How to Label Old Family Photos

Hey friend! Welcome back to another article! Today, we’re talking about how to label old photographs. As someone who uses old family photographs in my research, it makes my job 100% easier when someone has previously labeled the photos! So today, I am going to teach you how to label photos, what kind of writing utensils to use, and what kind of information you should write on the back photos to make future historian’s jobs easier. Let’s get started! 🙂

How to Label Old Photos

  1. Handle the images along the edges. There is nothing worse than leaving fingerprints on old photographs…
  2. Use a #2 pencil for labeling on paper items. This is the best thing to use because it’s easily erasable if a mistake is made.
  3. Find a spot on the back of the photo to label it, or at the very least a discreet location.
  4. Include the names of people, date, and location on the photo. PLEASE. There is nothing worst than finding an unlabeled photo and not being able to figure out who the people are… It makes me so, so sad.
  5. Also, label the Digital files as well! Name, date, and location is a good place to start.

What Writing Utensils to Use

Please use a #1 or #2 pencil when labeling old photos. They are soft and likely won’t puncture the photo. Remember to write lightly so that the writing doesn’t show through on the front.

What Information Goes on the Back of Photos

Please include the following information on the photos you label.




These are just the basic things that a photo label needs! There’s no need to stress out on trying to include an entire story! But if you want to write more then feel free to do that as well. All future historians and archivists will be forever grateful to you for your labeling effort! 🙂

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this article gave you some useful tips on how to label old family photographs. Preserving family history is so, so important and I am glad that you are taking the steps to preserve yours! Keep up the great work!

I have a few other articles about family history! I’ve linked them below for you to check out!

How to Write Your Family History

How to Conduct an Oral History

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

5 Fun Ways to Learn History!

Hey there friend! Today we’re going to talk about some of the fun ways to learn history that aren’t just reading a book… Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE reading a good book, but sometimes I like to switch things up a little bit! 

We are going to talk about 5 unconventional resources you can use to learn history without ever cracking open a book. Let’s get started!

1. History Lectures / Public Talks

I love listening to history lectures and public talks. The great thing about attending university and graduate school is the sheer amount of free lectures you can attend. I was able to attend many lectures on different topics and learned something new every time. 

Bonus Tip: Always take a notebook with you to public talks and lectures. You can write down the things that you learned or you can draw inspiration from the talk for your own project. 

Many universities, libraries, and public institutions have shifted most of their talks to a virtual/digital format. I LOVE this because I have been able to attend talks from across the United States! It is so refreshing to hear new ideas and scholarship from someone I wouldn’t typically have been able to see before. I hope that the virtual format is something that continues in the future! 

2. History Videos / TV Shows / Movies

I think that history videos, tv shows, and movies are instrumental tools in beginning the conversation around certain historical topics. Many people will sit down and watch tv after school or work, but many won’t pick up a book. This is why it is important for historical interpretations to be as accurate as possible. 

Many streaming services have a history category on their platform! 

3. Talking with people who lived through historical events 

I am a big fan of oral history and have written about it before on my blog. Here’s the link in case you missed it!

I love talking with people who lived through historical events. Hearing the stories from someone who lived through them adds a special touch to history that you may not necessarily get when you are just reading a book. Representing many perspectives of a lived experience is crucial in telling accurate history! 

4. History Podcasts

So, history podcasts have been around for a few years, but I have really only gotten into them within the past year and half. There are so many good shows to listen to out there right now. I have actually had the privilege of being a guest speaker on three shows! They’re linked here, if you’re interested in giving them a listen. 

Podcasts are a great way to learn about new topics without having to commit to a 300-400 page book. Most podcasts give you enough information to decide whether or not you want to do research further on a topic. For example, I listened to a great episode about vikings because I had previously done a paper on another viking settlement. I learned something new and it only took 30 minutes. 

Bonus Tip: Podcasts are an easy way to digest a lot of history in a short amount of time. I love listening to them when I workout or go for a walk. I have friends who like to listen to them when they drive to work. The point is, there is time to listen to a podcast if you want to! 

