Section III: How-To Section

          Student's Guide to Historical Research and Writing

          Preparing Historical Exhibits

          Creating and Producing Successful Performances

          Producing Historical Documentaries

          Oral Interview guidelines

          Documenting Chapter Service and Participation

          Planning Chapter Publicity

          Planning the Annual Meeting Trip

          Chapter Fund Raising Projects

A Student's Guide to Historical Research and Writing

On the basis of common literary shortcomings in papers submitted for the writing contests, we have prepared the following suggestions for student writers and their sponsors. These are only suggestions, so feel free to employ the following ideas only as they apply to each student's needs.

Organization. A paper worthy of entry in the writing contest should be more than simple narration.

First, it should contain some basic theme, idea, or thought; this gives unity and coherence to the student's effort.

Second, the first paragraph of the paper should contain a statement of the basic theme. This prepares the reader for what is to follow.

Third, the major portion of the paper develops the basic theme.

Fourth, each paper should end with a conclusion. Here the writer draws together--or summarizes--all the facts that support his proposition. He may also include an evaluation of the conclusion in the light of the facts he has presented.

Apply the "Sandwich Theory." Items two through four, represent the "sandwich theory" of literary composition. For example, a good research paper is like a good sandwich; it has a top, a bottom, and a middle, and while all three parts are essential, the middle gives the sandwich its identity.

A subject may be fascinating, but if the writer has failed to observe the foregoing principles, he probably has not produced good historical writing.

The following guidelines are designed to enable all persons engaged in historical research and writing, at all levels of achievement, to more effectively pursue their literary goals.

  1. Composing the Opening Paragraph. Probably the most difficult aspect of good writing is composing the opening paragraph. These first two or three sentences should define clearly the subject or theme of the composition, and cite its importance to the reader. Some good examples of opening paragraphs taken from Texas Historian articles follow.

    Example I. "In the fall of 1867, elements of the 6th cavalry moved into the Jacksboro area and established Fort Richardson. As the northern-most installation at that time, and thus the nearest fort to the Indian Territory, Fort Richardson was an important part of the frontier defense."

    Comment. Fort Richardson is obviously the subject of this article. The author has, with great literary economy, cited for the reader the subject of the article (Fort Richardson), its location (near Jacksboro), the date (1867), and the fort's significance, "an important part of the frontier defense."

    Example II. "Deep in the pine forests of East Texas, in southeastern Nacogdoches County, lie the remains of one of the first boom towns in Texas. The history of the use of the oil discovered there reaches back several centuries."

    Comment. While this introductory statement lacks the impact of Example I, the author has cited the subject of the article (history of Texas petroleum and its uses), and defined the geographic location ("the pine forests of East Texas").

    Example III. "Cradled deep in the Davis Mountains of West Texas is an encampment established and maintained for the primary purpose of providing a rich Christian atmosphere for all people who attend."

    Comment. That says it all in one sentence!

    Example IV, This is a less successful effort. "Calvin Ely Eaton was born in Coryell County, Texas, January 16, 1891. His father was a farmer and his mother a housewife. 'Cal,' as he was called, was not often lonely. He had eleven brothers and sisters--eight boys and three girls. Calvin was to become the only doctor in the Eaton Family. Of all his brothers and sisters, seven were teachers, two worked for the railroad, and the occupations of the remaining two are not known."

    Comment. The author has largely confused the reader. If the subject of the paper is Calvin Ely Eaton, why was he important? For a boy in the 1890s to become a doctor is a significant accomplishment; however, the occupations, of his eight brothers and three sisters are not pertinent, nor are the facts that he was "not often lonely" and "his mother [was] a housewife."

  2. Project the Topic in Broader Context. Unless a local subject is examined in a broad historical context, the student has failed to gain maximum learning benefit from his effort, and his composition will lack depth and perception. It is primarily the role of the supervising sponsor to aid the student in this phase of research and writing. The sponsor should raise the following questions of each research paper and aid the student author in finding the answer.

    1) Was this event unique, to that specific community, or was it typical of similar events occurring in other areas of the state and nation? For example, if a paper focuses on steamboat service to a community, the student should explain a) how widespread steamboating was at that time; b) why other types of transportation were not in use; c) what brought an end to steamboating to that community; and d) explain if steamboat service continued in other parts of the state and nation, and if so, why. Examining a topic in this broad context gives historical relevance to the student's work.

    2) What other factors--social, political, economic, and technological--can be related to the topic to give the paper greater significance? In the case of steamboating, the shallow-draft steamboat was temporarily successful on some Texas rivers especially during times of high water, but its importance declined with the improvement of wagon roads and railroad construction following the Civil War. Such related information may be found in encyclopedias and the New Handbook of Texas, plus other more in-depth sources.

  3. Say It with Fewer Words. Someone once wrote, "I am writing you a long letter because I don't have time to write a short one." This emphasizes another fault of student writers, as well as many professionals: it's far easier to write a long paper than a short one. The reason is simple: most students write in a conversational style, which is not readable, and fail to take the time to edit out the unessential verbiage. For example, at least thirty to forty percent of most con-test papers published in the Texas Historian are deleted, which results in a tighter, more meaningful, and easier-to-read article. The following examples, taken from excellent papers published in the Texas Historian, demonstrate that by deleting words, condensing ideas, and combining sentences, the style becomes more readable and conveys far greater impact.

    Manuscript Copy. "Mrs. Gray designed the style of the suit and began laying out plans for it."

    Edited Copy. Mrs. Gray designed the suit and began sketching plans for its assembly.

    Manuscript Copy. "This was taken care of by Carlton Dobbs, who took the time to make the leather shoes, which, incidentally were seven feet long."

