We’re a good few months into life at University now, hopefully you’re starting to feel much more settled in and have made lots of new friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately now is the time when many of your first deadlines are looming. Perhaps you’ve already had a couple of smaller assignments due but now it’s time for the larger essays. Having been through the process of getting to know the leap University work can be from school, especially in History, we mentors know how difficult it can be.
Starting to think about a longer 2500 word essay can be difficult (as will be due in the History in Practice module). As you will have been taught in your lectures, the best way to start is by reading a few relevant short journal articles and chapters in books to get a feel for what historians have written about a topic. If you find a useful article have a look in their bibliography and see if any of those texts are useful too – quite often they will be.
Writing a history essay at University is very different to school; keep your argument to one side – no ‘for and against’. In your essay you need to make sure you cover a broad range of historians’ arguments, highlighting where they have disputed your claim but also make sure that you counteract them to back up your case further.
2,500 words may seem difficult to find at first, however a good way of splitting up writing an essay is to find three separate themes. On each of these themes you can write 650-700 words with different arguments within them. This also enables you to focus your reading to topics within those themes, perhaps finding 4 to 5 separate texts for each section which will total to make your bibliography around the recommended 12. However make sure you paraphrase everything you write that a historian has said unless marked out as a specific quote, the turnitin computers will pick up plagiarism and you’ll be penalised! Make sure you reference everything you use properly too. The easiest way not to lose marks is to follow the invaluable referencing section in the History in Practice course guide, which you should keep for second and third year too!
The first essay can feel daunting, especially as they often come all at the same time for different modules. Although it is a cliché, planning ahead makes such a big difference. Breaking essays up into 700 word chunks and doing it over the course of a week is so much less stressful than doing it all the night before. Work out when your essays are due in on a wall planner and perhaps do one a week early if you have conflicting deadlines. That way you can have more time to relax in spare time with less stress! If you feel you are really struggling, your mentors and your academic advisor are always there to help, don’t be afraid to drop us or a member of staff a line. That’s what we’re here for after all… good luck!