5.  Board Games / Video Games

Board games and video games are another great way to engage with historical subjects. These games often allow you to assume a historical character’s role in the game and you play through the sequence of history. It’s a fun way to interact with the material. 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this short list of resources gives you a few new ideas of ways to make history fun and engaging! If you have other ways that you like to make history fun and engaging please leave me a comment at the end of this post! I would love to hear your thoughts! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Write a Good Story

Hey there friend! Today, we’re going to talk about some of the elements that make a good story. These principles can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction writing. 

As a historian and freelance writer, it is my job to tell stories – some stories have a happy ending and some just don’t. That’s just the reality that comes with writing about real people who lived complex lives. I consider writing the stories of people from the past one of my greatest privileges. Their lives can teach us something new every day. 

I’m going to break this into 7 steps! 

1. Start with something that grabs the reader’s attention. 

The first thing you want to do in any story is grab the reader’s attention. The reader has to want to know more about what is going on. 

2. Add some background to the story.

Context is very important to the progression of the story. You can start in the action, but then you’ll want to zoom out and give the reader the big picture. (i.e. family, local, national, or international scales) 

3. Show the reader around the scene.

Give the reader all of the details! You want to show the reader the scene not just summarize it. Transport the reader into the world that the story takes place in. 

4. Present the problem or conflict of the story.

After establishing the scene and the context, present the conflict of the story. What is the problem? Why is it a problem? How will the character solve the problem? 

5. Take the reader on a journey to solve the problem or conflict. 

After you’ve established the problem, it’s time to present the proposed solution to said problem. This is often where the majority of the story takes place. As the author, you get to decide what the mood for the proposed solution and journey is. 

Bonus Tip: Decide what point of view you are telling the story from, decide whether or not you need a third-party narrator. 

6. Resolve the problem or conflict of the story. 

After your character has completed the journey, it’s time to resolve the conflict or wrap up the story. Not all conflicts can or will be solved. So make sure that the ending suits the story being told. 

Bonus Tip: Decide if you need to reiterate a moral or lesson in your story. Was there a lesson to be learned? Did the character discover a hidden truth? 

7. Finally, end the story.

You get to decide whether or not your story has a happy ending. Always tell the story that needs to be told even if you receive push back.

Concluding Thoughts

Remember, you CAN tell this story and nobody else can. I believe in you! Happy writing, y’all! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

How to Write Your Family History

I was sitting at my Nana and Papa’s house one day and they were telling me stories like usual, but something changed. I wanted to know more about the people in these stories because they had passed away before I was born. At the time, I was a graduate student studying history so I thought to myself, “Could I take the skills I use to do my thesis research and apply them to my own family’s history?” The answer is… yes, absolutely yes! I was shocked by how much information came up on my first search.

Hey there, friend! Welcome back to another article! Today we are talking about how to write your personal family history. I LOVE this topic because this is something that I have done for my family over the past year. There has never been a better time to undertake this kind of a project with so many archives, libraries, and repositories making their collections digitally available online! This article will give you some ideas of places to look for sources, practical steps for capturing audio/video from elderly family members, and how to compile it all into one single file. Let’s get started! 

Places to Look for Sources

There are many different places to find sources concerning your family history. There are free and subscription services that you can utilize. For my personal family history project, I used the following sources: Ancestry (not affiliated), (not affiliated), Find a Grave (not affiliated), Chronicling America (not affiliated), my State Historical Society, local newspapers, oral histories, old photo albums, general history textbooks, and more. 

Here are some ideas of the collections you can look through: Federal Census Records, State Census Records, Military Records, School Records, Marriage Records, Birth Records, Death Records, Land Records, Newspapers, and more!

Be patient when digging for sources, sometimes it can take time, but it is so rewarding. One evening, I found a picture of one of the great grandparents many generations back in my family and my Papa loved seeing the picture. Just keep digging! 

