How to Write a Historical Essay 1

The A.P. examination for American History includes an essay portion in addition to the multiple-choice section. These essays
comprise 50% of the final score for the entire A.P. examination. The essay portion of the test has two sections. Document
Based Question (DBQ) comprises the first part. This section accounts for 45% of the total essay score. Students will have to
provide an analysis of the given documents and incorporate them into an essay using information from mainstream American
History. In the second section, students select from two sets of two essay topics (four essay topics in total) about a particular
time period in American History. The students will choose one essay from each set to write about. This section accounts for
55% of the total essay score. If you want to do well on the A.P. examination, you must be able to express yourself in writing in
a clear and concise manner.

If you do not write well, you must train yourself to become an articulate writer. Remember that writing is a skill, not a gift!
Those who write well have a plan attack. You too can write well, if you take the time to organize and plan. The following
seven-step technique will help you accomplish your goal of learning to write well and to pass the essay sections of the A.P.

Step 1 Analyze the Question

Read the question carefully. Make sure you understand the question. Underline key words and phrases. Make a decision on
the direction you are going to take in answering the question.

Step 2 Collect and Sort Information

Jot down notes, key words, facts and phrases that relate to the topic of your essay. Sort and group notes and words together
under possible topics. Eliminate unrelated or tangentially facts and phrases. Make an outline of the points you want to cover in
your answer.

Step 3 Develop Your Thesis

Define and refine your personal opinion on the given topic. Are for or against the statement or question presented? Do accept,
reject, or qualify the proposed argument? You must take a stand, and define your thesis! An essay without a thesis is not only
boring but also bound to fail.

Step 4 Write the Introductory Paragraph

Your introductory paragraph is probably the most important paragraph in your essay. You need to answer these two questions
for the reader, "What is the question?" and "What is the author's opinion on the question?"

Your opening paragraph is probably the most important paragraph in your essay. You need to answer these two questions for
the reader, "What is the question?" and "What is the author's opinion on the question?"

Your opening paragraph should resemble the following format:

 Sentence #1
             Open your essay with a general statement about the topic. Try to use one of
             their key words or one of your own.
             Narrow your focus with a more specific statement.
             This should be your thesis statement. In a very clear fashion, state your personal
             opinion on the topic selected. Design this statement so that it leads into the
             specifics of your introduction and essay.
 Sentence #4
             This sentence should set up the three topics, point, or opinions you are going to
             use in proving you thesis. List the topics in the order in which you are going to
             discuss them in the body of your essay. Remember to place you weakest topic
             in the middle of #2 slot. You want your first and last body paragraphs to be
 Sentence #5
             This is the concluding sentence of your introduction. State your opinion (if you
             have not done so already) if that is what the question asks. Otherwise sum up
             your introduction and state direction you will be taking in your essay.

Step #5 Write the body of the essay

You should have at least three paragraphs. Each paragraph should address one of your topics in you introduction. Go in order
as you listed in your introduction. Use strong, sustained topic sentences. You are out to impress the reader with your
knowledge of history. Do not be repetitious. Stick to your outline. State your points clearly. Support your arguments and/or
generalizations with facts. Remember to add your own ideas and factual material when they relate to the topics; no opinions
here! Make sure your last sentence in each paragraph gracefully leads into you next paragraph, provide a smooth transition
between paragraphs.

Step #6 Write the Concluding Paragraph

In order, to successfully write you are concluding paragraphs re-read your introductory paragraph. Your conclusion should
bring the reader back to original question and to your thesis. Open your paragraph with a few general statements about your
topic. Your thesis should then be reintroduced, not repeated. Restate your three topics and what they prove and support. End
your paragraph with a strong conclusion; this is important. If possible, you should end your conclusion with a strong conclusion
with an indication of the applicability of your thesis to other situations. Leave the reader with the impression that you proved
something of general significance. DO NOT SUMMARIZE EVERY POINT YOU HAVE MADE, AND DO NOT

Step#7 Read over your essay

Read over your concluding paragraph and then your introductory paragraph. Make sure they are supportive of each other and
that they do not contradict each other. In other words, make sure they agree! Check for spelling, punctuation errors and make
sure you made a smooth transition between paragraphs.