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Writing a Historical Essay: The Thesis and Introduction


Writing a Historical Essay: The Thesis and Introduction A42 7.10.17 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing a Historical Essay: The Thesis and Introduction

Writing a Historical EssayThe Thesis and
  • A42
  • 7.10.17

The Thesis
  • The thesis is the sentence in the first paragraph
    that clearly states your answer to the prompt.
  • It is the most important part of any essay. By
    writing a good thesis, you will go a long way
    toward writing a good essay.

1 Formulating a Thesis
  • After reading the whole prompt, marking the
    important words, and sketching out how you intend
    to proceed. . .
  • Answer the prompt in a single sentence before
    writing the essay.
  • Multiple sentence theses tend to be too
  • Essays written without a clear thesis in mind
    tend to be unfocused.

1. Formulating a Thesis (continued)
  • Consider this prompt
  • To what extent was the U.S. Constitution a
    radical departure from the Articles of
  • What do you think about this prompt?
  • Was the Constitution a radical departure from the
    Articles of Confederation?
  • Did it represent only a slight alteration?
  • Or something in between?
  • You must take a clear position.

1. Formulating a Thesis (continued)
  • Avoid merely restating the wording of the prompt.
  • For example The Constitution was a radical
    departure from the Articles of Confederation, is
    a very weak thesis.
  • Although it may be accurate and it is better than
    no thesis at all, it shows little depth of
    understanding. It explains very little and does
    not give your essay much direction.
  • A good sophisticated thesis will reflect analysis
    of the question or real insight into the issue.
    (In other words, it shows the grader you know
    your stuff.)

1. Formulating a Thesis (continued)
  • If you think that the Constitution was a major
    change from the Articles, you could write
    something like the following
  • The Constitution was a major change from the
    Articles because it replaced a weak confederation
    with a strong central government.
  • OR The Constitution significantly improved upon
    the Articles of Confederation by creating a
    strong and effective central government that
    unified the formerly sovereign states.

2. Dealing with Complexity
  • APUSH essay questions always involve complex
    issues that historians debate, not simple
    questions that virtually everyone agrees on.
    Nevertheless . . .
  • You must take a clear position in the thesis.
  • It should provide an explanation or insight
    (explain how or why) not merely describe that
    things happened (who, what where).
  • Other ways to take a clear position
  • Geographic differences (Ex colonial settlement)
  • Change over time (Ex compromises over slavery)

2. Dealing with Complexity
  • However, although your essay must take a clear
    position . . .
  • Avoid going to extremes show that you
    understand complexity.
  • One side is usually more true than another, but
    not completely true. (History is complex)
  • AP grading rubrics award high scores only to
    essays that analyze the entire question.
  • To ensure that you address the complexity of
    questions, I also specifically require your
    essays to (4) be balanced (you cannot prove
    your thesis merely by ignoring the major evidence
    that could logically be cited by someone who
    might challenge your thesis)

2. Dealing with Complexity
  • But how can one reconcile taking a clear position
    with also showing an understanding that the issue
    is complicated?

2. Dealing with Complexity
  • One way to handle complexity is to begin your
    thesis sentence with the word although.
  • Your clear opinion, your answer to the prompt,
    goes in the second half of the thesis sentence.
  • Although both the Constitution and the Articles
    reflected the goals of the Revolution, the
    Constitution . . . OR
  • Although the Constitution did not solve all of
    the problems of the young republic, it did

3. The Introductory Paragraph
  • A good introductory paragraph has
  • An introductory sentence or two that sets the
  • The thesis sentence
  • An organizing sentence that states the topics
    or categories that will be used in the essay to
    support the thesis.
  • The essay would then have a paragraph devoted to
    each of the topics or categories
  • Thus, for most AP U. S. History essays, an
    introduction may be 3-4 sentences.

3. The Introductory Paragraph
  • The thesis can be anywhere in the first
    paragraph, but it is usually better to first
    introduce the topic with a sentence or two that
    sets the stage.
  • Adopted in 1781, the Articles of Confederation
    were a friendship of sovereign states. Reflecting
    their experience with George III, the states did
    not give the central government much authority
    and it therefore lacked an executive, could not
    regulate commerce, lacked the power to tax and
    could make amendments only with unanimous

3. The Introductory Paragraph
  • A good introductory paragraph should enable the
    reader to know exactly where the essay will
  • In general, save all of the specific details
    (evidence/facts) that will support the thesis for
    the body paragraphs.
  • The thesis should guide the essay throughout.
    That is, each part of the body of the essay
    should in some way clearly support the thesis.
    The purpose of the body paragraphs is to prove
    your thesis with specific evidence, not merely
    describe what happened. (Make an argument
    analyze, dont describe)

  • A thesis is a sentence that answers the prompt
    with your opinion.
  • A good thesis avoids merely restating the
  • The thesis should take a clear position.
  • The thesis must address the complexity in any
    prompt. One way of accomplishing all of this is
    to begin your thesis with the word although.
  • A good introduction includes an introductory
    sentence, the thesis, and an organizing sentence
  • AP essay rubrics award high scores to essays that
    have a clear, well-developed thesis that is
    focused on the prompt, addresses the entire
    question and guides the essay throughout.

Practice Question 1
  • In what ways did the French and Indian War
    (1754-63) alter the political, economic and
    ideological relations between Britain and its
    American colonies? Use your knowledge of the
    period 1740-1766 along with the documents
    provided to answer the question.

Practice Question 2
  • Analyze the impact of the American Revolution on
    both slavery and the status of women in the
    period from 1775 to 1800.

Practice Question 3
  • Evaluate the relative importance of the following
    as factors promoting Americans to rebel
    parliamentary taxation, restriction of civil
    liberties, British military measures and the
    legacy of colonial religious and political ideas.

Practice Question 4
  • The United States Constitution of 1787
    represented an economic and ideological victory
    for the traditional American political elite.
    Assess the validity of that statement for the
    period 1781 to 1789.

Practice Question 5
  • How did economic, geographic, and social factors
    encourage the growth of slavery as an important
    part of the economy of the southern colonies
    between 1607-1775?

Practice Question 6
  • To what extent was the election of 1800 aptly
    named the Revolution of 1800? Respond with
    reference to TWO of the following areas
  • Economics
  • Judiciary
  • Foreign policy
  • Politics

Practice Question 7
  • Although historically represented as distinct
    parties, the Federalists and the Whigs in fact
    shared a common political ideology, represented
    many of the same interest groups, and proposed
    similar programs and policies. Assess the
    validity of this statement.

Practice Question 8
  • Analyze the extent to which TWO of the following
    influenced the development of democracy between
    1820 and 1840
  • Jacksonian economic policy
  • Changes in electoral politics
  • Second Great Awakening
  • Westward movement
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