Rewriting History...Again

03.20.2011

History papers are the worst things ever invented. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but really, I hate them. I’ve never been good at history, which is probably why I’ve never liked it…ever. I understand that it’s important to see where we’ve come from so we can better predict where we’re going…blah blah blah and all that jazz. But, really, I just don’t like it. It’s cool to look at different cultures throughout history, but asking me to apply the culture in historical context is basically like asking me to write a German paper in Italian—it just doesn’t work.

This whole rant basically stemmed from my American History as Film class. DonÂ’t get me wrong, I actually do like the class because the professor is interesting and knows what heÂ’s talking about (or heÂ’s just really good at making things up.) But, the problem I have is writing papers that use the film as an example of the American ideals during the time period. The first paper I wrote I got a less-than-stellar grade, and to be honest, it irked me a little. I had spent over ten hours writing and rewriting that paper and I still didnÂ’t do well. It was at this point that I decided I needed help.

So, I did something I rarely do—I asked a random stranger in my class to critique my paper. He’s a history major, so I figured he’d at least be able to point me in the right direction. And, as I expected, we spent about 4 hours restructuring my work. After it was all said and done, I had deleted 2 whole pages of my 5-page paper and almost had a heart attack. I had worked so hard to carefully craft every sentence, and then, POOF! It was almost half-gone. I spent an extra hour after he left adding another section in order to meet the length requirement of 4-5 pages, but despite all the struggles and frustration, I think it was worth it.

I think the most difficult part for me is learning a completely new style of writing. Apparently for history papers, one can have a paragraph that is an entire page long. Coming from a Communication background this seems like the ultimate writing sin, and even makes me a little sick to my stomach, because I’ve always been taught that shorter paragraphs are better. Also, being concise was an issue. I found myself being repetitive and redundant (kind of like that… “repetitive and redundant”…), mostly filling space with things I sort-of understood and never actually saying anything important. Typically, the papers I have to write require lots of detail and benefit from creative sentences. I recently learned that history papers are the complete opposite. No wonder I didn’t do well the first time; I was doing it completely wrong! But now, hopefully, after some honest and insightful guidance from someone who knows this structure, I’ll be able to succeed in the foreign land of giant paragraphs and explicit statements. At least, I hope so…