For more information on finding primary sources see: The Best Places to Find Digitized Primary Sources and Where to Find Public Domain Sources for Your Next Project 

Practical Steps for Capturing Audio/Video Interviews

After you have consulted the documentary evidence about your family history, you can begin to capture oral histories of people in your family. I recommend doing the background research first so you can ask relevant questions to the things your interviewees are talking about.

You can either go into an interview with a set of questions or you can let your family member talk about whatever they feel comfortable talking about. I have tried both methods and they both worked. Though, for a more professional interview, you will want to have questions for your interviewee. This makes the interview process much smoother. 

To capture the audio or video of your interviewee, make sure that your equipment works before the interview. Personally, I use an iPhone XR for capturing the audio/video of my interviewees. I also use a Tonor USB microphone (Amazon) plugged to my computer to capture an additional audio file. I like to have both options in case one didn’t work. I connect the microphone to the Garage Band software on my computer and record a narration track! The audio is always crisp and clear. (This is not affiliated with Amazon).

Additionally, I like to use a tripod when recording a video file so that the camera isn’t shaky. If you don’t have a tripod try stacking books or something to create a flat surface to place the camera on. Personally, I use a smartphone tripod from Amazon. (This is not affiliated with Amazon).

Make sure to thank your interviewees for their time and willingness to share their stories for the future generations of your family. 

For more information on oral histories see: How to Conduct an Oral History 

How to Compile Your Family History into 1 File

Once you have compiled all of the information, you can put it in a single file. Personally, I chose to write mini-biographies of my family members using the documents, newspaper articles, census records, and military service records I found. 

I chose to leave the oral history videos and interviews separate from the written document. Each oral history has an individual index with key words and time stamps that act as a Finding Aid. 

Next, I took all of the pieces and put them on a single USB flash drive. (i.e. mini-biographies, photos, audio files, video files, index, and finding aids) Having all of the information in one place makes it easy to share and pass to the next generation. 

Bonus Tip: Make sure to keep the files updated as technology changes or there’s a risk that you could lose some files. (i.e. update the audio and video files) 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this article was helpful in getting you started on your journey to writing your family’s history. Writing a family history is so valuable and you get to learn a lot about where you came from. Happy hunting!

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Conduct an Oral History

Hey there, friend! Today we are talking about oral history. What is oral history? How do I do oral history? Are oral histories valid sources? These are just a few of the topics we’ll cover! 

I didn’t actually study oral history while in school, I was fortunate to land an oral history internship position the fall after I completed my master’s degree. I got to work remotely with the oral historian at a museum and learned so much. 

The book that was most helpful for me to learn the oral history process was Donald A. Ritchie’s Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide. This book was loaded with lots of information and was an easy read. So check that book out if you need a more in depth explanation! I have done my best to sum up the main points and answer a few common questions that people ask me about oral histories. So… let’s get started! 

Topics Covered in this article:

  • What is an oral history?
  • Are oral histories important?
  • Are oral histories valid sources?
  • How do I conduct an oral history interview?
  • What kind of equipment/apps will I need?
  • Is there paperwork involved?
  • How do I record my family history?

What is oral history?

Oral history is the passing down of stories and events through telling stories. Oral history has been around for as long as anyone can remember. It was the original way to keep the past alive for future generations. 

Oral history involves a person telling their story and they are often referred to as the narrator. The narrator can talk about their own life, an event they lived through, or something they remember happening in their lifetime. Oral histories are unique because they place so much emphasis on a single person’s lived experience. 

Are oral histories important?

Yes. Oral histories are extremely important. Oral histories allow people to document their lived experience which adds a valuable point of view to the narrative of history. 

Oral histories can also be useful in documenting minority communities which have typically been left outside of traditional historical historic narratives. There are many amazing oral history projects across the United States which are capturing the voices of overlooked communities. These projects are crucial for telling an inclusive history that explains ALL sides of the story. 

Are oral histories valid sources?

