Context matters. When it comes to social movements, the state of the nation can open possibilities as well as raise barriers to activists? ability to effect change. In a well-structured, argument-driven essay, explain how the conditions of wartime have shaped social movements in the 20th century.
Remember, your essay should have a central thesis that accounts for change over time and cover a range of movements and time periods.
*Primary sources are sources created in the time period you are discussing. Secondary sources are works about the time period. So for instance: Coming of Age in Mississippi is a primary source from 1968, as are the images, songs, and clips from lecture. The Populist Persuasion is a secondary source published in 1995 about populist movements and rhetoric in social movements since the Populist movement of the 1890s.
Essay Organization Guide
While strict adherence to a particular essay structure is not required, it can be helpful to break your essay down into different sections if you?re having difficulty organizing your writing. What follows is a basic framework for an analytical essay.
Introduction (1-2 paragraphs): Here you set out (1) the essay topic, and (2) your thesis, which is the main argument of the paper. A thesis is most effectively presented after you have set up a problem or question for the texts. Strive for a dynamic introduction: a paragraph or two that introduce a topic, pose a problem or difficulty, and present a thesis as an answer to that question. The thesis statement itself should be one or two sentences long.
Body: The body is where you lay out the story and present the evidence to support the paper?s thesis. Strive for a consistent paragraph length. Begin each paragraph with a clear and informative topic sentence. Please note that each and every paragraph should be coherent and relevant?each paragraph must address a single, unified theme. Choose material that supports the paper?s main thesis, take pains to demonstrate how the material supports the thesis, and be sure to remove any irrelevant material.
Conclusion (1 paragraph): The conclusion must act as a summary. Using new language, restate your argument and the major points of the paper. If you wish, the conclusion (not the introduction or body) is the place to connect the subject to the present day, or to add an additional idea as ?food for thought.?
Suggestions for the Writing Process
Not everyone writes essays the same way, but when you?re not sure how to start, it can be helpful to have a few guidelines. Below are some suggestions on how to tackle a history essay, step by step.
1. Figure out what you want to say. You can do this by brainstorming, free writing, staring at a wall and thinking?anything that allows you to sort your thoughts and make sense of your material.
2. Create an argument. Most history assignments require you to do more than parrot back information. You have to take the information and craft an argument out of it. Don?t just summarize a book?analyze it. Don?t just describe an event?situate it and tell your readers why they should care.
3. Build a case. Once you?ve determined what you are going to argue, you need to figure out how you are going to argue it. What points make the most convincing argument? How will you support those points? What evidence will you use?
In building your case, be intellectually honest. Acknowledge contrary arguments or unsupportive events, then explain why your argument is more persuasive.
4. Create an outline. Essays need structure?otherwise they tend to be disjointed or rambling. With a well-conceived outline, not only will you have created that structure, but you will always know where you are going next?a useful remedy for mid-essay writer?s block.
Don?t feel constrained by the outline format. There are countless ways to draw up a plan for your essay; if the traditional Roman numeral format doesn?t work for you, try something else.
5. Write a first draft. Now that you?ve figured out what to argue and how to argue it, start writing. Sometimes it?s tough to get those first words on paper. But you?re not etching it in stone, so don?t worry if it?s rough. Just start writing.
6. Re-outline your paper. In the process of writing your first draft, you may have found that your original outline or argument didn?t quite work. This reverse outline process?outlining what you?ve already written?allows you to see if your detours worked to advance your argument, if you left out significant points, or if you spent too much time on one area.
7. Revise your draft. Where can you strengthen your argument? Where can you tighten your writing? Do you need to move paragraphs around or rewrite certain sections? If so, take the time to do it. And while you?re at it, have someone else read over your essay. Sometimes ideas that seem perfectly self-evident to you may not be clear to your reader.
8. Proofread. In addition to tightening your argument and style, you should check over your essay for proofing errors. The spell-check and grammar tools on many word processing programs, while useful to a point, have their limits. Read over the essay one final time for any mistakes the computer may have missed.
Use clear, precise language. Don?t use a big word when a small word works just as well. Your goal is to communicate, not show off your extensive vocabulary. If the bigger word is better, go for it. But don?t use utilize when you mean use.
Either outline before or after you?ve written your paper. Make sure you have some structure and a logical framework for your argument. Many times, you won?t have figured out your thesis until the end of your paper. Don?t leave it like that?rewrite to put the thesis in the introduction.
Document your sources. History papers use Chicago-style footnoting or endnoting. If you need help with this, check out Turabian?s A Manual for Writers or a similar source.
Proofread, proofread, proofread?not just to catch typos and sentence fragments, but to double-check your organization, your argumentation, and your documentation. (P.S.: Proofread!)
Avoid overuse of modifiers, and jettison weak modifiers. There is seldom a good use for the word very and phrases like very interesting. Often a modifier is a writer?s way around finding a strong or verb. For instance, very interesting gives the reader only a vague sense of what the writer means, whereas compelling, intriguing, and surprising all indicate not only that the writer finds something interesting, but the way in which the writer finds it interesting.
Rewrite sentence in the passive voice to the active voice. There are times when the passive voice is an important stylistic tool. Mostly, though, writers use it to avoid naming their subject.
Avoid sweeping generalizations, such as ?Throughout human existence?? or ?Americans have always??. The phrases are hackneyed and imprecise. Americans haven?t always anything, and legions of historians have tried to make that clear.
Avoid colloquialisms and slang. While you should feel free to infuse your essay with style, it is still an academic piece of writing. If my tragically-unhip (but intelligent) mom would not understand your turn of a phrase, then it probably isn?t appropriate for your essay.
Avoid using the first person. Take a stand and declare what you mean, rather than saying ?I think?? or ?I believe??. And unless the essay is about your own personal experiences and reactions, it weakens your argument to pepper your essay with first-person pronouns.
Variety is key. Vary sentence lengths, paragraph length, and word choice. A well-written, engaging essay is much more persuasive than a monotonous one.
Style counts, but should never obscure your meaning. The first object of your essay is to communicate. Make sure your style isn?t getting in the way of what you intend to say.
Mind your punctuation: it?s = it is; its = possessive pronoun. Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks, footnote references go outside. There is a difference between dashes and hyphens. Pick up a good style book and use it. Even good writers have grammar tics that need fixing.