Research Essay Writing Guide

Essay Guide Home

The research essay consists of several parts. There is no hard-and-fast rule about the order in which these sections should appear, with the exception of the Introduction, which appears at the beginning, and the Conclusion, which appears at the end. In addition, there is no rule as to how long each part should be, the amount of space that each should take up within the essay, or whether or not each needs to be in the text or merely included within the footnotes. These decisions will be governed by the topic and approach of each essay; part of what a historian does is figuring out how to weight and construct an historical essay to fit the topic he or she has chosen to address.

A research essay consists of an introduction which introduces the reader to the topic and to ones particular historical take on the topic. Some historians like to "set the scene" with an anecdote that illustrates something important or interesting, or which catches the interest of the reader and focuses it on the essay's topic. Others prefer to state vital data and background to the topic. The way one decides begin the essay is very much a matter of personal taste. One way to get started is to emulate eminent historians that one might be inclined towards.

Coherently a research essay also consists of a thesis statement which commonly appears within the introduction, or else very early in the essay. Your thesis should be clear and straightforward, and if it is complex, it is often successful to state a general thesis in one simple sentence, followed by additional sentences which clarify, detail, and build upon the general thesis.

Moreover research essays usually contain at least a cursory overview of the other historical literature which addresses the topic, or in the context of which the historian has approached the topic otherwise know as historiography. This often appears only in footnotes, although in many cases, a straightforward summary of a topic's historiography is an important enough part of the essay's argument that it should appear in the text of the essay.

Once the historian has made a thesis statement, then he or she must support that statement. The historian does so with an argument, a logical explanation of the reasons why the historian believes the thesis statement to be true. In order to prove the argument, historians document their statements with research in primary (first-hand) and secondary (second-hand) sources. Many disciplines other than history also engage in research and documentation of research, and as a result, many styles of documenting research have developed.

Finally when one is nearing the end of a research essay it may be in the best interest of the reader to include the sources of research through footnotes. This may include sources from which you will not quote.

Conclusion draws a research essay to an end. Conclusions restate the thesis statement and recap the argument made to support it. In addition, you may wish to point out other directions for further research on the issue, or state the significance of the topic historically or for present-day concerns. The conclusion may also provide one with the sole appropriate place (with the exception of footnotes) to express ones personal opinion.