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Some Tips for High School History Students

Authored By: 
Ian Rusten, History Teacher

As a high school history teacher, I am frequently asked if I have any tips for high school history students.  Yes! Be an intentional, critical and analytical reader. Look deep into topics.  Read from multiple sources.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to wonder, to change your mind.

Research can be a daunting task--especially on complex topics. But now, more then ever, we have to learn how to become critical consumers of information. It may seem that all you have to do when you want to learn about a topic is to open the relevant Wikipedia page and spend a few minutes reading. Voila! An expert on the topic has been born. Not so fast! While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as the first stop on the research path, it is important to dig deeper, much deeper, on the topic. 

An intentional, critical, analytical reader looks at the Reference section of the article (even a Wikipedia article).  He or she asks questions like: Where did the author find their information? Is there more than one source listed? What are the sources listed?  Is there anything in the article that causes you to question the authenticity of the article?  

The intentional, analytical and critical reader explores multiple points of view on a topic, weighs the evidence, and then makes a final decision about his or her point of view on the topic.

Thus, the best piece of advice that I can give as a high school history teacher is to become an intentional, analytical and critical reader who is unafraid to dig deeply and thoughtfully into challenging and complex topics.