Tutor profile: Catherine N.
Subject: US History
I am very interested in the experiences of minority groups in American history, but my teacher wants me to write an essay on the Civil War economy, which is dominated by elite white men. How do I develop an argument and thesis that helps me write on my chosen topic while also fulfilling my teacher’s prompt?
Firstly, talk to your teacher about your ideas for this essay. History teachers love it when students show initiative and excitement about history, so I am pretty sure she will be delighted that you wish to pursue your essay from this angle. Nonetheless, you can try and find a middle ground between your interests and your essay prompt by writing about how the Civil War economy affected minority groups. When creating your thesis, think about how the economic conditions created by white male financiers and politicians specifically affected women, free African Americans, and enslaved African Americans, whether in the North or the South. Brainstorm the Civil War’s specific economic effects and consequences for each group that you have highlighted, and write them down on a piece of paper using either a mind cloud or a table to organize your thoughts. Once you have brainstormed, use your pen or a highlighter to circle consequences or effects that reoccur for multiple groups. Congratulations, you have created a theme which with you can use to craft your thesis! Obviously, these effects will affect a southern-white woman differently than a freed African American man, but you can describe these specific differences and details in the body paragraphs of your essay that specifically pertain to these groups. You can organize your thesis in many different ways, depending on the number of similar consequences you have discovered. You can layout your thesis starting from the economic conditions and decisions during the Civil War and resulted in one general consequence for groups A, B, and C. In contrast, you can start your thesis with a focus on one or two different minority groups that were immersed in the civil war and see how they overcame these consequences with tactics like A, B, and C. This second way of thesis crafting is more sophisticated than the first because it makes your minority groups active, instead of passive agents in your essay which results in a more concise and lively essay!
Subject: European History
All these rulers from different have the same names or just have endless Roman numerals attached to them. How can I tell them apart and how do I get invested in the machinations of various white male rulers who seem fairly boring?
So, you came upon the conundrum of medieval European history. The Holy Roman Empire is confusing and has far too many German royal houses ruling it! French, German, Scottish, and English rulers all seem to share the same names as each other, and sons inevitably have the same names as their fathers! Instead of confusing yourself even further, I recommend that from the first time you write a ruler’s name down, you write down the name of the country he is the king over which he rules. For example, Edward III of England, Philip IV of France, or Charles IV of the HRE. By associating the names of the rulers with their countries from the beginning, you are less likely to confuse yourself and your reader when you refer to these rulers in essays. Clarity is the heart of history essays and by stating brief but distinguishing details about your subjects, you can keep your reader from being sidetracked from your essay’s arguments. Another way of individualizing the vast number of kings and ruling dynasties that ruled Europe for so long is to create little profiles of rulers who come up frequently in your textbook. There are far too many kings and queens for you to do this for every ruler, but for ones who come up quite frequently, one could create a document of ruler profiles that can help you distinguish them from each other. For example, Edward I of England went on a crusade, conquered Scotland and Wales, and helped further the rights of the House of Commons in the English Parliament. Even these two to three bullet points of information about these men and women and their actions can help you see these rulers as individuals. Also, try and imagine yourself as a subject of one of these rulers when they enacted these seemingly boring laws and went to war. How would these actions have affected you and how would you have viewed your ruler because of them? Though it might be optional when studying history, empathizing with the past really helps me see the urgency and excitement in listless written accounts and textbooks.
Subject: AP Art History
I am having trouble memorizing dates for all these examples of art and architecture. How can I do so quickly and effectively, or do I just memorize a piece's general time period and country of origin?
Even though dates are specific and hard to memorize at first, if you put in a little extra organization work when creating your study guides, it can really pay off! Firstly, group all your examples on your study guide by time period generally. Create headings like the Italian Renaissance, the Spanish Baroque, or the French Neoclassical. Even though you could just group art pieces under general time periods, putting them under country-specific time periods lets you group artists from the same country together, which helps when you need to remember the context and country in which an artist is operating. Under each time period and country, place the pieces by an artist together. Then give a time range under each artist that specifies his general dates of operation, which can help you when memorizing specific dates. For example, in the case of the famous painting, Las Meninas, it would go under the heading of the Spanish Baroque, and then under the heading of Velazquez, who operated from the mid-1610s-mid 1650s. Then organize your headings and artists chronologically (from the date they first began operating as an artist), so that you have almost created a giant timeline of artists and time periods to study. All of this organizing does not actually take that much time out of your studying as you are simply rearranging your study guide so that you can study chronologically. Then you can get to specifically learning the dates of the pieces. Break down this onerous burden by memorizing dates by the artist clusters you created on the ‘timeline.’ Using a tool like online or written flashcards, you can memorize dates quickly and effectively in these small batches. Building up from these artist clusters, you can then study by country/period grouping work your way up from there!
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