The first is detailed source evidence and extra material, to support your argument. Let's use an example essay question here to demonstrate. In a history exam, the essay might ask: “To what extent was the character of Charles II responsible for his problems with parliament?".
The student is being asked to do two things here: to show an in-depth knowledge of Charles II's character, and to analyse which specific aspects of his character may have affected his political relationships.
Incorporating detailed evidence will always demonstrate how much you know of the subject matter, and will help to support the angle and strength of your argument.
The second element is linking to wider issues, topics or arguments that support your point of view. For example, in this particular history essay, a student could refer to other historical events that were responsible for problems between Charles II and parliament, but which were not related to his character.
Drawing on other factors in this way helps to increase the significance of your argument, and will round out your essay fully.
These two elements of analysis – including detailed evidence and linking to wider ideas – can be used to answer any 'To what extent...' question. In other words, when answering this type of essay question, keep the general structure the same and change the the appropriate information in the right places.
Remember also to analyse your evidence as you weave your argument. Do this by answering questions like, 'how significant is your evidence in supporting your argument?' and, 'what are the potential weaknesses that this evidence carries?'.
These questions involve weighing up different components of an event. You may be considering causes, consequences or the level of, for example, opposition. Considering the question is 'to what extent', it is essential that you weigh up how important/significant that factor actually was. This should be done throughout your essay by producing counter arguments and concluding the overall significance of factors through 'Mini judgements' at the end of each paragraph.
In your conclusion, be sure to mention the specific factor included in the question. Sometimes, concluding that it was a combination of factors, but that one or two were more important, is the best opinion to take.
Here's an example of how I would structure this question...
To what extent did propaganda contribute to the Nazi Party's acquisition of power from 1929-33
1. Intro: outline your argument
2. Propaganda did help to raise the profile because...
But propaganda was limited because...
Mini judgement as to how important propaganda was (1-2 sentences).
3 As propaganda has limitations, it is arguable that *a different factor* contributed to the acquisition of power in 1933.
But *a different factor* was also limited because...
Mini judgement as to how important *a different factor* was (1-2 sentences).
Continue with this structure for 3-4 more factors. It is better to have fewer factors with more detail than more factors with less explanation.
Propaganda was an important factor because... but it was limited because (2-3 sentences).
Therefore, other factors must have contributed. For example, ... (briefly outline the significance of these)
It is most convincing to argue that it was a combination of factors leading to the rise of Nazism. Nevertheless, ... were the most important factors in contributing to the acquisition of Nazi power in 1933.