Student Voices Blog Posts

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The Infamous U.S. Paper: 5 Reasons Why It Isn’t as Scary as it Seems -- By Heather

student in libraryAs I have gone through my time at Shady Side, thinking ahead to third term of junior year has always meant one thing: The U.S. History Paper. It is about a 4,000 word, 15-page argumentative paper on a topic in U.S. history and a requirement. Often considered the most rigorous academic endeavor at Shady Side, the words “U.S. Paper” are almost always accompanied by fear in the minds of every unknowing freshman and sophomore. However, after completing the research process and turning in a rough draft of my paper, I have found that it does not at all live up to the rumors; it is actually enjoyable if you handle it in the right way. Although the process does not end for me until the end of May, here are some things I have found to be great along the way:

  • You can write about almost any topic that interests you. As long as you pick a topic and make an argument about that topic, pretty much anything goes in all of U.S. History. There are people writing about events and ideas from almost every decade, from the founding in 1776 to the 90’s. This allows everyone to pick a topic that they are truly excited about, so writing the paper is rarely boring.
  • Help is always there if you need it. We have an amazing History department here at Shady Side, and the teachers are always willing to sit down and help you come up with ideas or refine your work. If you ever need any advice or are confused, they are there to help.
  • The Library. Another amazing resource which is available is our library. Ms. Myers is always willing to help you find books or to look through the newspaper and magazine archives. Their help also extends past the resources of the Shady Side library; this spring, the library has also held U.S Paper help sessions on weekends at the Carnegie Library, which has an immense collection of resources.
  • The process is spread out over the course of third term. There are four steps in the process of the U.S. Paper: prospectus, the outline, rough draft and final draft. Each step is due at different points throughout the spring, usually beginning with the prospectus in February and ending with the final draft at the end of the year. Because the History Department breaks the U.S. Paper up into these steps, it makes it much easier to budget your time so that you never feel too overwhelmed with work.
  • You are extremely well prepared by the time you get to junior year. As every teacher likes to say, the U.S. Paper is only a blown up version of the five-paragraph essay. Throughout your first two years at Shady Side, you will write countless five-paragraph history essays. You will have so much practice that writing another one on a slightly bigger scale will not seem like such a daunting task.