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Leaving Cert Study Guide: The History Research Project

HISTORY in the Leaving Certificate is a daunting essay-writing challenge.

However, the examination itself is worth only 80pc of your grade — before you set pen to paper on June 15, 20pc of your History grade will have already been decided. This 20pc is the History Research Project, which is due to be submitted on April 15.

All History students, both Higher and Ordinary level, would be wise to focus their attention on the Research Topic over the next few weeks.

Many students score full marks on this section. Consequently, the Research Topic is vital to your overall grade.

What is the research topic?

This is an extended essay of 1,500 words for higher level and 800 words for ordinary level on a topic of your choice, so long as it takes place before 1992. You have to pick three sources for higher level and two for ordinary level, for their historical enquiry. Sources can be primary or secondary (or a combination of both).

Topics that I have examined contained a variety of sources — diaries, official documents, letters, recorded interviews, books, DVDs, radio broadcasts and archaeological reports — depending on the nature of the research topic.

Using Sources

Your choice of sources is important — some sources can be more time-consuming than others but the work using these sources will be more original and rewarding. For example, a visit to the National Archives or examining historical newspaper articles can be time-consuming, however, by doing this research you are developing your skills as an historian.

Finding appropriate sources can be difficult, also. The internet can be helpful here — the bibliographies provided by articles on sites such as Wikipedia can point you in the right direction. Also, I would suggest that you work closely with your History teacher — ask advice on the authenticity of your chosen sources and whether they are suitable to your topic.

Choosing your topic

Again I would suggest that you consult your teacher on this. Make sure that your topic is narrow and includes date parameters.

The History syllabus stipulates that you should pick a topic that is not covered on your course, so it is wise to avoid the Key Personalities and the Case Studies that you are studying this year.

Local history, family history and fringe topics are all acceptable as the History syllabus encourages the student to use the full range of historical skills. Here are some examples:

- The Persian Invasion of Greece 480-79BC

- The Lebensborn Programme in Nazi Germany

- The GAA in Co Cavan — the glory years of the 1940s

- The Diaries of an Irishman in the RAF

- Led Zeppelin's contribution to rock music

The research topic is made up of four parts:

1 The Outline Plan (15 marks)

2 Evaluation of Sources (25 marks)

3 Extended Essay (50 marks)

4 Review of Research Topic (10 marks)

1 Outline plan ( 15 marks )

The title should have:

- Narrow focus

- Knowledge of historical context

- The topic ends before 1992/1993

- At least three sources (two for ordinary level)

- A very clear title — include dates, scope for debate, a conclusion which allows you to assess your aims

Nine marks are for: