CfE Higher History. Essay Writing Guide

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1 CfE Higher History Essay Writing Guide 1

2 CfE HIGHER HISTORY ESSAY WRITING Aim: To understand how to write a Higher History Essay. In your final exam, you will be required to write two coherently written, well-structured essays, which allow you to demonstrate that you have a sound knowledge and understanding of both a historical topic and the debate surrounding it. As each essay is worth 20 marks, it is crucial that you are fully aware of the requirements for writing a Higher essay. It is your responsibility to ensure that your essay makes the grade before you hand it in. You will need to go and research in order to find quotes, historians views and substantial amounts of evidence. This is YOUR responsibility. Essays need to be drafted, written and, on occasion, re-written! Allow yourself lots of time as if you do a good essay now, it is easier to reproduce one like it in the final exam. The SQA have highlighted 3 key areas in essays that students must focus on, so do it! These are: The answer must clearly address the question being asked The answer should demonstrate understanding of historical analysis rather than just narrative/description The answer must be well structured, with particular focus on introductions and conclusions The markers will be looking for evidence that you have: Answered the question carefully Shown a good knowledge of the topic Argued, rather that having just written a list of facts Written your essay clearly, using historical terms and appropriate language Organised your essay into paragraphs with a clear introduction and a thorough conclusion. You will be marked on Knowledge and Understanding, Analysis/Evaluation and Structure. Follow the instructions over the page, and you will have the best chance of success. 2

3 IDENTIFYING THE CORRECT FOCUS OF THE QUESTION ASKED Before putting pen to paper, you must ensure that you have identified the correct FOCUS of the question. You must answer the actual question asked and not the question you want to answer! There are 2 distinct types of essay question: 1. Evaluating factors to explain historical developments These questions ask you to explain the importance of one factor in causing a development. You are then required to look at the other factors involved. Examples of this type of question To what extent was the growth of democracy in Britain after 1860 due to social and economic change? How important a part did the First World War play in the decision to grant votes to women? How far do you agree that Overproduction and Underconsumption were the main cause of the Great Depression of the 1930s? Simply part of the post-war desire to isolate America from the outside world. How far does this explain changing attitudes towards immigration in the USA during the 1920s? 2. Making an assessment (judgement) These questions ask for a balancing of evidence and arguments for and against the success, effectiveness or nature of a development. Examples of this type of question How successfully did the Liberal Government of tackle the problems of poverty? How democratic was Britain by 1911? How effective were the increased powers of the federal government in dealing with the social and economic problems facing the USA in the 1930s? To what extent did the civil rights movement achieve its aims by 1968? Be aware that you will get both types of question in most of the topics, sometimes in the same paper. For example: To what extent was the growth of democracy in Britain after 1860 due to social and economic change? By 1928, Britain was a fully democratic country. How accurate is this view? 3

4 HOW DO I STRUCTURE MY ESSAYS? The 20 mark essay should consist of four key elements. 1. Introduction Sets out the issue clearly in its wider context Identifies the relevant factors outlining the historical debate Shows a solid line of argument, and signposts Links directly to the question and main section Should not answer the question leave something for the reader to read! Should not present any factors not used in the main section REMEMBER: CIDS! Context Issues Debate Signpost 2. Main section Evidence and Argument Coherent development of the argument, directly linked to the question and using hard evidence to support it Must refer to the factor identified in the question Explains, analyses, debates and assesses Organised in paragraphs with clear opening sentences which are linked to the question Written factually with hard evidence, relevant to the question (at least 2 pieces in each paragraph). Should be used to support the argument Paragraphs should be arranged in a logical order Each paragraph should be linked to the next, so that the theme is maintained Argument must be sustained and balanced Shows awareness of historical debate/different viewpoints Must not simply describe or narrate Should not jump about Paragraphs should not be too short or too long Should not use quotations to present argument 4. Conclusion Summarises arguments and reinforces them Directly answers the question or addresses the issue, leading to a valid, balanced judgement and conclusion Does not just summarise facts Does not include new information Does not just repeat issues 4

