The quality of your structure is also an assessment issue – you must have a clear introduction, a series of structured, sequenced paragraphs and a clear conclusion.
As a general rule, the first part of the essay topic is descriptive. It will generally begin with words such as “Describe …” or “Explain …”
The second part of the essay topic is evaluative (i.e. making a judgment about the decision or situation). It will begin with words such as “Evaluate . . “, or “Assess . . . “ or “To what extent . . .”
Getting started is often the hardest part of an essay. Here are a few simple guidelines:
Your FIRST sentence should be a general one that aims to capture the reader’s attention and convince him/her that you understand the main focus of the essay.
Your next sentence(s) should re-state the first part of the essay topic in your own words as much as possible.
Another sentence should state your argument to be followed in the second part of the essay
Keep it short (3-4 sentences at most, but more than 1-2 lines!). Avoid using ideas and evidence from your plan to prevent repetition.
Use third person writing style (meaning avoid the use of pronouns such as “I” and “you”).
Some useful starting phrases are: “This essay will consider/describe/examine …” and “It will be argued that …”.
Here is an example
“One of Elizabeth’s first significant decisions when she first succeeded to the English throne in 1558 was the future form of the English Church. There were a number of factors to be considered in explaining why she decided to create a moderate protestant church. It will be argued that though the majority of ordinary people did not object to her decision, many people within the governing class, both Catholic and Protestant, did not find the new church acceptable to them.”
“One important factor that influenced Elizabeth’s decision about religion was the views of the existing English bishops. These bishops had been appointed by Mary and were strong Catholics. It is unlikely that they would be happy to administer a church with any elements of Protestantism. Thus if Elizabeth were to choose Protestantism for England, these men would have to be removed and replaced by existing or returning English Protestants. Identifying who would need to be replaced, and who would replace them, was a key consideration in the decision to create a Protestant church.”
Initial topic sentence introduces the main idea of this paragraph.
Next sentence elaborates on this key idea.
Further sentences provide additional explanation or factual information to expand upon the key idea in more detail.
Last sentence can set the scene for the next’s paragraph’s main idea.
The sequence of paragraphs may be suggested by the nature of the essay topic. There may be different factors to be explained or a CHRONOLOGICAL approach may be required if a sequence of events to is be described.
When writing an ARGUMENT, it may be best to state your most obvious or powerful reason/argument first.
An argument is a form of writing where you explain an aspect of history by developing a line of reasoning about an historical issue. It involves making a number of explanatory points about the historical issue which helps explain how, why or so what to a reader. The key to writing a good argument is:
Presenting an argument
“The extent of the Elizabethan Settlement’s acceptability to the English people depends to a large extent on the social class people belonged to. For the great majority of non-elite, the details of the new Church of England were of little importance to them, although Elizabeth was concerned to ensure that the forms of worship were similar to what they had always experienced. However, within the governing class, the nature of the Elizabethan Settlement mattered a great deal. Sincere Catholics and Protestants were concerned about different aspects of the Settlement, and this was to create trouble for Elizabeth in the future”. (98 words)
Main argument introduced in the first sentence that directly addresses the second part of the question.
Expansion of argument through defining extent of acceptability of Settlement.
Development of argument that defines extent of acceptability.
“Signposting” of how the remainder of coverage of the second part of the topic will proceed.
The purpose of a conclusion is to summarise the key ideas and link them back to the focus of the essay. A conclusion should be relatively short (3-4 sentences) and not overly repetitive in stating ideas, but should attempt to make some broad interpretative statement about the historical importance of the essay focus in relation to the period.
“Thus is can be seen that Elizabeth faced a difficult decision in relation to religion. There were many factors that she had to weigh up before decided to adopt Protestantism, assessing the potential benefits against the possible risks in doing so. Although the actual decision was a compromise between a Protestant Church with Catholic rituals, it did not satisfy many Catholic and Protestant extremists. This decision would create opposition from both extremes, and force her to defend her new church against attempts by godly Protestants to reform it and extremist Catholics to destroy it.”