    Edited Copy. The shoe making assignment went to Carlton Dobbs, who produced a pair of seven-feet-long leather shoes.

    Manuscript Copy. "Until the pipeline project could be completed, vast quantities of oil had to be stored. Because rivets were used in those days, rather than welds or bolts, the standard fifty thousand barrel tanks could not be produced quickly enough or in large enough numbers to meet the demand."

    Edited Copy. Time was of the essence, and with the limited technology of the 1920s, standard 50,000-barrel tanks could not be produced quickly enough to meet the demand.

    Manuscript Copy. "Amon G. Carter was born in Wise County, at Crafton, Texas. He was born in an unchinked log cabin on December 11, 1879."

    Edited Copy. Carter was born on December 11, 1879, at Crafton in Wise County, Texas, in an unchinked log cabin. Manuscript Copy. "Nevertheless, Carter soon found another job, one which was more to his liking. He became a salesman for a portrait firm."

    Edited Copy. He soon found another job, salesman for a portrait firm, which was more to his liking.

    Manuscript Copy. "Many changes had taken place within the thirty years, particularly in the years following the Civil War."

    Edited Copy. Many changes had occurred, especially in the years following the Civil War.

    Manuscript Copy. "In 1898, Mr. R. S. Rather, the administrator, sold the stock and business to the Eastham Brothers. The new owners extended the dry goods and the business became known as the New York Store."

    Edited Copy. In 1898, the Eastham Brothers acquired the Henry Store, expanded the inventory, and changed the name to the New York Store.

    Manuscript Copy. "The employers were then free to adjust the facilities to meet the needs of the employees."

    Edited Copy. The employers were then free to adjust the facilities to meet the employees' needs.

  4. Composing the Concluding Paragraph. Herein lies another pitfall for student authors-drawing the topic into sharper focus. The closing one or two paragraphs should contain a brief summation of what has been covered in the body of the paper, a restatement of the topic's importance, plus the author's concluding interpretive remarks. In essence, the student should provide a brief answer to the question, "Why have I gone to all this trouble?" Some good examples of concluding paragraphs follow.

    Example I. "The great train wreck served its purpose as Frank Barnes later commented, 'Well, the major purpose, of course, was publicity for the M.K.T. Railroad, and that purpose was achieved. Also as I told the newspaper reporters on my eighty-fourth birthday a year ago, it proved a lot of people will go a long way to see a train wreck."

    Example II. "The company that once was known as the world's largest saddlery and harness manufacturer has become, among other things, a distributor of Sony radios and televisions. Time changes things, but the building at Lamar and Jackson streets is a symbol of history past and history present."

    Example III. "Project Reunion is a restoration and renovation project which includes the Union Terminal, as well as the surrounding downtown area which went into decay with the closing of the terminal. ... The entire project, now underway, will cover a fifteen year period at an estimated cost of $210,000,000." "And as mass transportation becomes more essential to the city's growth, and even survival, perhaps the old terminal may live again as a major transportation center to propel Dallas into the future."

  5. Taking Notes Effectively. To write successfully, the student must learn to take notes in a manner that will enable him or her to use his or her collected materials with minimum effort. Step one, throw away those spiral notebooks!

    The student must be able to organize and categorize his or her materials according to topic, event, location, person, and/or date. Notes taken in a note-book destroys this flexibility. Notes should be taken--either written or typed--on 4" x 6" lined note cards, or half sheets of typing paper, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2". A recommended form follows.

    The date of the event is recorded in the upper right-hand corner, the general topic appears in the upper left-hand corner, the content of the entry is in the headline, and the bibliographic source is entered at the bottom of the form. The extation marks indicate this is a direct exte from a newspaper. A minimum amount of information, is entered on each card, which gives the student even greater flexibility in organizing his research data.

    When the student is ready to begin writing, the cards are stacked in tiles according to 1) date, 2) general topic, or 3) the content of the statement, whichever best develops the storyline. The various stacks of cards actually form the topic headings for the outline of the research paper. Keeping the research data on individual cards, the student can easily reorganize his data by simply rearranging the cards, an impossible feat with notes written in a notebook.

    This is one satisfactory method of taking notes for a research paper. The sponsor and chapter members are, of course, free to adapt this, or other methods to meet their specific needs.

  6. Use of Quotations. Quotations are the words of another author and should be used with discretion. Frequently a well chosen quote can add interest, color, and authority to a contest paper; however, when a student uses a direct quote, those words must be enclosed in quotation marks and must be followed by a footnote.

    Paraphrasing, is using information from another source and restating it in one's own words. Paraphrased material does not require quotation marks but must be followed by a footnote. A paper failing to meet the requirements for direct quotes and paraphrasing will be automatically disqualified.

