Magoosh GRE

How to Write a Strong Argument in a History Essay

| December 15, 2011 | 1 Comment

A line of argument is simply a clear and concise answer to a question, and it is astonishing how many students neglect to include this crucial element of writing in their work. The discursive essay (which you tend to get pitched to you at university level) demands that you demonstrate judgement and the ability to justify what you say, so you need to be demonstrating the skills that show you can do this throughout your work.


Firstly, you must properly address the question and avoid going off into narrative ramble. In answering the question you need to be expressing an opinion, but one that you can justify. let’s take an example:


Q:  ‘Hitler’s dictatorship was a chaotic mess, his response to its dysfunction was ever greater radicalisation.’ Discuss.


So the examiner is waiting for you to say something about the Third Reich, but more specifically, they are looking to you to address the question and come up with a coherent line of argument. Discuss is just another by-word for ‘is this a valid statement or not – prove what you are saying,’ so what you mustn’t do is bombard the answer with ‘facts’ you’ve accrued from lectures, hoping something or other will prove your argument.

Instead, you need to critique the various different arguments that already exist, this is where your reading really is worth its weight in gold. If you’ve done your reading in this instance you’ll know that there are three dominant schools of thought on this topic, the intentionalist, functionalist and synthesist arguments, all of which cite differing evidence and have differing perspectives on the statement. Your marks come from displaying your understanding of the arguments, your ability to question how valid they are, your ability to select evidence to support or question them and your ability to present a coherent thesis throughout.

So in the introduction you must clearly show your line of argument, and in the next article I will give you a standard model for an introduction that will do exactly that.

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  1. Ty says:

    Hi, we’re on twitter. Follow us on @writepasse


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