As an academic discipline, history covers a vast body of knowledge related to human past. Constructing a good essay would require some planning and research. Such essay should clearly focus on the topic and provide relevant and concise information.
Writing a good essay would involve a thorough literature research on your topic. Specialised databases should be searched for relevant articles, reviews, historical documents, official records and statistical data. Usual web search is unlikely to produce a comprehensive overview of existing information since these days many scientific articles are simply not available in the free access.
Clear well-defined structure with logical and coherent flow of information is critically important. Your essay should tell a “story”, which would include basic well-established facts, recent discoveries, their interpretations and relevant theories, differences in opinions among researchers and scholars and potential future research directions.
Reviewing up-to-date information would help to demonstrate not only your ability to learn the things taught at the classes but also to research and interpret new data. The latter is the most important skill for any independent researcher and something that, in the short terms, would bring you excellent marks.
Although history studies the past, lots of new discoveries are coming now practically every day. Modern methods of investigation in archaeology, linguistics and human genetics brought new knowledge and ideas about our history. Contemporary approaches led to new interpretations of many historical events. Historical research intersects with other fields such as political sciences, economics, law, sociology, religious studies, philosophy and psychology. Your essay should emphasize this interconnectivity of social sciences.
The problems studied by historical sciences are often complex, and many facts and events of the past can be interpreted differently by different scholars. The aim of your essay is to show that you understand the material and that you are able to think critically about it. To do this, your paper does have to show some independent thinking.
Research data and illustrative examples selected for essay should follow the logics of your essay. They should be not just relevant, but arranged in an order that helps to illustrate the right points at the right time. This would make the essay easily readable and understandable. Ability to communicate your thought clearly is always one of the points your essay will be marked for.
Obviously, the structure, depth and complexity of essay depend on the particular task at hands. The requirements for short undergraduate work and postgraduate dissertation are very different. But the major “selling” points mentioned above are always highly appreciated.