Open Form Essays

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You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook. First, what is to distinguish your work from that of everybody else? But even here, you should take time out to do some thinking.

Second, it’s very unlikely that your school text has grappled with the precise question you have been set. Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important.

Philip Larkin once said that the modern novel consists of a beginning, a and an end.

The same is, alas, all too true of many history essays.

Here you give your carefully thought out definitions of the key terms, and here you establish the relevant time-frame and issues – in other words, the parameters of the question.

Also, you divide the overall question into more manageable sub-divisions, or smaller questions, on each of which you will subsequently write a paragraph.

First of all we ought to ask, What constitutes a good history essay?

Probably no two people will completely agree, if only for the very good reason that quality is in the eye – and reflects the intellectual state – of the reader.

You have to think and think hard – and then you should think again, trying to find loopholes in your reasoning.

Eventually you will almost certainly become confused.


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