  7. Use of Proper Names. When possible, a person's full name should be used when the name is first introduced in the paper. In subsequent references to the person, only the last name is necessary. (For example: Dr. Charles L. Smith, chamber of commerce president, will address the city council. Smith reported that the organization increased its membership fifty percent this year.)
  8. Documentation. A contest paper must include a list of sources when published material is used; therefore, papers entered in the writing contest should include a bibliography and footnotes. A simplified footnote form, including the author, title, and page number listed at the end of the paper is sufficient. Since all quotations and factual data is checked in The University of Texas Library, these citations are absolutely necessary.
  9. Working with Primary Sources. Students should be discouraged from being "rocking chair historians" who use only books and magazine articles written on their subject. The search for original materials at the local level is one of our primary commitments. Walter Prescott Webb wrote in 1939: "The Junior Historians will collect the history of Texas as recorded in their respective communities." Webb was referring to family correspondence, diaries, account ledges, business records, census reports, court-house and land office records, church records, tax records, old newspaper files, family picture albums, and interviews with "old timers."
  10. Publicize Your Needs. One Junior Historian chapter, for instance, publicized its search for primary material. A recent item in the school newspaper stated: "The Junior Historians are constantly looking for old documents, newspapers, letters, and diaries. If anyone knows about such articles, let a Junior Historian know." This great trove of largely unexplored historical sources will add new and fresh views of local history.
  11. Go to the Source. Those students who do not have access to primary materials should not, be discouraged from entering the writing contest. Many excellent papers are based on secondary sources (previously published works); however, we like to think of published works as being used to authenticate and to add variety to what primary research has revealed. The students who seek primary materials are truly the pioneers, the trail blazers, of the history fraternity; and in the process of doing original research, the student will discover history for himself.
  12. Pictures and Illustrations. Sponsors should encourage students to collect photographs, maps, and illustrations (black and white reproduces best) with their contest papers. These contribute greatly to the interest and usefulness of the paper, especially if it is considered for publication. Nothing is more disappointing than to receive an excellent paper which does not include photographs. Xerox copies are acceptable, providing the originals are available on request.
  13. Expertise. Many potentially good papers probably have not been written or entered in the contest because the students felt that they had to be an expert at research and writing. This is not the object of the writing contest, and a student will not be disqualified for slight technical or grammatical errors. The judges are more concerned with originality, historical accuracy, interest, clarity, unity, and picturesqueness of detail. Students should be reminded that they are not competing with experts, but with their fellow students.
  14. Topics. Although any topic on history--current or past--may be entered in the writing contest, students are urged to work on some subject that relates specifically to their community or its local history. It is not necessary for a paper to deal with a well-known person, place, or incident. The subject that a student is most familiar with, that has resource materials available, and which holds a genuine fascination for the student, is the perfect subject for the writing contest.
  15. Organizational Outline to Researching and Writing Local History.

    Step 1: Review the sources available for research. Note many of these may be available online. Be sure to analyze the validity of all sources.

    1) General Libraries
      a) books
      b) articles
      c) newspapers
    2) Special collections
      a) books
      b) manuscripts
      c) documents
      d) oral history
      e) newspapers
      f) photographs
    3) Museum
    4) Family records
    5) Older residents
    6) Courthouse records
    7) Business records
    8) Personal correspondence

    Step 2: Select a topic

    Step 3: Prepare a list of questions to be answered in the paper

    Step 4: Prepare a preliminary outline

    Step 5: Research the subject

    Step 6: Assemble the data

    Step 7: Construct a final outline

    Step 8: Write a rough draft

    Step 9: Proofread and correct the rough draft

    Step 10: Write the final, revised draft

These are our suggestions. Additional suggestions can be found in the Guidelines to Historical research found in the Resource Section. Use them as they apply to your specific needs. And good luck to you all.

Preparing Historical Exhibits

The preparation of historical exhibits--either for a school display case, a store window, or for the exhibits competition at the Annual Meeting and/or National History Day--is an activity undertaken by numerous Junior Historians. This unit is designed to help you and your Junior Historians prepare exhibits which easily and fully communicate an idea or story, stimulate the viewer's thoughts and interest, and are the result of sound historical research. If you are planning to prepare an exhibit for competition at either the Annual Meeting and/or National History Day, you will also want to look at rules found in the Awards and Recognition section.

  1. Planning The Exhibit

    First of all, always remember that a good exhibit is more than just a collection of objects. It is a way of telling a story by using pictures, labels, photos, and maps as well as objects. Keep this in mind as you take the first step in planning your exhibit--outlining the story that is to be told and selecting the objects that you will use to tell the story. When selecting a topic, remember that the topic does not have to cover the whole nation or the whole state or even the whole county. Don't forget that you and your students are in a better position than anyone else to tell the story of your town or even some small part of its history. Concentrate on that. Then, having selected your story to tell, decide how you are going to tell it. Break it down into a series of headings. Don't select too many things. Like a really good department store window display, a good exhibit lets a minimum of material tell the story. And make sure that any object you collect has a direct connection with the exhibit you are planning. Even old and valuable things are of no use to you if they don't help to tell your story.

  2. Organizing The Exhibit

    With the prepared outline and list of objects to be used in hand, you are now ready for the next step--the arrangement of the objects on a panel, table, or in an exhibit case. A model of the exhibit is ideal for experimenting with the arrangement of the objects, but may be too expensive or time-consuming for your group. However, simple sketches, roughly to scale, or detailed drawings of the exhibit are practical and necessary if you want to know ahead of time whether or not the proportions of your planned exhibit are pleasing and if everything is going to fit comfortably into the exhibit.

    Remember that exhibits entered into competition at the Annual Meeting and at National History Day must be no larger than 40 inches wide, 30 inches deep. and 6 feet high. You should also make sure that your exhibit will fit easily into the car, bus, or airplane that will transport your exhibit to the competition at the local, state, and national levels. This is also a good time to write preliminary label copy for your exhibit. Labels are used to make an object "talk." They should be fairly brief, easy to read, and above all, backed up by sound research. Have a short master label in large letters telling what the exhibit is about; then a short general paragraph summing up the significance of the exhibit. Use individual object labels sparingly, printed on colored paper to match the background color or place them directly on the background itself. Avoid fancy lettering; an art or mechanical drawing student can do plain Roman or block lettering.

