IB History: Paper 2 Essay Writing and Analysis

The International Baccalaureate (IB) History program challenges students to develop a deep understanding of historical events, themes, and interpretations. One of the key assessment components is the Paper 2 essay, which requires students to analyze and write about historical sources. In this article, we will explore the structure of the IB History Paper 2 essay and provide you with valuable tips and strategies to excel in this challenging task.

 Understanding the IB History Paper 2 Essay

The Paper 2 essay in IB History is often referred to as the "Document-Based Question" (DBQ). It is a timed assessment in which you are provided with a set of historical sources and must craft an essay based on your analysis of these sources. The sources may include primary and secondary documents, images, maps, or texts.

The key components of the IB History Paper 2 essay include:

 1. Source Analysis:

- You are required to analyze the provided sources critically. Consider the origin, purpose, context, and content of each source. Pay attention to biases, perspectives, and limitations of the sources.

 2. Historical Context:

- Understanding the historical context is crucial. You need to place the sources within the broader historical narrative, identifying the events, themes, and time period relevant to the sources.

 3. Essay Prompt:

- The essay prompt will ask you to construct an argument or response based on your analysis of the sources and your knowledge of the historical context. You must address the specific question posed in the prompt.

 4. Essay Structure:

- Your essay should have a clear and organized structure. It typically includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

 5. Use of Evidence:

- You should support your argument with evidence from the sources and your historical knowledge. Effective use of source evidence is essential.

 6. Historical Thinking Skills:

- Demonstrating historical thinking skills such as causation, continuity and change, comparison, and evaluation is essential for a successful essay.

 Essay Writing Tips and Strategies

Writing an effective Paper 2 essay requires a structured approach and attention to detail. Here are some tips and strategies to help you excel:

 1. Begin with Source Analysis:

- Start by thoroughly analyzing each source. Identify the author's perspective, any potential biases, and the context in which the source was created.

 2. Organize Your Thoughts:

- Before you begin writing, outline your essay. Organize your argument, main points, and supporting evidence. A clear structure will make your essay more coherent.

 3. Address the Prompt:

- Ensure that your essay directly responds to the essay prompt. Don't deviate from the question, and make it clear from the beginning how you intend to answer it.

 4. Use Source Evidence:

- Integrate source evidence into your essay. Cite the sources when referencing them. This not only supports your argument but also shows your ability to engage with historical documents.

 5. Provide Historical Context:

- Offer historical context for the sources. Explain how they relate to the broader historical events and themes of the time period.

 6. Develop a Clear Thesis:

- Your thesis statement should provide a concise overview of your argument. It should address the prompt and guide the reader on what to expect in the essay.

 7. Support with Specifics:

- Use specific examples and details from the sources and your historical knowledge. Avoid vague statements and generalizations.

 8. Compare and Contrast:

- If the prompt calls for it, compare and contrast the sources. Analyze similarities and differences among the sources to support your argument.

 9. Engage with Historiography:

- When relevant, engage with historical interpretations or the work of historians. Discuss different viewpoints and their implications for your argument.

 10. Conclude Effectively:

- Your conclusion should summarize your main points and restate your thesis. It's also an opportunity to provide a broader perspective on the topic.

 11. Edit and Proofread:

- After writing your essay, take time to edit and proofread. Check for clarity, grammar, and organization.

 Sample IB History Paper 2 Essay Prompt

Here is a sample Paper 2 essay prompt to give you an idea of what to expect:

"Evaluate the impact of World War I on the emergence of new nation-states in Europe. Using the provided sources and your own knowledge, assess the extent to which the war contributed to the dissolution of empires and the creation of new states."

In response to this prompt, you would need to analyze the provided sources and your historical knowledge to construct an essay that evaluates the impact of World War I on the emergence of new nation-states in Europe.


The IB History Paper 2 essay is a challenging but rewarding assessment that tests your ability to analyze historical sources and construct well-argued essays. By developing strong source analysis skills, crafting clear and structured essays, and providing evidence to support your arguments, you can excel in this component of the IB History program. Remember to practice writing essays and seek feedback from your teachers or peers to further improve your skills. Good luck with your IB History studies and exams!