Yes. I believe that oral histories are valid sources, but there are many other scholars out there who will say otherwise. Many people have issues with oral histories as primary sources because they argue that they’re told from only one person’s point of view. They argue that there could be subtle nuances between stories. 

I believe that oral histories are like any other source that you use for a project. The sources need to be double checked and cross-referenced. Oral histories are crucial in telling stories. 

How do I conduct an oral history interview?

There are a few steps to collecting an oral history and doing it the correct way. 

1). First, like any other project you want to start with a central question or gap in the collections. Which communities are not included in your collection? 

2). Second, you’ll want to conduct some background research on the community or area that you want to research in. See if you can find the names of prominent people (narrators) that were active in the community and write them down (even better if you can find their contact info at this time). After doing some initial research, you can start planning your project. 

3). You’ll want to reach out to two or three people (narrators) that you found contact information for. Explain to them what you are trying to do with your project and ask them if they would be interested in taking part. If they say no, thank them for their time and move on. Hopefully, some of the people you talk to will be interested in the project. 

BONUS TIP: Make sure that you know how to use your equipment before you try to interview a narrator. Practice with your family or friends! 

Next, send them your background paperwork to fill out. The legal documents for archive storing can also be in this packet. The background packet allows the narrator to tell you what they want to talk about and allows you to ask questions if needed. 

4). Set a date and time to interview your narrator. Make sure that they are comfortable – whether the interview is in their home, a museum, or other location. These interviews can also be done remotely via the phone or zoom. I will leave a list of apps that work good for this at the end of this article. 

BONUS TIP: Make sure that the narrator does not become fatigued while you are interviewing them. If necessary, you can schedule multiple recording sessions with the same narrator. 

5). Go over the legal paperwork again on the day of the interview and make sure that the narrator is comfortable. Ask the narrator to be in a quiet place so that their audio is clear. Complete the interview and thank the narrator for their time and being willing to share their stories. 

6). Process the interviews, create indexes in a document (key-word time stamps for the interview), and input the data into the database. You can contact your local archive or museum and ask if they would like to store the original tapes in their collections. 

What kind of equipment/apps will I need?

Oral histories can be recorded on a variety of devices. The following are all programs that I have personally used and were recommended by my mentor during my internship. 

  1. Garageband on a Mac computer collects great audio, but there are some time limits so you’ll need to take that into account. 
  2. The Voice Memos app on your phone also collects really good audio. 
  3. Rev call recorder is a great app that is free for your phone. You call someone through the app and it will say that the call is being recorded. 
  4. You can record an oral history using the Zoom or Skype apps on your computer. Just make sure to save the audio and video files separately. 

BONUS TIP: If you plan to record your narrator on video you will want to make sure that you have a tripod or something steady to sit the camera on. You can find tripods for cell phones and cameras relatively cheap online. Also, make sure that you have good lighting if you record your narrator. You can find ring lights online as well to help with the lighting situation. 

Is there paperwork involved?

Yes, there is paperwork involved in collecting an oral history. You will need to have the narrator sign legal documents. Then you will need to fill out any papers that a museum or archive might need for storage purposes. 

How do I record my family history?

Oral history is a great way to collect your family history. You can sit down with your family members and allow them to tell you the stories that they want to pass down to the next generation. 

Personally, I have been able to sit down with my Nana and Papa and record several of their stories. This has been such a rewarding experience and now future generations of my family will be able to see and hear them tell their own stories. 

BONUS TIP: Recording family histories will most likely take multiple sessions so plan accordingly. 

Concluding Thoughts

For more information, you can check out the Oral History Association’s website. They have step-by-step guides on how to do oral history and where to find the paperwork. They also have a list of several repositories with significant oral history collections. 

Thank you for taking the time to learn about oral histories and how to conduct them properly. I hope that these sources will help you in your next project.

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

10 Tips to Nail Your Next Presentation

Hey there! I’m assuming you have a presentation to give sometime soon! That’s awesome! Today, I am going to give you several tips to give an engaging presentation. 