  3. Preparing The Exhibit

    Now that you have an outline, the selected objects, label-copy, and at least a rough sketch of the exhibit, you are ready to organize the display itself. Remember that exhibits do not need to be expensive to be effective. Imagination and ingenuity are important, whether you are displaying on a table, board, wall, or in a display case. For example, display cases can often be made from outmoded cases from the library, biology department, or even candy or jewelry cases from local stores. The outsides can be removed or covered with panels of inexpensive millboard like Upson Board or Homosote; the interiors can be lined with soft 1/2" insulation boards. If you want to spotlight your exhibit, all you need is a cheap spring clamp fixture, a regular bulb, and fruit juice can. Cut an "X" in one end of the can, push a 75-watt or 100-watt bulb through the "X" and screw into the sockets of the fixture. The outside may be painted black for neatness. Before you paint your case or panel, however, try to decide on colors that will best set off your materials and be appropriate to the subject of your exhibit.

    Arrange your material, whether on a panel or in a case, in pleasing as well as logical arrangement. Objects can be set on props or stands made of used bricks, cigar boxes nailed shut and painted or covered with burlap, or mill ends of 2" x 4" or 8" x 8"s painted different colors.

    As you prepare your exhibit, you will recognize the need for some means of attaching objects and labels to the exhibit panels or in the cases. Even the best exhibits sometimes look shoddy within a week's time simply because the adhesives become unstuck. The so-called "White Glues" are reasonably strong and resistant to changes in humidity. Although they are not fail proof against high moisture conditions, they dry quickly and are the most useful for jobs involving paper, fiberboards, cloth, and wood. One of the best glues is Elmer's Glue.

    If your club is working with wooden models or with furniture, you need to know that "Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue" is a good professional woodworker's glue. It comes in powder form and is mixed with water. It makes a stronger joint than white glue and is much more water resistant.

    If you are planning something that will be exhibited or even stored outdoors you should use "resorcinol glues," which are put out by the same firms that put out Elmer's and Weldwood. These are two-part glues, a powder and a liquid to be mixed together. They are expensive but necessary for some applications.

    A word of warning about the so-called "cellophane tapes." These adhesives are not permanent and should not be applied to valuable papers, books, photos, or manuscripts; they may even damage such materials.

    There are, or course, a goodly number of other materials which you may need in the preparation of your exhibit. Thumb tacks, map tacks, wire brads, screws, screw eyes, wire, nylon monofilament fishing leader (good for suspending objects or attaching objects to a panel), photo mounting tissue, India ink, staple gun and staples, erasers, paint brushes, clear plastic spray-coating, and clear cellulose acetate are examples. Tools, such as a claw hammer, tack hammer, screw drivers, an awl for punching small holes, a hand drill, a coping or "jig" saw, a cross cut saw, and pliers will come into use in the construction of almost any exhibit. Hardware stores, art supply stores, and certainly the yellow pages of your phone directory should be consulted for sources of these items in your own area.

    These, then are the steps to follow in the preparation of an exhibit. An exhibit which is well-planned, well-prepared, clear, concise, and simple, will educate, stimulate, and interest the viewer, as well as provide a valuable learning experience for those who prepared it.

Creating and Producing Successful Performances

Junior Historians who opt to participate in the performance categories will find them-selves involved in one of the most exciting ways to enter either the Junior Historian Fair or National History Day. The individual and group performance categories are the only ones in the competition where students present their research "live".

Before beginning their research, students should decide whether they want to produce an individual or a group performance. They should keep in mind that some topics will be better with only one performer while others will be more effective with a group effort. Individual performers should realize that they will have to produce the entire 10 minute performance alone. In similar vein those in a group performance will have to determine the number and type of characters needed to communicate their major ideas. As they begin their research, group performers will probably find that some characters will assume more importance than others. They should also bear in mind that they must keep some balance among the characters. And, finally, students in both performance categories must understand that they will have to memorize the entire script and that they will have to hold the attention of the audience for the entire production.

  1. Choosing a Topic. Choose one that interests you and will work well as a performance. Can you "imagine" how one or more characters could communicate the major ideas of your topic?

    Individual Performance--Can you envision how one person can communicate your ideas? Can your performance effectively relate your major ideas without using other performers?

    Group Performance--Can you visualize how 2 to 5 persons can communicate your ideas? Can you find others who will have "stage presence" and will be able to perform "live" before an audience? Does the topic interest the others who might want to work with you?

  2. Researching the Topic. Use the best primary and secondary resources available.

    Using note cards, write important facts or quotes which you feel might be important to your performance. Be sure to include all bibliographic information on your cards.

    Write your thesis statement, supporting statements, and conclusion. Imagine how these might become part of your performance.

  3. Preparing the Script. "Brainstorm" how the topic should be presented in the performance. If you are in a group, have each member describe different ways that necessary characters might interact. Remember that your performance must reflect your thesis statement, supporting ideas, and conclusion. Everything that the judges see will be "live" and in the case of National History Day, must relate to the theme. They will not be able to review a project backboard to determine how you depicted the topic.


    rite several drafts of the script, experimenting with different actions and/or characters. When you or your group have decided on the best and must successful approach, begin to run through the script to see that you have made the best use of your time. (It is a good idea to aim at performing no longer than 9 minutes, for audience reaction can affect your timing.)

  4. Preparing the Set. "Brainstorm" the different types of sets which might assist you in creating a mood or depicting your topic. Is there a prop which might be integral to your story? (Keep in mind that some productions can be very effective without lavish sets. Also, remember they you will be traveling with your set and placing it on the stage yourself.)

  5. Preparing the Costumes. Determine the type of costuming which will enhance the mood you are trying to create. Make the costumes as authentic as possible. You also need to remember that you need to be able to move easily in whatever you choose to wear. (Keep in mind that some productions can be very effective without fancy costumes.)

  6. Preparing the Blocking. To "block" a performance is to determine where you or your group will stand, will move, and/or relate to your set. You need to be sure that you think about your movements as you decide what type of set you will design.

