A Junior’s Take on the American Humanities Experience

The American Humanities experience involves a lot of research (Matthew Sidewater / The Weber School).

The American Humanities experience involves a lot of research (Matthew Sidewater / The Weber School).

Matthew Sidewater

This year, the juniors at The Weber School participated in the American Humanities Experience. All of the juniors were tasked with writing a 5 or more page research paper (including a works cited page). In doing so, the juniors all learned about the process required to write a research paper. I, in particular, think that the teachers did a wonderful job with this year-long assignment.

The mentor system used during the course of the project was extremely helpful. My mentor, Mr. Bennett, managed to make time for me in his schedule when I needed his help. Mr. Bennett was able to help me edit my paper and write more eloquently. Moreover, students could contact teachers in either their English, History, or Modern Jewish History classes to help them with their essays.

The teachers further assisted me in writing my essay by giving me and the other students ample time to evolve our theses. During this time I learned the intricacies of how theses change. A research paper starts out with each student’s research, which is then formed into a thesis. As more research is compiled and as students write their papers, the theses change and so do the papers. The process will happen over and over again until the students find their ‘final’ theses and the last edits are made in their papers. I started out my research paper trying to learn more about the femme fatale archetype, and the thesis then changed to become how Poison Ivy embodies the femme fatale archetype. Eventually, I decided to write about how Poison Ivy embodies ecofeminist ideas, the mother earth archetype and the femme fatale archetype.

By participating in this experience, I learned how to better research topics. By learning about resources like JSTOR, a database of scholarly articles, I was able to research scholarly articles about my topics better than ever before. I easily narrowed what I was looking for and found the information I needed. However, the initial research was quite difficult. Before I learned about JSTOR, I had used  Google Scholar to find resources. This proved to be a problem because Google Scholar had little information about my topic. I also had difficulty with the early assignments during the AHE process. For example, I had trouble finding my first few sources because I had yet to learn how to research properly. I also struggled with finding new information that I had not already uncovered, as all of my sources seemed to suggest the same fact: femme fatales are women who use their sexuality to their advantage.

Despite the challenges, I enjoyed the American Humanities Experience. It taught me to research, how to write a research paper and how theses evolve over time. I had enough time to complete my assignments and my teachers provided me with enough feedback and resources to finish my paper. I am glad to have participated in AHE, and I hope the program continues to evolve in the coming years.