FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND
THE ANSWERS YOU NEED TO HAVE
What is the Cliosophic Society?
The Cliosophic Society is an honor society consisting of and led by Upper School
students at Ravenscroft School. It strives to promote the study and appreciation
of history and social studies and members of the Upper School History Department,
the Society is affiliated with the National History Club. It inducted its first
members in 2006 and welcomes new members each year.
Where did the to idea for a Cliosophic Society come
The inspiration for bringing a Cliosophic Society came from the trailblazing
work of the students and faculty at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis,
Tennessee. Members of the Ravenscroft Upper School History Department worked
closely with that school’s faculty advisor at the time, Joan Traffas,
to get the program up and running. To this day, we owe a tremendous debt of
gratitude to our friends in Memphis.
Where did the name come from?
Again, the initial inspiration for the name came from St. Mary’s Episcopal
School in Memphis, Tennessee. That school has had a robust Cliosophic Society
for years. When faculty members at Ravenscroft sought a model for the program,
and indeed a model for the Society’s mission, they incorporated many of
the best practices of the program at St. Mary’s. But the name “Cliosophic”
goes back further than that. At Princeton University, the American Whig Cliosophic
Society has been promoting the ideals of scholarship and debate since 1765.
In fact, the Society dedicated a memorial stone at the Washington Monument.
You can see it if you go to Washington for a visit. But to go all the way back,
the name “Cliosophic” comes from a merging of two Greek terms: Clio—who
is the Greek muse of history, and sophos—which means wise. Ideally, members
of the Cliosophic Society express historical wisdom.
What is the mission of the Cliosophic Society?
The Ravenscroft School Cliosophic Society is dedicated to: (1) the cultivation
of memory and historical wisdom, (2) the promotion of the reading and writing
of history, and (3) recognition of excellence in the study of history and social
studies. Emphasis is placed on not only student performance in social studies
classes but also on individual interest and independent scholarship.
Why might I want to join the Cliosophic Society?
To be sure, the Cliosophic Society is not for everyone. We seek students who
have not only a considerable amount of ability in the social studies but also
a love of the subject. But if that’s you, then there are numerous reasons
to join the Society. First, you get the opportunity to work one-on-one with
a faculty sponsor on the topic of your choice. Second, you get to experience
the same challenges, frustrations, and “ah-hah” moments that historians
experience as they conduct research. Third, you get the opportunity to develop
your writing and presentation skills, both of which will benefit you in your
future studies. And finally, being honored with induction in the Cliosophic
Society is a feather in your cap that you can include in your college applications.
I received a letter from the Cliosophic Society inviting
me to join. Does that mean I will be inducted automatically?
No. There are two hurdles you need to get over in order to be inducted into
the Ravenscroft Cliosophic Society: (1) achieving a semester grade of A- or
higher in any social studies class, and (2) satisfactorily completing and presenting
an Independent Research Project. The Society sends invitations to students who
get over the first hurdle. So congratulations on that! But from this point,
students must decide whether they wish to pursue induction by getting over the
What steps do I need to follow in order to be inducted
into the Cliosophic Society?
In order to be inducted into the Cliosophic Society, the student must: (1) demonstrate
a general interest in history, (2) maintain a high average in history and social
studies courses, and (3) complete a independent research project on a topic
relating to history or social studies.
What does it mean to “demonstrate a general interest
Some students do well in all their classes; others have demonstrated a certain
aptitude in history. But achievement is only part of the equation. To be inducted
into the Cliosophic Society, a student will have to spend many additional hours—not
for any class or any grade—completing a research paper. Going above and
beyond the call of duty like this is not for everyone, and it requires a special
person who genuinely enjoys the subject. If this is not you, do not feel bad;
but if this is you, do not miss this opportunity.
What does it mean to “maintain a high average
in history and social studies courses”?
The Cliosophic Society seeks students who not only achieve a semester grade
of A- or higher in any social studies class but also demonstrate that they are
capable of maintaining high averages throughout their academic careers. Of course,
earning such high grades become more difficult to accomplish as the curriculum
grows more challenging each year. For this reason, we only insist that students
maintain a cumulative average in their History/Social Studies classes of B or
higher to remain eligible for the Cliosophic Society.
What does it mean to “complete an independent
research paper on a topic relating to history or social studies”?
As has been mentioned above, the second hurdle you must get over is the completion
of the Independent Research Project. This is not merely a report on some historical
subject. It is a work of original scholarship that (1) answers a research question,
(2) utilizes both primary and secondary sources, (3) follows rules for source
citation, and (4) is of a length and depth that would render it suitable for
submission to the Concord Review, a journal of high school historical research
What are the steps involved in completing an Independent
Completing the Independent Research Project is a four-step process. You must:
(1) choose a general topic of interest (2) find a faculty advisor to help you
conduct your research, (3) gather information, write, and revise the paper,
and (4) present your findings at a History Department meeting.
How do I go about selecting a topic?
Choose a subject you love. Make sure the subject fascinates you and that it
will hold your interest. Your Independent Research Project could take a few
weeks or several months. You don’t want to get nine pages in and realize
you can’t stand to write another word. If you are still uncertain, talk
with one of your teachers. The two of you can generate a list of possible research
topics. At first, keep the list broad; there will be plenty of time to narrow
down your topic as you move through the process. As you begin considering topics,
keep only the ones that make you think, “I’d really like to know
more about that.” Once you’ve settled on a general topic, you’re
ready to select your faculty Research Advisor.