    Again, "brainstorming" all of the various types of movements on stage can be helpful. Begin to experiment with different actions as you read your script aloud. Be sure that your actions support the mood you are typing to create and that your actions are not too distracting. (Keep in mind that some performances can be quite striking with little or no movement. There is no need to swing from the chandeliers.)

  7. Practice. Practice. Practice. Work on your delivery. Speak clearly and pronounce all words correctly. Practice "projecting" your voice(s) so that your audience can hear every word. No one will be able to judge how you have covered the material if they can not hear or understand you. Practice with your sets and in full costume as often as possible.

  8. Videotape the Performance. Watch for problems in your delivery and in how you move around your set. If you are in a group, watch to see that you are working together and not detracting from another's lines with unnecessary movement. Look for problems such as walking in front of one another when the other performer is talking.

    This a good time to ask teachers--a drama teacher as well as a history teacher--to view and critique the performance with you. Constructive criticism can be very helpful.

  9. Finalize the Paperwork. Check for correct grammar, spelling, length, bibliography, and title page.

Producing Historical Documentaries

Historical media presentations are 10 minute documentaries which the student researches, writes, and produces. They are delightful to do and exciting to watch. Although their production takes some skill, the following suggestions are designed to give step-by-step instructions in producing successful videotape or electronic presentations.


  1. You should write your script before you research for pictures. It is much easier to find pictures to illustrate your script than to take lots of pictures and then attempt to write a script around them.
  2. The script should be written in a simple straight-forward style. Avoid "big" impressive words. Your word choice and style should be very close to your own normal speaking style. Think in terms of what you would say if you were explaining a story to your teacher or to friends.
  3. When written out, a 10 minute presentation will be about four and a half typed pages (double spaced).
  4. Organization is critical for a superior script. The following simple outline works well:

    a. INTRODUCTION (20 to 30 seconds)
    You should begin with 5 to 10 seconds of pictures which announces your subject before your text begins. Then you need a powerful and dynamic introduction statement. This should announce to your audience the central theme of your topic and strongly indicate its significance.

    Give the background, place, time, human dynamics, etc., which relate to your central idea.

    c. THE CENTRAL FOCUS (3 to 4 minutes)
    Concentrate on the main event or idea of your topic. Develop it in such a way as to hold the audience's interest.

    d. RESOLUTION OF SUBJECT (2 to 3 minutes)
    What followed the main event? Show the larger impact of the event on later happenings. Once again stress how the results of the event or events discussed illustrate its significance.

  5. NOTE: Do not exceed 10 minutes. You should aim for a text that is 9 minutes 30 seconds to 9 minutes 45 seconds in length. This will leave a few seconds for closing credits.


  1. You are almost ready to select your pictures to illustrate your script. You should anticipate needing about 100 pictures--an average of one every 6 seconds. A picture or image can be shown for as little as one second, but should never exceed 10 seconds.

  2. Before selecting your pictures, it is helpful divide up your script into segments that can be covered in 4 to 10 seconds. You can then label each segment for the appropriate photo. This will save time during editing, as your sequence and timing will already be established and well thought out.

  3. Always start a new picture either at the opening of a sentence or at a major punctuation mark. NEVER INSERT A PICTURE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PHRASE.

  4. Look for your pictures. You can find these in magazines (American Heritage is excellent for U. S. history topics), pictorial essays, textbooks, etc. If you can visit the site of events, take pictures of it. Try to keep out of site pictures of anything modern: automobiles, power lines, people, etc.

  5. Make sure that your pictures reflect the time period you are presenting. For example, if you discuss Catholic missions in seventeenth century Texas, then find illustrations, drawings, and paintings which illustrate seventeenth century missions and priests. A picture of a priest offering communion in the 1980s would detract from a discussion of priests three centuries earlier.

  6. Choose pictures that convey an emotion and set the mood you are seeking.

  7. Note that sometimes you can use only a small part of a larger picture. Even better you can sometimes use a single large picture and divide it into segments to illustrate a dynamic story.


  1. The following are suggestions for narrating your script:
     a. There are two methods of recording.
        i. Some students record their script directly onto the videotape by sitting in front of the camera and then editing out errors. You should avoid this method because you might be tempted to appear on the screen. The danger is that you could call attention to yourself rather than to your topic.
        ii. The preferred method is to read your script onto a high quality digital or audiotape (tape recording system) system and then transfer the audio recording into the storyline during the editing process.
  2. Read your text with a clear voice and with feeling. The excitement you feel for your topic must shine through. Let your personality be evident throughout your reading!

  3. Here are some things to avoid:
    a. mispronounced words
    b. outside noise--fans, unwanted music, machine noises, other people talking, etc.
    c. sniffling or stammering or using "ahs," etc.
    d. a flat, unenthusiastic voice

  4. When you have a good clean reading, make a copy. This will give you a backup in the event that you make a mistake with the copy you are editing.


  1. You are now ready to edit your pictures over your narration.
     a. You should open with several pictures which set the topic and suggest the mood; this is followed by presenting the title of your video.
     b. Some students like to appear live on their videos. DO NOT DO THIS. You run the danger of the judges thinking that the video is focusing on you rather than on your topic.
     c. Using your editing system, overlay pictures at each desired point. REMEMBER:
        i. always begin a picture at the first word of a sentence of a major phrase. (Note: one picture may cover several sentences--but must not be shown more than 10 seconds)
        ii. have your pictures ready--have them organized and ready to record. Please do not wait until the day of recording to decide which pictures to use!
  2. When you have finished editing audio, video and still photos you will then be ready to place music on your script.


Music enhances all video presentations. It is critical to set the mood of your presentation. Without music, your presentation will seem dull and flat. Music will create the desired mood of your video.

  1. Always use instrumental music--music with words will conflict with your narration.

  2. You do not have to use music throughout your script, but you should use it in the opening and at three or four points.

