How To Write A Historical Essay Conclusion

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Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

Created with CAST's UDL Book Builder

5 Steps to Writing an Historical Essay


Written by Liz Cooksey

High School Social Studies Teacher


     The purpose of this guide is to walk a high school student through an easy step-by-step process of writing an historical essay.

     Writing an essay for history is not necessarily the same as it may be for an English class.

    Through the next few pages we will cover a basic overview of the process while also pointing out some "do's and don'ts" of writing an historical essay.

 

Step 1: Brainstorm

 Once you have read the question or prompt, you must determine the key points you will need to address and then brainstorm ideas that will support your points.

 



Step 2: Create a Thesis Statement

The purpose of a thesis is to summarize the key arguements of your essay into one firm statement. Strong thesis statements usually need to include about 3 points that you intend to prove through the essay.

When coming up with your thesis for a historical essay there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to include specific examples that you will later discuss in detail
  • Do not use 1st person
  • Do not write refer to "this essay"

 


Step 3: Create an Introduction Paragraph

Creating an introduction paragraph becomes more easy once the thesis has been determined. The purpose of this paragraph is only to introduce your ideas, not describe in detail or length.  

When writing your introduction there are a few ideas you need to keep in mind:

  • Open with a broad statement
  • Each sentence should get a little more specific and detailed, but not actually discussing the content of the essay.
  • The introduction paragraph should conclude with the thesis you have already constructed.

 

  Some people may prefer to write their thesis first as we have done here, or some may choose to begin writing their introduction paragraph and then figure out the thesis as they get there. Neither way is wrong!


Step 4: Write the Body

The majority of your work will appear here, in the body of the essay. This will usually be a minimum of 3 paragraphs (more or less depending on how many points included in you thesis).

Between each major idea you need to use creatively phrased transition statements that allow the flow of the essay to not be disrupted.

The key to a good body portion of your essay is to remember to only discuss 1 major idea per paragraph. Make districtions between you major ideas in order to help support your thesis.


Step 5: Conclusion

The conclusion is the easiest part of your essay. Here you should wrap up you main ideas that you have thoroughly discussed and argued throughout your body paragraphs.

Make sure not to introduce any new points here. this is simply to close out your final thoughts. You should, however, restate the ideas from  your thesis within the conclusion paragraph.

Here is a visual representation of what your essay should look like:



Several pointers for writing your essay:

 

  • DON’T use 1st person
    • No “I” “me” “we” “us"

 

  • Don’t use definitive's…
    • “never” “always”

 

  • Don’t say it unless you are SURE!!!
    • If you aren’t, then phrase is as “likely”

 

Here are a few phrases that may help you out as you begin to write:



What do you do now???

 

GET STARTED!!!

 

Follow these 5 steps and you'll be sure to impress your history teacher with your historical writing skills!

A conclusion offers the final word on a paper: the insight you hope to have imparted to your reader, your paper's moral or lesson.

As such, it is important that your conclusion do more than merely summarize the contents of your paper. Too often, a student begins the last paragraph of a paper with the words, "In conclusion...," then re-caps the contents of the entire essay, point for point, and simply leaves it at that.

A real conclusion, however, does more. Revisiting the main points of your paper in your final paragraph is a good idea, yes. But then, take things to the next level. Remember the question or claim you articulated in your thesis, whose resolution has been the main objective of your paper? That question now needs to be re-invoked and, this time, definitively answered. More still, you need to leave your reader with a higher level of insight into your topic, and an understanding of how your specific topic illuminates larger issues in history. If you can articulate what it is that has made you topic worthy of historical inquiry in the first place, and what its larger lessons are - then you have a strong conclusion indeed.

For an example, click here.



How can a conclusion do more than just summarize the contents of a paper's main body, or re-iterate its thesis? How can a conclusion illuminate, in closing, that its paper's topic is relevant to larger issues in history? An example:

Recall the central issue of our sample topic on "The Austrian Catholic Church and the Anschluss," as we articulated it in our thesis:

The story of Austrian Catholics under Nazi rule from 1938 - 1945, though marked by considerable heroism among the lower-ranking clergy and laypeople, is ultimately one of failed leadership. By reviewing the Anschluss and the years that followed, and by contrasting local acts of Catholic resistance with repeated acts of official collaboration at the highest level, this paper will show how Austria's Catholic Church, as an institution, lost not only its dominant social position during the years 1938 - 1945, but also much of its claim to moral authority.

Now consider our conclusion:

While rural Catholic priests suffered punishment, incarceration, and even death for local acts of resistance, the collaborating leadership remained largely silent. Yet it is evident that [Austrian Cardinal] Innitzer too was capable of an individual act of courage; it is as the guardian of an institution, whose preservation was more important to him than its moral integrity, that he ultimately failed. The Austrian experience during the years of the Anschluss reminds us once again that ordinary men and women can display enormous courage even when confronted by heinous authoritarian regimes, but that without dedicated leadership, such local acts of resistance remain doomed.

What do you think? Has the final sentence given the conclusion a dimension that helps it transcend the immediate scope of the paper's topic, makes it a useful question to apply to other events and issues in history, whether they be national liberation movements, civil rights movements, gender equality movements, or the like?

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