Reflections on Writing a Good History EE

I have received the Extended Essay grades from last year, and was in general pleased by what I saw.  I noticed some common features that distinguished the EEs that received high marks, A’s and B’s, from the more average EEs (C’s.)  The following are thoughts which I have emailed to the students I am advising on their EEs, but I thought they might also be helpful to the rest of the class.

1.  Primary sources

Original research is the sine qua non of the extended essay.  High scoring extended essays show that extensive primary source based research took place.  The most reliable sources are close in date and proximity to the events being described.  Mine every resource you can to gain access to good sources.  If you use the internet, make sure you include the date you accessed the material (web sites change frequently.)

2.  Secondary sources

Make sure your secondary sources are the best and most reliable for the event.  Again, the high scoring essays relied upon peer-reviewed, print books and articles.  This is where you need to avoid not only the internet, but also print encyclopedias for anything other than a means to find more useful sources.  Again, you are not trying to just get by and slap together 4,000 words, you are trying to write an outstanding essay.

3.  Organization

The highest marked papers had a clear outline, with labeled sections that demonstrate the logical flow of the essay’s argument.

4.  Conclusion

The students arrived at original conclusions that demonstrated independent analysis of the research.  A and B papers went beyond mere repetition of the arguments of other historians.  The thesis of the paper was clear, bold, specific, and based upon evidence.  If you merely repeat existing arguments, you are guaranteed a C.


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