  3. Make your music appropriate to your topic! "Greensleaves" blends in well with an English History topic, but "The Yellow Rose of Texas" would be out of place with the same topic.


Transfer your finished product to a standard VHS videotape so it can be shown on a standard VCR for use in the fair. Some students have chosen to transfer there documentary to the DVD format which is fine, but the student will need to provide a DVD player at the history fair.

Oral Interview Guidelines

Regardless of which Junior Historian activity a student chooses to do research for, oral interviews should be an important part of his or her research. Interviews with those who have lived through past historical events and with those historians who have studied the past will enhance the Junior Historian experience in many ways.

When students conduct interviews the sponsor should realize that the success of the oral interview depends largely on 1) the student's pre-planning of the interview; 2) his or her knowledge and use of the equipment; and 3) his or her manner of conducting the interview. The Texas State Historical Association is indebted to the Wayland Baptist University Webb Society chapter for the following "DO'S and DONT'S" of oral history.

Before the session


  1. some basic research on the person and his or her activities so that you can get him or her started talking
  2. become familiar with your recorder
    • practice starting and stopping it
    • practice changing tapes
    • check the recorder before use to be sure everything is working properly
  3. have extra tapes and batteries if recorder uses batteries
  4. use the best-quality polyester tape available
    • cassettes 60 minutes long
    • 90 minute tapes break too easily because of increase pressure on them

Beginning the session


  1. be cordial--let the interviewee know you appreciate his or her time
  2. place tape recorder on the floor or otherwise out of sight
  3. use A-C if at all possible and save batteries
  4. center microphone between interviewer and interviewee but facing neither
  5. face the interviewee and maintain eye contact--listen to him or her
  6. sit within 5 feet of the interviewee for best volume adjustment on tape
  7. state the following information at the beginning of the tape:
    a. your name
    b. where you are
    c. date
    d. begin the interview as follows:
    "This is (name) of (school/college) and I'm talking to (interviewee gives his or her own name). I am in _____'s home (or office or wherever) in_________, Texas (or wherever), and today is (date) . Would you now identify yourself."
  8. identify anyone else whose voice appears on the tape


  1. place the mike near the recorder--it picks up the whirr of the machine
  2. move the mike or its support after the recorder is on--it puts noise into the machine
  3. place mike or recorder near air conditioner, furnace, or ticking clock--noise distorts voices on tape

During the Session


  1. ask one question at a time
  2. ask specific questions--who? what? where? when? why?
  3. listen, carefully--his or her answers will lead you to more questions
  4. make brief notes, to prompt yourself on questions you think of as you go along
  5. use appropriate form to note all proper names, places, companies, etc.
    a. check the spelling of these names with the interviewee before you leave
    b. keep this form with the tape through the transcribing state
  6. give the interviewee time to think and finish his or her answer--silence sometimes causes him or her to elaborate when he or she may be hesitant to do so otherwise
  7. save sensitive questions for last after you've established a rapport with the interviewee
  8. keep a list of unfinished and under-elaborated topics if you plan a second interview; if not, ask them now
  9. have interviewee sign legal agreement, tape disposal form, and supplemental agreement on restrictions, if any
  10. tell him or her about further requirements on his or her time, e.g., editing of the typescript for accuracy and correct spelling a. explain limits of editing he or she may do--for example, may not delete portions b. may, if he or she wishes, place restrictions on the use of the material
  11. tell him or her they will receive a final copy
  12. thank him or her


  1. answer any question for the interviewee
  2. interrupt unless the interviewee is wandering far off topic
  3. make personal remarks about yourself--a good interviewer doesn't shine on his or her tapes; his or her interviews do
  4. "hustle" the interviewee unless he or she is repeating him or herself or tied up in a long, unrelated genealogy
  5. neglect to ask about things with which you are personally acquainted--everybody doesn't know
  6. talk while changing the tape--you may miss a lot
  7. start and stop the recorder once you've begun
    a. let the interviewee have the time he or she needs to think, you probably aren't wasting that much tape
    b. use pause button if the recorder has one
  8. extend the entire visit beyond 1 1/2 hours--your interviewee may say he or she isn't tired, but you are
  9. challenge him or her
    a. seldom is deliberate lying going on
    b. give room for restatement
    c. try negative approach Example: "I understand the mayor was a difficult man to work for."
    1. Interviewee who liked the mayor can spring to his or her defense.
    2. Interviewee who didn't like him or her can elaborate.
  10. place more than one interview on a tape

Additional resources and guidance can be found in the Fundamentals of Oral History publication from the Texas Historical Commission in the Resource Section.

Documenting Chapter Service and Participation

Documenting and rewarding chapter service and participation is an important facet of a rewarding Junior Historian experience. Activities provide much of the enjoyment, knowledge and motivation for participation. However, there are many tasks that are eventually enjoyable and rewarding that require less exciting tasks along the way. Documenting meeting attendance, time spent working on chapter business and projects, leadership responsibilities, and other forms of participation for the purpose of reward or special event eligibility can help motivate members to participate in all aspects of the Junior Historian experience. One such method of documentation is the use of a point system.

To facilitate the job of point keeping--and to put the responsibility right where it belongs--each chapter member fill out a information sheet. On this card should go the member's name, age, grade, address, phone number, and any other information the sponsor might desire. Each Junior Historian member is responsible for keeping his or her information sheet up to date by entering each activity in which he or she participates and the length of time spent on it. The cards can be kept on file in the sponsor's classroom. The sheets could even be used as an attendance tool by having members pick them up upon entering a meeting and placing them in a different location at the end of the meeting. The sponsor or a student officer could then review them periodically to tally points as desired.

