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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 from?
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 second hurdle.

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 in history”?
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 papers.

What are the steps involved in completing an Independent Research Project?
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 class?
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 Research Project?
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 inducted?
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 sites.

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