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Gordon DesBrisay, History Faculty

Essay Body

What should the body of an essay in History look like?

Essay writing 101 is: tell them what you're going to say, tell them what you're saying, and at the end tell them 'this is what I told you', and you're done. Keep the audience in mind and don't assume that they're inside your head. They only know... The rules of the game are, they can only know what you tell them. Maybe you know that the prof knows all this other stuff that's background, but the prof only knows if you know if you handle it effectively in your essay. That might mean alluding to it; that might mean making some statement or a footnote to the effect that this is sort of basic background stuff and then we're moving on, or something like that, but making it explicit. It ought to procede in some kind of logical fasion. Writing, it's a bit like a film in the sense that it's a linear process, especially in the fairly limited space allowed for an essay. Whether it's chronological or not there should be a kind of logical progression, each point should build on the one before. A paragraph should have a separate idea or cluster of ideas that it's developing. They shouldn't come out of the blue. It's very weird to suddenly read a paragraph and go, 'Wait a minute. What are they talking about now? I thought we were doing this.' Once you've written...You might need a... It's okay to maybe write that way, but you've got to go back over it and make sure that the ligatures are...that the links are there, that there is a through line that runs through the entire argument.