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Historical Essay: The Body

The body is the meat of your essay. It is where you develop your thesis’s argument by supporting it with a few key ideas that are in turn supported by evidence you gather.


The Body

Now is your chance to develop your argument by stating your main ideas, and by collecting and explaining your evidence! The body of the essay is the place for that. It consists of several well-structured paragraphs that you write with a purpose in mind.

Topics are your main ideas

Once you have your thesis statement written, you should decide on three or four main topics you want to write about.

These as the “main ideas” or “main reasons” that support what you are trying to say in your thesis. If you are arguing or portraying something in your essay, these ideas are your “proof”. And each of these ideas must be explained and supported by evidence, or examples, or perhaps even “secondary arguments” that then must also be supported in additional paragraphs.

Start simple, then see the Step 3 tab for a tool that might help you you build your essay!

Note however that on some exams the essay question and essay organizer they provide may already indicate the main topics you must cover!

Body Building: Topic Sentences and Evidence

Now you want to build up the body of the essay with topics and evidence. Use an organizer like the “(Essay) Body Building tool with notes” provided here, or for simpler essays try the “(Essay) Body Building tool without notes” here.

Start by writing down titles for 3 or 4 main ideas or topics you want to research. One good trick is to give these main topics a “code” like a letter or number, which you can then use to mark up documents as you find evidence you can use. Make sure you gather evidence from a number of different sources, and verify those sources as well.

Once you have found enough ideas or images or quotes you want to use to support your thesis, return to this tool and jot them down. Try not to overwhelm the reader though. Choose only the best bits of evidence that will explain or support each of your main ideas.

The main ideas, together with the supporting evidence, will eventually be expanded to form complete “paragraphs”. The main idea will become that paragraph’s “topic sentence”, and the evidence will help you support that topic sentence. You can compose your topic sentence, or even the full paragraph, at any point during the body building and draft writing processes. You can always change them later.

See the Step 4 tab for source recording made easy, and the Step 5 tab for hints on expanding your points into sub points.

Note that on exams the provided organizer may already contain main topics, but you still need to argue and find supporting evidence for those topics. The process is essentially the same, except that you may be using documents already chosen for you, possibly only pieces of documents already deemed important. Pay attention to any headings, titles, or even the way the documents are organized. Not clearly identifying the key elements in those documents may mean losing important marks!

Sourcing and giving credit

Take recording your sources and giving credit to original articles very seriously! It is a crime to copy someone else’s ideas without giving them credit, even if you reword those ideas.

It doesn’t have to be a chore to record your sources. A good trick is to write the source only once, either in the notes section of the essay body building tool, or on a separate bibliography page you will add to your essay when you submit it. Write that source once, and give it a number. Then every time you write evidence from that source in your body builder tool, mark its little number down next to the points you used, along with the exact page number the evidence is from. For example, write (1, p333) next to your evidence, which means you got it from source number one, but on page 333. Later when you correctly do “footnotes” or “endnotes” in your essay, you can refer to the full source entry and that page number to correctly give credit to the author.

For more information on writing a Bibliography, see

For more information on writing footnotes and endnotes, see and

Notes etc

On the “(Essay) Body Building tool with notes” we intentionally left a space on the right for you to use to take notes. Why? Well, when you are writing your evidence down sometimes you need to have a place close-by to quickly write source information, where you got that information, or where you might need to look for more information later. Those are reasons you might need this space.

But another reason is you might need to jot down notes when you suddenly think of other “main ideas” or maybe new “related” or “supporting” ideas. That would mean that later you may also need to gather even more evidence and to create more paragraphs for those new ideas, to expand on your first three main ideas. So, here on the side is a place where you can jot those new ideas down, and perhaps even give them a new code or number, especially if you intend to research them further. Yes, this all means you might need other “(Essay) Body Building tool” pages!

For example…

Let’s say my thesis is that the French Royal Government “intervened” and that they actively helped New France’s population to grow. Well, the first main point I will make (point #1 let’s say) is that Jean Talon brought over women, Les Filles du Roi, and then that this helped the population to expand and people to settle permanently, because the Filles married soldiers and other French Canadian men.

Well, all that was my main idea and my evidence. But from that I might also want to go on and explain things further. In my research, I might have also found out exactly how the government encouraged the women after they arrived, by giving them money and provisions. The idea of continual active encouragement by the government is a new one, one which I could note on the side. It basically adds to the first idea I had. You could call it a “sub-idea” or a “secondary argument”. Mark it as 1b, and then research and organize your evidence for it on another page! When you write your draft, use this new information to make a new supporting paragraph, and that will make your essay even better!

Again, you might be writing an essay on an exam instead. Still, you can, and probably should, develop related or sub-ideas when needed. Often the documents provided will indicate supporting points. Often the essay question itself will demand a deeper interpretation than you can get by just explaining the main topics.



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