I have presented my research at multiple conferences – winning prizes at four of them! I love public speaking and engaging with the audience. My public speaking career began when I spoke in front of my FCA club my freshman year of high school. So, I guess you could say that I have had some time to practice. Let’s go ahead and get started. 

1. Make sure that you are dressed for the occasion.

You want to look professional and put together – no sweat pants or hoodies. Make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes too! 

2. Organize your equipment.

Double check that you have all the equipment you need for your presentation. This can include a computer, pointer/clicker, adapter cables, flash drive, hard copy of your presentation, etc.

BONUS TIP: Make sure to take a water bottle with you! 

3. Try to stay relaxed as possible when you’re in front of the room. 

Some conferences have chairs for you to sit in while other places will have you stand behind a podium. Just keep your body relaxed! 

4. Make eye contact with people in the audience. 

Sweep your gaze around the room and make eye contact with people in the audience. If you make eye contact with someone – smile at them! They’ll most likely smile back at you and this will help you feel more relaxed. 

5. Speak with confidence. 

You are the expert in the room once you start talking. Everyone is there to hear what you have to say! You put the hours into this presentation and should feel proud of your work! 

6. Don’t worry if you stumble over your words! 

Nobody is judging you, I promise. Bonus points if you are able to laugh at yourself. This will show other people in the room that you are still human and comfortable with yourself! 

7. Speak slowly and enunciate your words. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get nervous and you might start speaking quicker than usual. This makes it really hard for people to understand you. Just remember to take a deep breath, speak slowly, and enunciate your words. 

8. Make sure that you are projecting your voice. 

This is especially if the room doesn’t have a microphone set up for you to use. You might even start your presentation by asking if the people in the back of the room can hear you. If they can, that’s great! If not, you’ll have to speak louder. 

9. Make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention. 

Depending on the presentation this would be the time to ask if the audience has any questions. Try to answer as many questions as possible. Don’t make up something if you don’t know the answer to an audience member’s question. Simply tell them that it was an excellent question and that you don’t know the answer to it. Make a mental note of the question or write it down quickly! Audience questions can make your presentations better over time. 

10. After the presentation and question time is over, you can ask any friends or colleagues in the audience if they have any critiques of your performance. 

These need to be trusted people that will give you good advice that will make you a better professional speaker. 

Concluding Thoughts

*At conferences or symposiums: Carry a pen and notebook in your bag. You will want to take notes during other talks. I have learned so much from other people’s research. You can also take note of how other people present their research/talks.

I hope these tips help you out on your next presentation. You’re going to do great! I just know it! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

(Left) 2nd place finish for American History Graduate Students. My cohort swept the prizes for US History that year!
(Right) 3rd place finish for American History Graduate Students. Shout out to my friend for snapping the picture of me speaking!

15 Tips for the Student Who Just Got Accepted Into Graduate School

First off, Congratulations on being accepted into the graduate program at your school! That’s an awesome achievement! These 15 tips will help you survive graduate school without going crazy! Let’s jump on in! 

Personally, I was accepted and graduated from a MA Program in History. So this article will probably lean more towards that discipline, but I think many of these tips can be applied to any MA Program. 

1. Make friends in your department. 

Having friends in your department is so, so important. They know what you’re going through and can relate. They’re also there to help if you get stuck or are confused about a concept. 

I had a friend who helped me learn how to write a good historiography paper. We would email back and forth and then meet up to work on projects together. This was a life saver for me. My grades began improving on papers after they explained the process in a different more understandable way to me. 

It is also important to have friends outside of your department! People from different disciplines offer unique perspectives and research ideas. I had friends in English, Physics, Pre-Med, Business, and more! I loved talking with all of these people about their projects! Friends are so valuable! 

It also helps to find an older, more experienced graduate student to look up to. The PhD students in my department were always so kind and willing to offer great advice. Make sure to sit and listen when these people are speaking – you don’t want to miss out on some great wisdom. 

