Essay writing guide

6 steps to breaking down a Paper 2 essay question

Step 1: What is the command term?

Everyone question has one and it tells you how the question will be assessed and how much to write.

Step 2: What global politics knowledge that we need for this question?

Which sections of the syllabus are related to this question?

Step 3: What are the key concepts?

There may be many key concepts related to the question but which ones are directly linked. You do not have time to define and dicuss lots of concepts. However, you can mention any of the 16 as often as you'd like.

Step 4: What is the pivot point to the essay?

This means the line between the two sides: for/ against or agree/disagree.

To begin with you will probably argue taking a binary yes/ no. However, as you become more confident you can start to think in terms of three arguments or even more!

Step 5: What are my main arguments?

Briefly come up with as many different arguments as possible.

Then think of a real-world example for each argument. If you can't think of one, cross out the argument.

Step 6: How will I structure my arguments for this question?

This is the toolkit for analysing global politics. There are many ways you can structure your arguments. For example, you could look at the question from different scales/ different stakeholder perspectives (actors) / different factors like social, economic, environmental, political/ changes over time etc.


Question: Discuss whether conflict poses the greatest threat to human rights.

  1. Discuss (AO3 Offer a considered and balanced review that includes a range of arguments, factors or hypotheses. Opinions or conclusions should be presented clearly and supported by appropriate evidence.)

  2. Unit 2: Human rights and Unit 4: Peace and conflict.

  3. Conflict and human rights

  4. Conflict is the greatest threat to human rights versus conflict is not the greatest threat to human rights

(3rd argument: versus conflict is sometimes the greatest threat to human rights if X,Y.Z )

  1. E.g. Armed conflict kills and displaces more people at once/ more people (as a global total) are impacted by human rights abuses due to structural violence than direct violence/ there is greater awareness and laws around conflict and human rights abuses compared to other abuses

  2. Based on the above arguments, I will structure my essay around the theme of scale.

Task: take a different question and try to break it down using the 5 steps

Questions taken from May 2019 Paper 2

Power, sovereignty and international relations

Evaluate the effectiveness of collective security in responding to threats from state and non-state actors.

Human rights

“For human rights laws and treaties to be effective, states must give up some sovereignty”. Evaluate this statement.


Evaluate the claim that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a limited effect on development.

Peace and conflict

Evaluate the claim that conflict resolution is not always possible through negotiations and treaties.