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August 2016

5-step History Introductions

I think we can all agree that the hardest part of any essay is simply just getting started. We stare at the blank page in front of us, wondering for ages what that first sentence is going to be and start panicking that we may have chosen the wrong essay title to write.So if you want an easy solution, use my introduction formula. Here’s how it works:


Step 1: Reword the Questions


For your first sentence you should aim to directly answer the question by re-wording the exact question into an answer. So if the question is ‘How far would you agree that Stalin’s rise to power was the most important turning point in Russian History between 1855-1964’ you would start with a sentence like ‘Undoubtedly, Stalin’s rise to power was an important turning point in Russian History.’ First sentence - done.


Step 2: Provide Context


Your second sentence should provide the context for the essay. The easiest way to do this is a ‘start and end model’. Basically you say what was the situation at the start of the period (as stated in the question), and what was the situation at the end. So if you use the question above your second sentence would read something like ‘Before Stalin rose to power, Russia was… However, after Stalin became leader, Russia became…’


Step 3: Define Key Terms


Every question will have at least one key term that the examiner wants the student to define in the intro. Buzzwords to look for include ‘more successful’, ‘most important’, and ‘most ineffective’. Essentially, in this sentence you need to demonstrate here that you know what the question is actually asking.So here your sentence would be ‘In order to assess whether it was the ‘most important turning point’ we need to look at Stalin’s rise in comparison to other rulers…’


Step 4: Outline the themes


In this sentence you need to outline what your themes for the essay are going to be. These will also represent the main paragraphs/sections you are going to use for the essay. For an exam, you should never need more than 3-4 themes in an essay.  In this sentence you can literally just list the themes you are going to talk about in the essay. So an example would be – ‘The influence of Stalin’s rise to power in comparison with other turning points can be looked at through the themes of Russia’s economy, military developments, political developments and social change.


Step 5: Finish with a judgment


To finish your introduction you always want to outline your argument for the essay. This should be reiterated in the conclusion and throughout the essay. By stating your view in the introduction you demonstrate to the examiner you have mastery of the subject, and you have a coherent plan for the essay.  So a final sentence for the intro would be - ‘To conclude, despite other important turning points in this period, because the vast developments in Russia’s economic and military programmes, Stalin’s rise to power can be regarded as one of the most important turning points in Russian history.’ 

If you use the following structure as a template you should never struggle to write an introduction! What’s more if you include each step you’ll be ticking all of the right boxes in the mark scheme!


In short, the template is: 

  1. Question
  2. Context
  3. Define
  4. Themes
  5. Judgment


Those are the 5 steps to the perfect essay introduction!