2. Schedule regular meetings with your advisor.

It’s important to check in with your advisor to make sure that you are on the right track for your graduation plan and thesis project. They often have great advice to give and are good people to bounce ideas around with. They can be your biggest advocate in the department which can be important. The meetings with my advisor were always productive! 

3. Make sure to take care of your body, mentally and physically. 

Taking care of yourself must be a priority. This is so important for you! Personally, I liked going to the gym or taking a walk to move my body. This was so good for me to unplug mentally from my work. But you do whatever makes you feel good, mentally and physically. 

4. Schedule time off into your weeks.

This is something that I wish someone would have told me early on. Taking time away from studying, reading, or writing all of the time is so important for you as a human. So take it from me, DO NOT STUDY ALL OF THE TIME. Hang out with friends, explore the city/state that you’re in, and try new things. There are so many things that I wish I would have done differently in hindsight. 

5. Time management is crucial to success in graduate school.

One thing that is crucial to success in graduate school is time management. You will need to schedule time to do your readings, writing assignments, and discussions. You will also need to work on writing your thesis as well. Setting a schedule each semester really helped me to manage my time. Understand, that schedules can change and that is OKAY! 

6. Come up with a note-taking system that works for you. This will save your life while reading hundreds of books, literally. 

You will want to have a good note-taking system figured out by the end of your first semester of graduate school. You can try multiple styles and see what works best for you and your needs. Personally, I liked pen and paper for notes during class! Then while I was reading the books for class or taking notes for my thesis I would type them on a computer. Taking notes on a computer allows you to search the document for key words later on.

7. Start looking at secondary literature for your project as soon as possible. 

Once you identify what topic you want to study – start reading the secondary literature as soon as possible. This allows you to get a solid grounding in the topic area that you want to contribute to. You can even start writing the historiography section of your paper and refine it as you go through the program. 

8. Network, network, network! 

Networking is so, so important in the professional world. You can connect with people through conferences, personal contacts, and social media. Many professionals are now using social media platforms as a way to network with like-minded individuals around the world. Some good websites for networking include LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram! 

*Historians and history lovers should check out the networking post on my Instagram account: @the_active_historian

9. Attend and present at conferences. 

Going to conferences and presenting your work is very important. It helps you build public speaking skills and write clear, concise arguments. The professionals who chair the panels and attend sessions provide valuable feedback on your presentations. This can help you grow as a scholar! I always received great feedback at conferences! 

BONUS TIP: Conferences are great for your CV. Some conferences even have paper prizes you can win which look especially good on your CV! 

10. Build your CV.

Building your CV is an important aspect of the MA Program (especially if you intend to apply for PhD programs). A CV is like your academic resume. Future employers and PhD programs want to see what you did as a MA student to see if you would be a good fit for their position. 

Things to include on your CV: 

  • Conferences
  • Publications
  • Degrees
  • Certifications
  • Languages Spoken/Read
  • Relevant Employment Experience
  • Awards/Scholarships
  • Organizations you are a member of

Make sure to check out this article about CVs next! 

11. Get involved in graduate student organizations on campus. 

Graduate student organizations are a great campus resource for graduate students! There are many professional development opportunities and ways to network with people all around campus. I was involved in two graduate student organizations on campus and learned a lot from both opportunities. Being involved in the Graduate and Professional Student Government Association on my campus taught me many skills that I still use today!

12. Set short-term and long-term goals. Refine these goals regularly. 

Make sure to set goals for your project and professional career. This includes both short-term and long-term goals! Don’t be afraid to refine these goals as time goes on either! 

Having a clear “Why” can help you on the days that you feel down – at least this helped me!

13. Understand that criticism makes you a better scholar and is a part of the process. Failure is a part of graduate school and it is OKAY TO FAIL as long as you make sure to get back up. 

