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To make a good argument you must have both a strong central thesis and plausible evidence; the two are interdependent and support each other.
The truism that we each have "our own" opinions misses the point.
A good critical essay acknowledges that many perspectives are possible on any question, yet demonstrates the validity or correctness of the writer's own view.
Avoid grand statements about humanity in general, and be careful of theories which fit all cases.
Make a point of using evidence with attention to specificity of time and place, i.e.
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with the basics for writing undergraduate history essays and papers.
It is a guide only, and its step by step approach is only one possible model; it does not replace consultation with your professor, TA, or instructor about writing questions and getting feedback, nor the excellent tutoring services provided by the Rutgers Writing Center program (room 304, Murray Hall, College Avenue Campus) and the Douglass Writing Center (room 101, Speech and Hearing Building, Douglass Campus). All serious writing is done in drafts with many hesitations, revisions, and new inspirations.Your task is both to select the important "facts" and to present them in a reasonable, persuasive, and systematic manner which defends your position.To support your argument, you should also be competent in using footnotes and creating bibliographies for your work; neither is difficult, and both are requirements for truly professional scholarship.Students often ask: "How can I give you a thesis (or write an introduction) before I have done all the reading?" Obviously, you cannot write a good paper if you haven't done the readings, so be sure to keep up.The basic elements of academic essay writing are two: a thesis and evidence, divided into three parts: an introduction, the systematic development of an argument, and a conclusion.All scholarly writing, from the most concise paper to the longest book, follows these basic guidlines. A thesis is a statement, an argument which will be presented by the writer.The writer should demonstrate originality and critical thinking by showing what the question is asking, and why it is important rather than merely repeating it. Many first-year students ask whether the "thesis" is not just their "opinion" of a historical question.A thesis is indeed a "point of view," or "perspective," but of a particular sort: it is based not only on belief, but on a logical and systematic argument supported by evidence.Remember always that there is nothing natural about being able to write (we all have to be taught—over many years), and writing well is a matter of application, discipline, and effort. Just remember that our subject here—critical, scholarly writing—has special requirements.In what follows we will briefly discuss the nature of historical writing, lay out a step by step model for constructing an essay, and provide a set of useful observations from our experience as instructors regarding problems that most frequently crop up in student writing.