Before initiating a point system, sponsors should carefully discuss the matter with their members so that Junior Historians understand clearly why their club will be using the system, how it works, and what each member's responsibilities are in carrying out the plan.

The number of points sponsors and students will want to assign to specific activities is not as important as evaluating the activities proportionately. That is, if--for example--attendance at weekly meetings is less important than the completion of an entry for the writing contest, then the number of points assigned to the latter should be greater. If the job of the program chairman is more difficult and important than that of the chairman of a dance decorating committee, more points should be allowed for the former.

Here is a listing of the kinds of activities for which points may be granted and suggested points that can be assigned to each. Please keep in mind that this is a suggested grading. Sponsors may feel quite differently about the relative value of each activity, or clubs may carry on activities other than those listed. Each club will, of course, want to adapt the system to its own situation. See the Resource Section for a modifiable Member Information Sheet.

Point System

In an effort to document participation and community service, points will be awarded for participation and service based on the formula below. In addition, it will be the responsibility of members to keep an accurate accounting of their participation and service in the member point form, as seen below and in a modifiable

Point Sheet

Activity Points 
Chapter Work 
Meeting Attendance 
Chapter Project participation in 15 minute increments 
School or Community Service in 15 minute increments 
Fundraising per item sold 
Special events staffing/preparation in 15 minute increments 
Historical Research Work 
Writing Contest Entry  15 
Writing Contest Award  15 
Annual Meeting Entry  15 
Annual Meeting Award   30 
NHD Entry   10 
NHD Regional Participation   10 
NHD State Participation   20 
NHD National Participation  40 
President  25 
Vice-President   20 
Secretary, Treasurer, Reporter, Parliamentarian, Historian  20 
Officer Meetings  
Committee Work 
Chairperson (other than VP's)  20
Vice Chairperson   10 
Committee work in 15 minute increments 

Planning Chapter Publicity

Publicity is the life's blood of an active chapter. Not only does a well-planned publicity program draw attention to chapter plans, objectives, and achievements, but it also helps enlist community cooperation and support for the organization. The public is not inclined to support anything about which it knows little; therefore, one of the sponsor's first objectives should be to plan a publicity program.

The key to success is a carefully selected publicity committee. This committee should be staffed with the chapter's best writers, as the news media is responsive to a well-written publicity release.

The committee directs its publicity flow through the following news and information channels: 1) school and local newspapers; 2) radio; 3) television; 4) posters; 5) school public address system; 6) announcements at civic club meetings; and 7) direct mail. Each information channel has been used successfully in promoting chapter activities.

It is essential that the publicity committee understands thoroughly the technique of writing a good news release. First, a good news story is not the same as the minutes of a chapter meeting. For example, an experienced reporter begins a story with a strong, concise lead sentence, which is actually the highlight of the story. After catching the reader's--or listener's--attention with a brief summary of the whole story, "it's downhill the rest of the way." The details or features are narrated in the order of importance, NOT in chronological order. The traditional formula newspaper reporters use in composing lead paragraphs is to ask the following question: Who? What? When? Why? and How? Accurate answers to these questions give editors the information they want.

Typed copy. double-spaced, on only one side of the paper, is a good style to follow in preparing news releases. The following information should appear on the first page: 1) name of the chapter and school in the upper left corner; 2) under this, give the name and telephone number of the individual who wrote the story; and 3) in the top right-hand corner, enter the release date, the date on which the announcement should appear. If the story is to be used as soon as it is received by the media, indicate "For Immediate Release."

The heading of a news release should appear as follows:

Junior Historian Chapter FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Central High School,
Central, Texas Jane Doe, Publicity Chairman, 471-1525

In writing chapter news releases it is wise to follow the time-honored policy that names make news. These are names that local readers, viewers, or listeners will recognize. People are interested in learning what people they know are doing.

Radio and television offer excellent opportunities for publicizing chapter activities, as many stations have public service programs which focus on community events. It is essential, however, that radio-television copy be tightly written since this media does not cover a story in the same detail as do newspapers. In this type of news writing, include only the important facts regarding chapter activities.

Posters prepared by chapter members can also be useful in publicizing chapter activities. Bake sales, dances, and contests lend themselves readily to this type of publicity.

Posters are especially useful in store windows, in shopping centers, and on school bulletin boards.

Several chapters have produced movies and slide shows depicting their various activities. These productions, if done well, may be shown to service clubs to acquaint the adult community with the chapter's activities, as well as to students in other schools to recruit new chapter members. Since the chapter is, in a very real way, competing for members with other worthwhile school organizations, the alert sponsor must employ every avenue of information to apprise everyone--students, teachers, administrators, and the general public--of the value of chapter membership.

In one school the chapter sponsor prepared a taped dramatization of a historical event and played it over the school public address system as the students were preparing to choose courses for the following semester. It was an immediate hit, and chapter membership almost doubled.

Movies, newspapers, tape recordings, slides, photographs, radio, and television are all channels of information that can be used to inform the community about what and how well the chapter is doing. Use them all.

When chapter news and information is disseminated, do not forget the Texas State Historical Association. The editorial staff is always seeking news items and photographs for Association publications.

Planning the Annual Meeting Trip

Planning is the key to a successful annual meeting trip. Some suggestions follow

The initial step in planning the annual meeting trip is gaining administration approval. Therefore, in requesting permission to attend the annual meeting, submit a well-thought-out plan to the school administration, citing educational advantages, as well as the cost and anticipated time out of school. A carefully detailed proposal demonstrates to the school officials that the projected trip merits the time and thought the sponsors have invested in its planning. One of the best ways to overcome administration objections is to anticipate those objections and have answers and solutions prepared in advance. Many chapters have a policy of meeting jointly with PARENTS AND SCHOOL OFFICIALS at least two months before the annual meeting, to explore the matter point by point. The presence of the GROUP OF PARENTS assures the school administration that there is a genuine community support for the project.

