An LHS student’s guide to becoming the next Eric Foner, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and more!
This guide will help you when writing your five paragraph essays throughout the year. It will give you a sense of how to write a clear, well-organized, and informative essay.
Part 1: Introduction
This is where you get your reader prepared to read your essay. An effective intro should provide some setting for the paper, intro to key points, and a focused thesis statement that addresses all aspects of the question.
First Sentence: Set the mood. Introduce the place, time period, topic (Who, what, when, where are we talking about). Let the reader get a sense of what era of history you are addressing.
Sentences 2-4: Introduce key points briefly, including a short example. Lead the reader into the topic and give a basic introduction into what you will be discussing. Each key point/example combination will be discussed in a sentence of their own. Also, the order of the key points in your introduction will determine the order that you discuss them in the body of your essay.
Thesis: This is the roadmap of your essay. Include an affirmative statement that presents your stance/argument for the essay. This should be the LAST sentence in your introduction and should always be UNDERLINED.
Part 2: Body Paragraphs (3 of them): All body paragraphs should include the following
1. Topic Sentence - This is a mini thesis - Rephrase the question including your first key point from your thesis. This is the FIRST sentence in your body paragraph
2. Background - Give any necessary background to your key point before describing specific examples i.e give a sentence about events or necessary information that led to the events/topic you are discussing in your paragraph. This should be provided directly after your topic sentence.
3. Describe your TWO supporting example - tell me everything you know about each of your examples - defining all content terms (explaining the “what”). In your descriptions also include who is involved, when it occurred if specific, where this example occurred if not stated earlier. Include all necessary details.
4. Explain how your TWO supporting example relate to your key point and the question. Answer HOW do these examples provide support for my key point and WHY are these examples significant when answering the question
-- In terms of your examples, you may describe your first example and then explain its support for your key point followed by your second example and its explanation ... OR... you may describe both examples and then explain how they both connect to the question or support your key point --- this depends on the examples and your key point
Part 3: Conclusion
Sentence 1: Restate your thesis - Reword your thesis from before including your three key points…This sentence does not start with, “In conclusion…” – you will give me the shakes if you attempt this.
Sentence 2-3: Summarize how your backing examples (not key points) support your thesis.
Sentence 3-5: Make a statement of historical importance. You might want to wrap up the over-arching importance of your event…or, show how it influenced future events. BUT..you still MAY NOT SAY “ Today would not be how it is if not for.....” or any other variation of that sentence.
These tips will help you avoid the common pitfalls of young writers. Keep these in mind and refer back to these tips when editing your papers.
Don’ts – These WILL NOT appear in your essay
1. Use first person pronouns - I, me, my, we, us, you
2. Informal phrases/ slang - do not use phases that would be said in a text message or at a lunch table - for example: “During the French Revolution, things got crazy.”
3. Rhetorical phrases or questions to start a paragraph or your introduction- for example, “Imagine a world where the Protestant Reformation never happened…” This isn’t an English paper. We are worried about facts, not whether you can blow my mind with some crazy existential thought that popped into your head.
4. Use inaccurate information/false statistics
5. Use words like amazing, incredible, awesome, or anyones of the sort consistently
6. Use exclamation points
7. Don’t make generalizations such as, “Everybody loved the paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance artists.” That is impossible to prove. You can rephrase it to, “Many Europeans embraced the works created by artists during the Renaissance.” This statement can be supported with evidence from different texts.
8. Don’t be redundant with your words. Since there are numerous words in the English language, there is absolutely no reason why words should be repeated.
9. Don’t use words such as, “things,” “a lot”, “nice,” “okay,” “bad,” etc. Expand your vocabulary, this is not how we write in the high school.
10. NO CONTRACTIONS- Don’t, Won’t, Shouldn’t, Couldn’t, Wouldn’t, Can’t, etc. I CAN’T stand when students use contractions
11. Fill your essay with “Nothing Statements.” If we read a sentence that adds nothing of value to your essay, you should omit that sentence.
1. If you use this, they, he, she, etc make sure you explain who the person or object is you are discussing first
2. Proofread- take pride in what you hand in.
3. Define necessary terms
4. Support your point by analyzing an event or contribution and describing it to me.
5. Show, don’t tell. If something has had a major impact or is important, show me why it’s important; don’t just tell me it is.
6. Do write only relevant information that is associated to your topic. Every sentence must be connected to your topic. Omit any sentence that does not relate to your topic.
7. Do keep your sentence concise and straight to the point. Do not think that writing more words will get you a better grade. Being verbose (wordy) does not guarantee an excellent paper.
Quality AND Quantity are ideal
8. Do include transitions to help organize your essay. (Therefore, however, afterwards, for example, for instance, on the contrary, then, finally, lastly, etc.)
9. Do use size 12 font – Times New Roman and double space if you are typing the essay.