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Writing an historical essay

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1 Writing an historical essay
Prep for the AP exam

2 The Prompt (aka the question?)
Read the question!!! (“really, you think? Yes! I think!”) # 1 - Figure out what the prompt is NOT asking? Aka – many prompts give you info, which you have to accept as fact. Ex DBQ – In the early nineteenth century, Americans sought to resolve their political disputes through compromise, yet by 1860 this no longer seemed possible. Analyze the reasons for this change. (use the docs and your knowledge of the period in constructing your response.)

3 The Prompt (continued)
# 2 - Figure out what the prompt is asking!! Is it a cause or effect? – ex.(compromises before 1860…) = causes of the … Is it a support or refute? Ex. A statement. Analyze? = HOW and WHY???

4 The Prompt (continued)
To what extent,…???? “This is a tricky way of giving you lots of options!!!” Ex FRQ – To what extent was the US Constitution a radical departure from the Articles of Confederation? # 1 – a completely radical departure # 2 = it was a radical departure in… , but did not radically change… # 3 – it was not a very radical departure…

5 The Prompt (continued) still?
If you want to get better at writing essays, then you want to re-write the question Or you want to figure out the heart of the question! Ex FRQ - Analyze the reasons for the Anti-Federalists’ opposition to ratifying the Constitution. The heart of the question is … what were the Anti-federalists main arguments against the Constitution?

6 Outline #1 – Figure out what your argument (AKA THESIS) will be, and how you are going to support it! Jot down examples If it is a DBQ – go through all of the Doc’s after you write down anything and everything you already know. Make sure to organize your ideas around themes or topics ( or even drinks?!!!)

7 “What is your favorite historical drink?”
SPRITE = Social, Political, Religious, Intellectual, Technological, Economic this is a great way to create topics for your essay if it is a general question that is asking for the CAUSES or the EFFECTS of an event (on America.) Ex. How did the Vietnam War effect America? I would probably go with socially, politically and economically.

8 Intro (paragraph) You always want to start by giving the time and place! Ex. The 13 colonies prior to the American Revolution… Ex. In the years following the Civil War, the southern states…

9 Intro (continued) There is no length requirements, but a few sentences is fine. Your sentences should all lead into… ……… “Your…. THESIS, duh?!” Thesis should always be the last sentence of your intro, BUT it can be the last two sentences?!

10 Thesis This is the make or break of your paper! “But no pressure!”
STICK TO THE PROMPT!! If the question is asking you about the causes of WWI, then you can NOT talk about WWI, … or WWII for that matter. Your thesis needs to stay within the time period and the limitations given in the question. (ex. During a presidency…)

11 Thesis (continued, of course)
Your thesis needs to be an argument. “I know I’m crazy!!!” This means that it can NOT be a fact, like “FDR was the president elected in 1932 and he created the New Deal.” You also can NOT just copy the prompt, this shows that you have no clue how complex the question is.

12 Thesis (statements) What effect did WWII have on America?
America was effected socially, politically, and economically by WWII. WWII drastically impacted American society, politics and its economy. WWII had a positive effect on the American economy, increased the powers of the federal government, and created a more unified society.

13 Body paragraphs First, you need to have clear TOPIC sentences.
Topic sentences = what the entire paragraph is going to cover So… topic sentences should be more general, rather than specific. However, they can NOT be facts!!! If you have problems creating them, then maybe write your paragraph (while leaving space for the topic sentence), and then write your topic sentence afterwards.

14 Body paragraphs (continued)
Within the body paragraphs should be details and facts, but more importantly you need to analyze and synthesize! ANALYSIS = WHY and HOW? Ex. Why didn’t the Compromise of 1850 prevent the Civil War? How did the Chinese Exclusion Act impact immigration?

15 Body paragraphs (still…)
Synthesis (the best essays have this!) Synthesis is connecting your analysis back to your thesis, and/or connecting analysis with other analysis in your essay. Ex. Analysis = Comp. of 1850 did not address the future of slavery. Analysis = Comp. of 1850 upset abolitionists. Synthesis = For many southerners the Comp. of 1850 appeared to limit the expansion of slavery, so abolitionists who did not help recover runaway slaves, only increased the chances of a civil war.

16 Conclusion (?) It will surprise you, but a conclusion is not necessary for AP US History. “No I am not joking!” If you have time, a conclusion is great, but if all you can do is repeat your thesis and your topics, then skip it. However, great essays have analysis and synthesis of the whole essay in the conclusion.

17 Conclusion (finally?) The conclusion is also where you can finally make connections to … THE NEXT STEP! THE NEXT STEP… is what event, concept, or time period that followed up the prompts inquiry. Ex. If question is about causes of Civil War, then conclusion could mention the Civil War, and maybe quickly, Reconstruction, but NOTHING about TODAY!!

18 FINAL TIPS, Do’s and Don'ts
Have an argument!!!! Organize your topics Analyze Synthesize Supersize?? j/k

19 FINAL TIPS, Do’s and Don'ts
Use “I”, “we”, “us”, “our”, etc. Make grand generalizations, like “all wars…” or “people like to fight.” Go off-topic Use random quotes Use analogies – “America is like a tiger…” Give advice, like “If Lincoln would have just…” Make connections from the past to today! Why? Write on something unrelated or beyond the prompt!!!

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