It’s important to understand that constructive criticism will make you a better scholar. Sometimes you might feel like a failure, but just know that learning, editing, and re-writing are all just a part of the process. It’s not always fun in the moment, but you will look back on it later and be thankful for the process. If you fall down, just remember to get back up or ask for help to get back up. 

14. Learn that finished is good, and that anything you write will never be perfect. 

It is important to learn early that perfection is not achievable. I have often heard that a finished paper/project is a good paper/project. In hindsight, I totally believe that this is true. I would spend days agonizing over a paper trying with all my might to make it perfect, but it would just never get there… A finished paper is a good paper! 

15. Reach out for help when you need it!

Most importantly – Please, reach out for help when you need it. It doesn’t matter what the problem is – just ask for help. Sometimes meeting up with friends to have a vent session can really help. 

Please, don’t ever try to struggle through it alone. You don’t have to. There are so many great resources for mental and physical health on college/university campuses so please utilize them! People want to help you! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it, Y’all! These are 15 tips to surviving graduate school. Make sure to take care of yourself and surround yourself with a loving community! Also, get ready to celebrate big time when you finish that degree or program! You deserve it! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Make an A+ on History Exams

Hey there friend! Today we are discussing how to make an A+ on a History Exam. As a former student and Graduate Teaching Assistant I have got a few tips and tricks to help you out! Make sure that you read all the way to the end! 

First, I am going to tell you what I did as a student to prepare for exams. Second, I will tell you some of the things that I was required to grade for as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I hope that having both of these perspectives will help you to make a great grade on your next test! 

Tips from my time as a student

  • Always take notes in class.
    • Underline the headings so that things are easier to read. 
  • Take notes during discussion groups too! 
    • The readings and points talked about in discussion groups can and will appear on exams. 
  • Take notes when you do the readings for class. 
    • This makes it easier for you to remember what each one was about! 
  • Utilize the glossary in the back of the book for definitions! 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance)
  • Always read the directions on the exam. Make sure that you answer all parts of the question. 

Tips from my time as a Graduate Teaching Assistant 

  • ALWAYS! ALWAYS! ALWAYS! Answer these 5 questions. 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance. This one is the most important and often worth the most points.)
  • Go to your GTA’s office hours to ask questions about your study guide and materials. I loved it when students brought their study guides in early and asked questions. It gave me a chance to clarify things and they often earned better grades because they fixed their study materials and filled in that gaps they were missing! 
  • Go to study sessions hosted by the GTA or other sources on campus. My first semester as a GTA we held review sessions before the exams and gave students an opportunity to ask us questions. 
  • Read the exam questions carefully and make sure that you answer all parts of the question.
  • If you don’t know the answer give it your best educated guess. Most professors/GTAs will give you at least a point or two for trying. If you leave it blank then you get zero points. The couple of points you get for guessing can sometimes make the difference between letter grades! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it! My best tips for passing history test. I hope this helps you with regular exams, midterm exams, and your final exam for history class.

Happy studying! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Things to Include in Your CV

Hey there friend! So you need to write a CV? What even is a CV? Well – a CV is similar to a resume, but you list all of your academic and professional experiences. Unfortunately there isn’t really a set template on what to include and what not to include in your CV. I suggest looking on your university’s website to see if your professor’s CV is online. You can always make your document look similar to theirs.

Here is a list of the things I noticed most people included in their CVs. I hope it helps you! 🙂

Things to Include in Your CV

1. Education 

2. Relevant Work Experience in the Field 

3. Scholarships, Grants, & Awards

4. Conferences, Research Presentations, & Invited Lectures

5. Articles: peer reviewed & non-peer reviewed 

6. Media Appearances: interviews, radio, podcasts, television, documentaries, etc. 

7. Department, Professional, & Community Service

8. Professional Memberships & Organizations 

9. Languages: spoken, written, & reading knowledge 

10. Publications: books, essays, etc.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this is helpful! Now go make a CV that will wow everyone! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Create an Instagram Account for Any Niche

So you want to make an Instagram account to share your passions, but aren’t sure where to start? Well you’re in the right place! My name is Kaitlyn – I created the Active Historian page on Instagram. I wanted a place to combine my love for history and passion for fitness. In this article I will be giving you 10 steps to create, build, and grow an Instagram page for your niche. These tips and tricks can be found in many places! 

