The nature of examining history as an academic subject has changed drastically over recent years. What was once a subject that emphasised dates and individuals of significance, history as an academic discipline has now shifted its attention to WHY something happened and what IMPACT those events then had as opposed to strictly the details of WHAT happened? Essentially, historical events shouldn’t be examined in isolation, but as part of a linear process of cause and effect.
Too often, I see students make the mistake of adopting this dated approach to academic historical studies. This has unfortunate ramifications, most often when it comes time to write an essay and a student jumps into a narrative mode, merely re-telling the events of the historical period of inquiry.
While, of course, it is excellent for a student to be so familiar with the content to such a detailed extent, this evidence (ie. the facts) is secondary to the analysis and conclusions we need to make in regards to examining historical events. Making a sophisticated analysis of history is critical to being successful within the subject. Thus, here are my top tips for understanding what is required in order to enjoy success in the subject of history:
Answering the question.
This seems obvious but yet it is surprising how many students do not actually address, specifically, the question they are required to answer. Again, the most common reason for this is that students jump into a story-telling mode, explaining sentence after sentence WHAT historically took place, rather than why, how or to what effect.
I will provide two different examples to the hypothetical task, being to analyse a significant, indirect implication of the Holocaust beyond Europe.
Example one: The atrocities committed during the Second World War - namely the horrific and attempted systematic annihilation of Europe’s Jewish population - gave further reason for a Zionist state, which ultimately had a heavy hand as a catalyst for the creation of the nation Israel.
Example two: World War Two was an incredibly tumultuous period of warfare, in which over seven million victims of the Nazi’s brutal totalitarian regime perished at the hands of systematic annihilation.
The second example still makes a valid point and is certainly an accurate analysis, however, does not specifically respond to the question, which requires the student to discuss a consequence beyond the barriers of Europe. On the surface, this may seem like a small detail but it is key to effectively answering the question. It is also common that students make these mistakes.
2) Providing your answer in your first sentence.
Whether you are writing a short response answer or a lengthy essay, some sort of hypothesis is absolutely, always essential to properly approach the task. In essence, your hypothesis answers the question straight away, before you justify said hypothesis using your evidence (ie the facts) and further analysis.
3) Being clear and logical in what you are trying to say.
It is common that students try too hard, so to speak, using language that may sound fancy but isn’t clear or easy to understand in context with the rest of their answer. Of course, should you effectively understand more sophisticated language tools they are great to use? But it’s so important to really understand, yourself, what you are trying to say, why and what impact it will have.
4) Don’t assume the reader understands the topic.
As a rule of thumb, you should write your historical analysis with the assumption that the individual reading it knows nothing about the topic. Sure, this may seem silly, knowing that it will generally be a teacher marking your work. But ensure that you don’t leave anything open to further interpretation than what you have already determined. This is an essential skill required to fully answer a question.
5) Provide just as much analysis as evidence.
This is important to make a note of there should be just as much analysis as there is evidence. For instance, for every sentence providing dates and facts, there should be at least one additional sentence elaborating on what that information means, in relation to your overall hypothesis or point. Every piece of analysis needs to contribute to the hypothesis.
There you have five top tips to better understanding what is necessary for being successful in the study of history in senior high school studies. It’s in private lessons that I am keen to elaborate on these guidelines and put them into practice, to ensure students are achieving their best results possible. Good luck!
Learnmate is a trusted Australian community platform that connects students who want 1:1 or small group study support, with tutors who are looking to share their knowledge and earn an income. From primary school to high school subjects — from science and maths to niche subjects like visual communication — Learnmate can help you improve academic performance or boost confidence, at your pace with the tutor that you choose.
Students and parents can easily find and screen for tutors based on their location, their subject results or skill level, and whether they provide in-person or online sessions. Learnmate is proud to provide tutors in Melbourne, Sydney, Geelong, Brisbane, Hobart, Canberra, Perth & Adelaide, and other locations.
Go online and let Learnmate help you get ahead. Start your search today.