The American History Research Project runs from January to May of the junior year. The final product is a ten-page, primary source-based piece of original research. Each student must identify a topic, gather primary sources, develop a thesis, present her work-in-progress to her classmates, and write the final essay. During the project period students continue with their more or less chronological study of American History, but at a slower pace, and almost all substantial graded assignments in the second half of the year relate to the project.
At the end of each school year the teachers of the course select the strongest essays from each of their sections. These finalist entries are read by all three teachers of the course and the authors of the best one or two receive the History Paper Prize.
Why the project? At Friends' Central students learn history by reading and analyzing documents and data from the periods and places they study. Research assignments involving primary sources begin in the ninth grade and are expanded in the tenth. Sophomores, for example, use the London Times historical archive to evaluate the coverage of individual African countries to which they are assigned for the period from 1950 to 1980. They then compare what they find with secondary source histories of their respective countries. Finally, they attempt to explain the differences between the two, as an exercise in analysis and thesis development.
History course design always involves balancing content with opportunities for students to develop their research and writing skills. The junior research project reflects our belief in the importance of the latter and also the testimony of our graduates that they receive little instruction in the paper writing process as college students.
The American History Research Guide is updated each year. The current edition appears here in easy to read sections. The full text of the guide may be downloaded or printed by clicking the button at the bottom of the "American History Research Guide 2010" page.
Research Tools: in this section is a list of websites from which Friends' Central students often draw their project sources.
Prize Papers: complete texts of recent prize papers.