Essential steps: select a question; identify the subject of the question; what are you being asked to do - that is, what kind of information will you need to answer the question, and how will you have to treat it?
Circling the key words in the question is sometimes a helpful first step in working out exactly what you need to do.
That is, to explain why they are the best criteria for judging the historical phenomenon at issue.
'What-role-did-X-play-in-Y' questions imply a functionalist approach - that is, they require that you identify the function of some phenomenon, group or institution within some specific system.
'Compare-and-contrast' questions demand the identification of similarities and differences.
One method of tackling such an essay would be to distinguish five or six areas of similarity and contrast, and to devote a section of the essay to each area - a section in which you would assess the degree of similarity and reach a sub-conclusion.The following outline is intended as to provide one example of how to write an essay.Treat it as food for thought, as providing a set of suggestions some of which you might incorporate into your own method for writing essays.The conclusion would then require a summation of the various 'sub-conclusions'.It needs to be stressed that none of these types of question calls for a narrative approach.An undergraduate essay need not be particularly innovative in its approach and insights, but it must be the product of the student's own dialogue with the subject.Essays which do not answer the question can only be regarded as demonstrating some knowledge of the topic, they cannot be said to show understanding of the topic.It is useful to begin by considering why essay-writing has long been the method of choice for assessment in history.The chief reason is that no other method provides as effective a means of testing a student's comprehension of a topic.'To-what-extent' questions involve a judgement of measure.One way of answering the question would be set up a series of 'tests', as it were, that can be investigated in turn.