The administration should be apprised not only of the educational advantages the forthcoming meeting affords (show previous programs or the tentative program outline in the Roadrunner), but also of the historic sites and related learning experiences that may be incorporated in the travel itinerary. Passing up points that have a learning, potential reflects poor trip planning. For information on historic sites along the routes to and from the annual meeting cities, write:

For a free highway map and Texas Travel Guide visit

For a listing of all historic sites along your route you can use the Texas Historic Sites Atlas at

Sponsors should emphasize the importance of the trip early in the planning stages, stressing that only with each person's cooperation, interest, and support, can the chapter gain maximum benefit from the annual meeting trip. A person is more inclined to support a project in which he has a role in the planning. Sponsors should, therefore, take every opportunity to gain student input in annual meeting planning.

Apprising parents of every detail of the trip well in advance of the departure date is essential. A communication from the sponsor to each parent should include the following information:

  1. Location of the annual meeting
  2. Purpose
  3. Description of the annual meeting program
  4. Hotel or motel where reservations are held
  5. Transportation plans (chartered bus, school bus, or private cars)
  6. Chaperones
  7. Total cost (registration, food, lodging, plus additional cash estimates)
  8. Side tours to be taken
  9. Detailed schedule of events
  10. List of things to bring: camera, film, flashbulbs, annual meeting schedule, tour guides, road map, pencil, and notebook
  11. Departure and return times
  12. Emergency telephone numbers at the hotel and meeting location
  13. Parents' Permission Form

Travel plans will, of necessity, be adjusted according to individual chapter needs; however, pre-planning is essential for a successful annual meeting trip. Careful consideration of the foregoing items will resolve many problems before they arise.

Planning Timeline
August-September Administrative approval
September-November Transportation decision and agreements or paperwork
September-December Chapter Project discussion and preliminary research
January-February Serious History Fair and Chapter Project research
February Plan route, other destinations, permission slips, fee collection, chapter report submission, meeting and history fair registration, hotel reservations, pay transportation bill
March Construct/assemble/perfect History Fair and Chapter Projects (preferably before Spring Break), confirm route, stops, other destinations, transportation, conduct parent/chaperone meeting, send home reminders of important times, locations, and numbers
April Travel, learn, have a fun time at Annual Meeting

Chapter Fund-Raising Projects

Fund-raising is a priority topic with most Junior Historian chapters. Money for travel, scholarships, trophies, and gifts to school libraries has been raised in various ways. Some of the more successful projects--many history and community oriented--follow:

Local History Publications
One of the most successful local history collections was the Loblolly, an illustrated paperback quarterly published by the students at Gary High School. Focused on the history and folklore of Panola County, each issue of Loblolly contained from six to eight illustrated articles, most of which are based on student conducted interviews. Local advertisements were sold.

Recipe Collections
Traditional family recipe collections are proven money makers for many chapters. One example was Eat Ethnic, a compilation of "recipes from around the world." Twenty-three ethnic and national groups were represented in the booklet that was sold. The basic printing costs for such cookbooks is fairly low, making them a fairly profitable effort.

Used Book Sale
Used books and magazine sales can attract wide public interest. Both faculty and students contribute a wide range of titles; some are duplicates from private library collections, while others are professors' complimentary desk copies distributed by textbook publishers. Bake goods are also offered during the three day sale held in the college student center.

Calendar Sales
A number of calendar designs are available for fund raising campaigns. The Community Birthday Calendar contains the purchaser's birth dates (five per family) and the wedding anniversary. Additional income is derived from ads purchased by local businesses. The chapter's picture may also appear on the calendar.

Candle Dipping and Sales
Candle dipping is a great holiday fundraising idea. The following materials are available at most hobby shops: plain wax, coloring, scent, hardener, and wicks. Students do the actual dipping on weekends and evenings. Available at $2.00 a pair (red or green), most sales are to students, teachers, and parents.

Map-of-Texas Charms
Colored plastic outline maps of Texas, molded in varying sizes, make attractive neck-lace and bracelet charms. Materials are available at hobby shops.

Western Day Celebration
One high school Junior Historian chapter staged a western day celebration, offering prizes for the best costume worn by a boy and a girl, and charging students to see an old-time western movie in the school auditorium. If you don't have the usage rights to charge an entry fee for the film, consider free admission and sell popcorn and drinks.

A list of traditional fund-raising activities used by various school organizations follows:

  1. Scrap and paper drives
  2. Bake sales
  3. Candy sales
  4. Sale of light bulbs
  5. Sale of plastic coated book covers bearing school name and colors
  6. Rummage sales
  7. Concession stands at sports or special events
  8. Cookie or dessert sales during school lunch break
  9. Sale of school supplies showing school name and colors
  10. Dances
  11. Sell work contracts. A chapter member contracts to do so many hours of baby sitting, car washing, lawn raking or mowing, etc., for people in the community.
  12. Magazine subscription sale
  13. Sponsor antique and hobby shows, amateur or talent shows, plays, pageants, or carnivals
  14. Sponsor public suppers: pot luck, spaghetti, ham, soul food, Mexican food, oriental food, German food, etc.

Chapter Endowments

A less traditional method of funding a Junior Historian chapter is the creation of an endowment fund to support chapter expenses. A generous gift from a member of the community can be made to the Texas State Historical Association who will manage the funds and provide the interest proceeds to the chapter when it is active. This is a long term solution to the expense needs of a chapter. For more information about setting up a chapter endowment, contact the Director of Educational Services for the Texas State Historical Association at (512) 471-15

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