As Fifth Formers enter the second quarter of Ms. Hannah Turlish’s United States History* course, they meet the most extensive assignment of the year.
Pre-COVID, the term paper was a ten-week process; it has been shortened to six weeks this year to accommodate the quarter system. The project serves as the only take-home paper of the United States History* curriculum and the final mountain to climb for Fifth Form historians. Expectations are similar: eight pages minimum, ten pages maximum, and at least ten sources—five primary, five secondary.
Through this paper, Fifth Formers explore any topic of their choosing (almost any topic is acceptable as long as it has connections to the United States history). By the end of the third and fourth quarters, they will have built valuable research skills along the way as they scour primary and secondary sources alike.
“I think doing a paper of this length is vital in the skill-building of the high school years.”
“I do think doing a paper of this length is vital in the skill-building of the high school years,” Ms. Turlish said. “If a Humanities concentration is in a graduate’s future, this paper will help him be successful.”
With the exception of research days in the library, Fifth Formers are expected to work diligently on their papers independently. As they continue to venture through 20th century America, they must balance the paper out with the textbook readings, reading quizzes, tests, and DBQs. Still, Fifth Formers are no strangers to heavy workloads.
“I’ve looked over a little bit of my sources nearly every day and really try to focus my efforts on the weekends when I have more time,” Fifth Former Charles Witmer said.
Though its requirements may seem daunting, the key is to pace oneself with the checkpoints on Canvas. Furthermore, the open-ended topic can and must serve as self-motivation.
“Definitely pick a topic you’re passionate about,” Sixth Former Franklin Dai said. “It beats something you don’t care about and made it all the more rewarding when I was able to put my entire paper together.”
“The ability to pick my own topic is great and definitely makes me feel like I’m doing something I’m passionate about,” Fifth Former Pranav Dixit said.
“The topic and the paper itself is almost always the one thing a boy remembers best about Fifth Form History.”
Ultimately, what a Fifth Former will get out of the term paper depends on how much effort he puts into it. If the effort is there, it is usually a memorable experience.
“The topic and the paper itself is almost always the one thing a boy remembers best about Fifth Form History,” Ms. Turlish said, “and I hope many boys are proud of what they produce.”