What does a faculty Research Advisor do?
Conducting original research can be daunting for graduate students, much less
high school students. That is why we want to make sure you do not embark on
this journey without a guide. The Research Advisor uses his or her expertise
to: (1) help you settle on a research question, (2) point you in the direction
of excellent primary and secondary sources, (3) play devil’s advocate
as you refine your argument, and (4) read and edit drafts of your research paper.
You have a lot of natural ability; it is the Research Advisor’s job to
help you use your gifts to their best effect.
How should I choose a Research Advisor?
First, choose your general topic (Roman history, American Presidents, macroeconomics).
Then, think about the teachers who might be the most knowledgeable about that
topic. For instance, Mr. Kielty or Mrs. Immediata might be good choices for
Roman history, while Dr. deTreville or Mr. Laskowski might be able to help you
research American Presidents, and Dr. Wehrli would be your best source for a
paper on macroecomoics. You’ll want to make sure that you have a good
working relationship with the person, so that you will listen to and heed the
advice that you are given.
How should I determine my research question?
Once you have chosen your general topic and selected a faculty member to serve
as your Project Advisor, the two of you should meet to brainstorm a list of
possible specific topics. Once you narrow your topic down to something manageable
and suitable for research, your Project Advisor will probably be able to assist
you as you settle on a research question. The research question is the thing
that propels your research (for instance, “how significant were submarines
to the Allied war effort in the Atlantic?” or “what effect did Malcolm
X have on the struggle for civil rights?”) It should be answerable with
a thesis statement. That thesis statement should answer the question (“As
Allied forces increasingly relied on submarine warfare in the North Atlantic,
they were able to break the Nazi blockade on Great Britain and set the scene
for the D Day invasion” or “Although viewed as a great civil rights
leader, Malcolm X hurt the civil rights cause due to his radical embrace of
violence and his views on women’s equality.”)
Can I use a paper I completed as part of my Composition
Yes, a Composition paper—or paper from any other social studies class—may
serve as the basis for your Independent Research Project. However, because Composition
papers are typically between seven and nine pages, and the target for the Independent
Research Project is between twelve and fifteen pages, you will need to expand
and refine your Composition paper. In addition, your paper must include and
analyze primary sources, so that might be another area in which a Composition
paper would need to be expanded. But basing your Independent Research Project
on a Composition paper (or some other kind of research paper) gives you a big
head start, and we encourage you to consider taking this path.
How long should the project take to complete?
Because students have differing work habits, it is difficult to say exactly
how long it should take to complete the project. Some have finished their papers
in weeks; others have labored for months. Typically, the student who successfully
completes the project has: (1) a strong interest in the research topic, (2)
a strong work ethic, (3) a clear research question in mind from the start, and
(4) the time to gather and analyze information and to write and revise the paper.
When during my high school career should I complete
my Independent Research Project?
We recommend that you get started as soon as you can, because the longer you
wait, the busier your high school schedule will become. Also, you want to make
sure you get inducted before your senior year, so you can let colleges know
about your membership in the Cliosophic Society. If you take Composition in
your sophomore year, then you will already be well equipped with the research
and writing skills that will help you complete your project successfully. For
this reason, it might make the most sense to write a Composition paper on an
important historical topic, and then finish the project in the weeks and months
following that class.
When during the school year should I complete my Independent
If you are the kind of person who can multi-task, then you should feel free
to gather your research and write your paper during the academic term. However,
we have found that most students prefer to do their work during breaks: Holiday
Break, Winter Break, Spring Break, or the Summer Vacation. Working during breaks
enables you to focus all your attention on one task, and it usually makes the
process go a lot faster.
What should the final paper look like?
Before being presented to the History Department, the paper must contain the
following elements: (1) a clear thesis that answers a meaningful research question,
(2) analysis of information from both primary and secondary sources, and (3)
proper documentation of research using parenthetical notations and a full bibliography
as outlined in the Ravenscroft Researcher. In addition, it must be of suitable
length for publication in the Concord Review, which is a journal of independent
scholarship conducted by high school students. If you are looking for a page
number to target, aim for somewhere in between twelve and fifteen.
What does it mean to “present” my project
to the History Department?
Once your Research Advisor has approved your final draft, he or she will distribute
copies to the other members of the Ravenscroft History Department. You will
be asked to attend a meeting with department members and present your findings.
Normally, you are asked to explain how you got interested in the subject, how
you completed your research, and what surprised or challenged you about the
process. Teachers might ask you specific questions about your research or give
you suggestions on next steps. But do not worry: this is not an examination.
Department members operate on the assumption that Research Advisors will not
approve final drafts until the quality of the research meets the minimum standard
for induction into the Cliosophic Society.
Can my invitation ever be revoked?
According to the rules of the History Department, invitations to complete the
Independent Research Project are open-ended. However, we expect that you will
maintain at least a cumulative average in your History/Social Studies classes
of B or above. Policy exceptions will be dealt with on a case by case basis,
and they will be subject to a department vote. To be on the safe side, work
hard to keep those scores up.
What is the induction ceremony like?
Regardless of when you complete your Independent Research Project, all inductions
take place during the Honor Society Induction Assembly. Typically, this assembly
takes place in early April.
What do members of the Cliosophic Society do after being
Because the Society is run by students, activities—to the extent that
there are any—are largely determined by the student members. However,
the History Department strives to organize and finance at least one Society
function per academic year. Typical activities include but are not limited to:
watching historical movies, attending lectures or debates, and visiting historic