A Level History Coursework Edexcel – A Guide

This guide shows you how to plan, research and write A Level History coursework for Edexcel using ideas, resources, examples and structure. This coursework is weighted towards Assessment Objective Three (AO3) 15% and Assessment Objective One (AO1) 5%. This makes it substantially different from coursework assessed under AQA or OCR. For Edexcel coursework, the focus is on differing interpretations of the past and analysis of them, alongside your own view of the events.

A Level History Coursework Edexcel – Ideas, Examples and Resources

Question Format – The question that you decide to answer for the Edexcel Coursework will always use the following template.

  • Historians have disagreed about [the chosen question, problem or issue].
  • What is your view about [the chosen question, problem or issue]?

Thus, we can see that there are two parts to this coursework:

  • Part 1 – dealing with the historian’s viewpoints which is (AO3) and worth 15%
  • Part 2 – your own viewpoint which is (A01) and worth 5%  
Question Ideas, Example and Selection

There are two key points to consider when selecting a question, problem or issue from which to complete our coursework.

  • Is there enough debate around this question? – There needs to be a scholarly debate around the question or issue. This means differing views on the question from different historians. This makes it easier to select appropriate works to analyse and compare.
  • Can you access the appropriate resources? – You must use a minimum of three different key works as well as two supplementary works. Your three key works should hold opposing views about the question or issue. Let’s look at an example question to make this clear:

Historians have disagreed about the extent to which by 1924 the Russian people had exchanged one authoritarian regime for another. What is your view about the extent to which by 1924 the Russian people had exchanged one authoritarian regime for another?

  • View 1 – Tsarist Rule was more authoritarian. (C. Hill argues this)
  • View 2 – Bolshevik rule was more authoritarian. (R. Service argues this)
  • View 3 – The regimes were equally authoritarian. (R. Pipes argues this)

This is the ideal example of having three viewpoints that would be spread across the historiographical spectrum. This helps us to engage with the historical debate and hit the following criteria for the coursework:

  • analyse ways in which interpretations of the question or issue differ.
  • explain the differences you have identified.
  • evaluate the arguments, indicating which you found most persuasive and why.

You would then add to this a minimum of two supplementary works, (more is better) that would assist in helping you form your view and add weight to your analysis and arguments. Critically, you must be able to access all these resources to use them effectively in completing the coursework.  

Coursework Resources
  • Library – school, local, college, university – you should be able to borrow appropriate works.
  • Teacher – your teacher should be able to provide you with copies of appropriate resources to use.
  • JSTOR – contains a large collection of journal articles from historical publications covering numerous topics. These will often engage in the historical debate by replying to opposing views.
  • Purchase Books – many second-hand books are available to purchase at very cheap prices through Amazon or similar sites.

A Level History Coursework Edexcel – How to Research and Write

A Level History Coursework Edexcel

Researching the Coursework – When researching our coursework we use the resource record form, which acts as a bibliography to the books, articles and online resources we are using. As we go through these resources we want to make notes that help us to identify the overall argument of the historian. Key quotes or passages should be noted down, alongside a reference. If we then use this material in our write up, we can add the appropriate footnote.

Writing the Coursework – When writing our coursework we need to be aware of the total word count as well as making sure that we hit all the assessment criteria. This means dividing up the 4000 words (maximum word count) effectively between the assessment criteria. An example structure to implement this is shown in the next section.

A Level History Coursework Edexcel write

A Level History Coursework Edexcel – Structure and Planning

First Section – Introduction to the overall question and key works (c. 1000 words)

Introduction to the overall topic. You need to put the question into context by providing relevant information regarding what was happening at the time. You then need to define any key terms in the question.

Example from our question above – authoritarian regime would be defined as ‘a regime in which power is highly centralised and maintained regardless of popular support, with the use of repression and violence’.

Finally, you need to set out valid criteria by which the question can be judged.

Example from our question and definition above – we need to compare the Tsarist regime to the Bolshevik regime in terms of:

  • Centralisation of power.
  • Power maintained despite lacking popular support.
  • Power maintained through repression and violence.

You should now have a complete introduction to the topic (1 paragraph)

Introduction to the debate by placing each of the key works in the historiographical debate. You can also place your supplementary works on the historiographical line here. (1 paragraph)

Set out the arguments in extended detail from the three key works. What are the historians’ views on this question? (1 paragraph)

Show how the arguments from each of the key works differ or are like one another. (1 paragraph)

Summary of the views of the key works. (1 paragraph)

Second Section – Explaining why the key works differ from one another (c. 1000 words)

Introduction – You need to set out three valid criteria to explain why the key works differ. Why is it that the historians’ arguments differ? There are several different potential criteria that could be used here: When was the work written? What sources and evidence did they use? Have they defined the key terms of the question differently? Have they defined the criteria to answer the question differently? Do they have different scopes of enquiry? What is the purpose of the work? What is the historians background and view?

Example from our question – The historians have defined the key term to answer the question differently – C. Hill has focused on authoritarian being defined as lacking popular support. R. Service is more focused on authoritarian being defined through repression. R. Pipes is mostly focused on authoritarian being defined as a centralisation of power.  

The historians have defined the key term ‘authoritarian’ differently. (1 paragraph)    

Paragraphs – This is where you use the criteria set out from the introduction to this section. You want one paragraph per item of criteria that we are judging the key works on.

Example from our question – one paragraph regarding how the historians have defined the key term ‘authoritarian’ differently.

Then you need to consider the three works in terms of the criteria set out for that paragraph. Show why there are differences in the key works regarding that criteria and how that leads the historian to arrive at their interpretation. Use evidence to support your points. (3 paragraphs – 1 for each criterion)

Conclusion – Brief conclusion that offers a summary of why the key works are different. (1 paragraph)

Third Section – Your own viewpoint on the question (c. 1000 words)

Brief introduction of your own viewpoint and line of argument that will be taken, remembering to re-instate the criteria by which the question can be judged. (1 paragraph)

Paragraphs that set out your own view on the question. This is where you should be using the criteria set out in your introductions. You want one paragraph per item of criteria.

Example from our question – one paragraph regarding ‘centralisation of power’.

Then you need to bring evidence and analysis to assess the criteria being judged. You can also use the key works and the supplementary works in this section to help you. (3 paragraphs – 1 for each criterion)

Conclusion that reaches a judgement on the question and follows your line of argument that has flowed throughout. (1 paragraph)

Fourth Section – Evaluation and Judgement of the key works and of the question (c. 1000 words)

Go through each of the key works and make a judgement on how convincing and valid the arguments from the historians are compared to the criteria. (3 paragraphs – 1 for each key work)

Form an overall judgement on the question and an overall judgement on which of the key works is most convincing. These should broadly align together. (1 paragraph)   

How To Improve Further at A Level History

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