5 HOW YOUR ESSAYS WILL BE MARKED: In recent years, the SQA have made the marking instructions much simpler to understand. Basically, if you understand how the markers mark, then you should be able to write better essays! 1. Knowledge and Understanding You get up to 6 marks for relevant knowledge used to support your argument. You get a mark for each piece of Relevant, Accurate and Detailed evidence. You must link these to your factor and argument. You can only get these in the main section, so don t waste them in the introduction/conclusion! REMEMBER: RAD! So, if you know at least 6 facts about each topic, you should do well! 2. Analysis/Evaluation You get up to 10 marks for the quality of thought and argument in the main section. You are credited as follows: 6 marks available for analysis (1 mark for each time it is done). Analysis includes making links between factors, establishing contradiction within factors, establishing contradiction between factors, establishing similarities between factors and exploring different interpretations of factors 4 marks available for evaluation: 1 mark Candidate makes an isolated comment about one factor 2 marks Candidate makes an isolated comment on different factors 3 marks Candidate connects comments to build a line of argument 4 marks Candidate connects comments to build a focused and coherent line of argument 5

6 3. Structure You get up to 4 marks for the organisation of the answer, focusing on the introduction and conclusion. Introduction: 0 marks Candidate makes one or two factual points but these are not relevant 1 mark Candidate establishes the background to the issue and identifies relevant factors 2 marks Candidate establishes the background to the issue, identifies relevant factors and connects these to the line of argument Conclusion: 0 marks No overall judgement is made on the issue 1 mark Candidate makes a summary of points made 2 marks Candidate makes an overall judgement between the different factors in relation to the issue 6

7 YOUR STEP-BY-SIDE GUIDE STEP 1 IDENTIFY THE MEANING OF THE QUESTION 1. Write down the question and either HIGHLIGHT or UNDERLINE the key words. 2. PARAPHRASE the question. Work out what you are actually being asked in simple language. 3. Note down the main areas and/or arguments you need to consider. EXAMPLE: 1. Discuss the view that by 1914 Britain was not yet a democratic country. 2. How democratic was Britain by 1914? 3. Key areas: Extent of the franchise (right to vote) Choice of parties Fairness of the voting system Accountability of the Government Access to information Party organisation Extent of participation Ongoing issues / anomalies. STEP 2 WRITE A SUITABLE INTRODUCTION A clearly written introduction is crucial to any History essay. Your introduction should be in the region on 100 words in length and fulfils FOUR purposes: 1. SET THE ESSAY IN CONTEXT by providing brief background to the period and the issue under discussion. This need only take a couple of sentences. 2. You must define the KEY ISSUES in the question. This ensures your essay is sufficiently FOCUSED from the outset. 3. You must ADDRESS THE HISTORICAL DEBATE. In other words, briefly outline the different theories regarding the historical event or development you plan to discuss. The examiner will be impressed if you can refer to the views of individual historians. 4. You must SIGNPOST. Tell the examiner the format the essay will take in OBJECTIVE LANGUAGE in other words, never say I! 7

8 STEP 3 WRITE A DETAILED AND WELL STRUCTURED MAIN SECTION The main section of your essay will be awarded the majority of marks. It should be in the region of 1200 words in length and must fulfil the following criteria: It must be clearly STRUCTURED. You are best advised to adopt a THEMATIC APPROACH. Take a new paragraph for each new point or argument you plan to examine. Paragraphs must be organised in such a way that you can develop a COHERENT AND LOGICAL LINE OF ARGUMENT. Structure your paragraphs using the P.E.E.A.C.H formula: POINT start with an opening sentence which makes clear what the paragraph will be about. EXPLANATION explain clearly and in greater detail why the factor you are considering is important. EVIDENCE provide plenty of evidence to SUPPORT / ILLUSTRATE / ANALYSE the point you are considering. Evidence can include statistics, quotations from either eyewitnesses or historians and anecdotes. Tell the reader why the evidence you are presenting is relevant to the question. Make sure that the information you include is RELEVANT, ACCURATE & DETAILED (RAD!) and does not merely describe or narrate events. ARGUMENT COUNTER-ARGUMENT HOW DOES THIS ANSWER THE QUESTION? Make sure you know EXACTLY what you want the reader to have learned by the time they get to the end of each paragraph. If you are not sure why you are writing, the reader will have no chance! STEP 4 WRITE A WELL SUBSTANTIATED CONCLUSION A strong conclusion is crucial to any essay. It must be in the region of 200 words long and fulfil the following criteria: The essay question is DIRECTLY ANSWERED and this flows directly from the evidence you have presented. The major themes of the essay are summarised and the main arguments are made clear. Your approach should be BALANCED and ANALYTICAL In conclusion, there were many On one hand On the other hand On balance It must NOT contain any new evidence that has not already been mentioned in the main section of your essay. 8

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