a coherent development focused directly on the question.
    Short paragraph for each relevant point/theme made.
    Written factually, using information as evidence.
    Knowledge should be accurate, relevant and full; used to address the
    The argument flows in a logical, continuous fashion, for example
     arranging paragraphs chronologically or thematically from weakest to
     strongest argument.
    Each paragraph links to the next one so that the theme is m aintained.

    Does not jump about.
    Paragraphs should not be too short or too long.
    Should not use quotations to present basic points of knowledge.

                                  - 12 -
3.    Argument (in the development)

    Quality of thought should be revealed by the arguments and evaluations
     demonstrated in answering the question.
    The argument is relevant to the question and relates explicitly to the
     terms of the question.
    A case is argued.
    It makes the various distinctions required by the question.
    All elements of the question are responded to, particularly any isolated
    Explains, analyses, debates and assesses.
    Evidence is integrated into a sustained analysis.
    Provides a sustained, balanced argument.
    Awareness is shown of alternative interpretations and historical debate.
    Clarity and fluency of argument are apparent.
    Sophistication of language.

    Does not simply describe or narrate.

4.   Conclusion

    A balanced conclusion is achieved
    Summarises the arguments and reinforces them.
    Directly answers the question or addresses the issue, providin g a valid,
     balanced explanation and conclusion.
    An overall judgement should be made directly related to the question.

    Does not simply summarise main ‘facts’.
    Should not present any information that is not in main body.

                                  - 13 -
                   HOW MARKS ARE AWARDED…/20
                 (From Learning and Teaching Scotland)
In Paper 1 candidates will be awarded according to:

1.   Knowledge and understanding

     Up to 6 marks can be allocated when relevant knowledge is used to address
     an essay question.

     Marks are credited for each accurate, full point of knowledge made. Each
     point in turn should be substantial and relevant. Extended development
     (whereby a student develops a point of knowledge further) can also be

2.   Argument/evaluation

     Up to 10 marks can be allocated for the quality of thought revealed in the
     answer, exemplified by the arguments and evaluation conveyed in the essay.

     Argument/evaluation is marked holistically, with clearly identifiable criteria

     0–1 marks              The style is narrative and descriptive.
                            There is little or no clear attempt to answer
                            the question set.

     2–3 marks             A mainly narrative and descriptive style is employed.
                           There are brief attempts to answer the question.

     4–5 marks             The style demonstrates some analysis, although elements
                           of narration may prevail.

     6–7 marks             The style is analytical, with evidence used to develop and
                           support a line of argument.
                           The line of argument is focused directly on the question.

     8–10 marks            The evidence is integrated into a sustained analysis.
                           The argument is sustained and balanced, with some
                           awareness of alternative interpretations and/or
                           historical debate.

                                       - 14 -

    Up to 4 marks can be allocated for the appropriateness and organisation of
    the answer.

    Structure is marked holistically, with clearly identifiable criteri a employed:

    0 marks              There is no identifiable attempt to establish context or
                         relevant factor.
                         The development is unstructured or random.
                               There is no attempt to provide an answer in terms
                         of the question.

    1 mark               There is some attempt to establish context or relevant
                         There is an attempt to develop an answer, although there
                         may be some significant omissions.
                         The conclusion may be implicit.

    2 marks              The introduction establishes the context and indicates
                         relevant factors and outlines a line of argument.
                         There is an identifiable development of the answer.
                         The conclusion is a summary linked to the question.

    3 marks              The introduction establishes the context, indicates
                         relevant factors and outlines a line of argument.
                         There is a coherent development related directly to the
                         The conclusion is clearly based on the evidence
                         presented, and is directly linked to the question.

    4 marks              The introduction clearly sets the issue in its wider
                         context, indicates relevant factors and demonstrates a
                         solid line of argument.
                         There is a coherent development focused directly on the
                         The conclusion is balanced, summarising the arguments
                         and coming to an overall judgement related directly to
                         the question.

                                    - 15 -

     INTRO               MAIN BODY             CONCLUSION

• Put the essay in     • Begin each            • Start by clearly
  context and            paragraph with a        referring back to
  briefly set the        topic sentence          the question
  scene                  relevant to the
                         question              • Summarise (but
• Identify the key                               don’t simply
  factors to be        • Support with            repeat) the main
  discussed              accurate (and           arguments in the
                         relevant)               essay
• Address (but don’t     historical evidence
  answer) the                                  • Give an overall
  question             • Present analysis /      judgement with
                         discussion              specific reference
                         ensuring relevance      to the question
                         to the question

                       If you follow the advice in
                       this booklet, you should do
                           well in your essays!
                               Good Luck!!

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