*Disclaimer: I am by no means a social media expert. These are the tips and tricks that I researched and used to grow my own account.

1. Make a list of the things you are passionate about

This one seems pretty easy. I want you to grab a pen and paper and write down all of the things that you are passionate about. You can try to group them together if that helps you think. This list can be as long as you need it to be. I recommend writing everything down, literally everything. You never know what interests you can combine to create a unique space.

Personally, I combined my love for history and passion for fitness. People are always shocked when they find out that I study history – most people assumed that I studied something health-related. So it was interesting for me to combine these two passions that most people didn’t think fit together.

2. Narrow your list to 3-5 topics

Next, I want you to take the list you just made and see if any of the topics can be combined. Narrow your list down to 3-5 broad topics. This was pretty hard for me, but I chose fitness, history, motivation, and running for my list.

3. Research your list on Instagram to see what accounts already exist

Take your list of 3-5 topics, go to Instagram, then open the search bar. When I created my account I wanted to know what else was already out there so I typed the key word ideas into Instagram. If there are already accounts on your topics consider how your account would be different from the ones that already exist. Start thinking about ways that those interests could be combined to create a unique perspective!

Personally, there was not really anything on Instagram that combined history and fitness together how I envisioned my account doing so. This gave me the freedom to begin brainstorming names for my account. 

4. Brainstorm some names for your account

Now that you know what is on Instagram – I want you to sit down and begin brainstorming some names for your account. This can take some time. I remember thinking about names for weeks and created my account with one name, but then switching it a few weeks later. 

Fun fact! I came up with the idea for the “Active Historian” when I was out walking one afternoon! 

5. Pick a color palette and try to be consistent 

After you have a name, it’s time to start thinking about a color palette for you brand. You need to consider what kind of feeling someone might have when looking at your account. Will they feel calm, happy, inspired, motivated, or something else? You can look up articles and videos on color psychology to help with this process.

Creating a color palette is important for creating consistency in your posts. A consistent color palette will help maintain your social media aesthetic.

Personally, I use Canva to create my graphics and they have an option where you can save your brand colors on your account. The cool thing about finding brand colors is that you can save the HTML color codes and they will be consistent across platforms! 

6. Make the account

Now that you have a name and a color scheme – MAKE THE ACCOUNT. Just do it. This step was one of the scarier ones for me. I didn’t know if people would like my content or if they would even interact with me. Looking back now, I realize how silly those fears were and wish I would have started my Instagram account sooner. The community I have found on social media is awesome. I have networked with likeminded people from around the world. 

Once you’ve created your page it’s time to start making content that will serve your audience. 

7. Create informing, inspiring, or engaging content

Now that you have an account – I want you to focus on creating content that informs, inspires, or engages your audience. People read your posts and you don’t want to waste their time. Provide your audience with something valuable!

Personally, the Active Historian encompasses my love for history and passion for fitness. It gives me an avenue to share stories, fitness advice, and motivation. I have always liked motivational quotes and had a quote wall in my room in high school. I love sharing the motivating words that have kept me going for so long.

8. Interact with the people in your niche

Interacting with people on your page and in your niche is SO IMPORTANT. I have met so many cool people and learn something new everyday – that is not an exaggeration. By interacting with people you can learn new skills, lessons, and information. The best part is networking with people who are passionate about the same things that you are. 

9. Make friends and collaborate 

Now that you’ve interacted with people and have built up rapport you can begin collaborating with people. You can reach out to people in your niche to see if they would be interested in working together on a post or featuring in stories. This is a great way to reach new people!

10. Have fun and inspire other people 

Last – but not least – remember to have fun. