The most successful essays are well planned. Essays that go off the point with lots of extra detail will get poor marks.
Stick to the question
Underline key words in the essay title so you really understand the question being asked. It’s not about writing all you know about a topic.
Words like ‘discuss’, ‘compare and contrast’, ‘evaluate’, ‘account for’ are used as ways to direct your answer; make sure you know what they mean.
Other questions may start with ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘why’ or ‘when’.
Write a plan
Brainstorm your ideas on the essay topic to get started. Spider diagrams are good for this.
Plan the structure of the essay by numbering each of your ideas in order of importance. At this stage you may wish to leave some of them out or develop others by breaking them into sub points. Redo your original spider diagram as necessary.
You may have to present your argument for the essay under broad themes like ‘economic’, ‘social’, ‘political’ or ‘religious’ reasons. Make sure you understand which theme suits each of your points, then group your all points on the same theme in order of importance into a separate paragraph.
Writing the essay
Your essay must have an introduction. State the main points you will discuss in order to support your answer to the question set in the title of the essay.
2. Development of your argument
After the introduction add further paragraphs to build your argument, make the most important points first. Remember the way these points are ordered makes your argument clearer to the reader.
Start a new paragraph for each new important point and any linked points that relate to the question. You may include quotations from other historians and refer to primary sources (such as you can find on this website) to support a particular point.
Make sure your essay makes chronological sense. Try to present any factual points in date order.
Avoid telling the story of what happened. If you refer to an important historical event, you must make a point or comment about it. This will stop your essay from becoming a simple narrative and it shows you are trying to analyse events rather than just describe them.
Aim for five to seven paragraphs, depending on the essay and level of course you are following.
Sum up the main points and briefly restate your argument.
Re-read your work, check for spelling errors, and redraft if necessary.
The quotation to which you refer comes from Francis Bacon's essay "Of Studies," and is part of a longer quote in which he says, "Reading makes a full man; Conference a ready man; and Writing an exact man." Bacon wrote fifty-eight essays over several years and published a complete edition in 1625, The Essayes or Counsels Civill & Moral of Francis Bacon. Bacon's purpose in writing essays--which discuss moral, religious, business, and even practical...
The quotation to which you refer comes from Francis Bacon's essay "Of Studies," and is part of a longer quote in which he says, "Reading makes a full man; Conference a ready man; and Writing an exact man." Bacon wrote fifty-eight essays over several years and published a complete edition in 1625, The Essayes or Counsels Civill & Moral of Francis Bacon. Bacon's purpose in writing essays--which discuss moral, religious, business, and even practical subjects like gardening--is to create a kind of road map for proper human behavior for a man in politics or business in the important spheres of life. His essay "Of Studies," for example, in which he discusses writing, discusses the importance of learning:
Studies serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability. Their chiefe use for Delight is in privateness and retiring; for Ornament, is in discourse; & for Ability, is in the judgement and disposition of Business.
In other words, Delight in studies allows a man to be happy and useful during private time away from business or other duties--primarily because he is learning something that will improve him; Ornament, by which Bacon mean understanding the rhetorical arts like argument and persuasion, allow a man to speak effectively to others; and Ability gives the man enough practical experience to understand political and business matters so that he can successfully manage his political and economic affairs.
When Bacon says that "writing makes an exact man," he follows that immediately by the warning, "if a Man write little, he hath need of a good memory." Bacon, who wrote hundreds of pages, in a style that we now call the "plain style," understood that writing--and this is an aspect we recognize today--helps a person remember complex matters because writing tends to imprint on the mind what a person writes. More important, however, is that Bacon was aware that writing, because writing must be precise to be understood, also forces the writer to think clearly about the subject. An axiom (a universally understood truth) of writing, encapsulated in Bacon's comment about writing and exactness, is that if a person cannot write clearly about a subject, he cannot think clearly about that subject--and that is why Bacon links writing with being exact or precise.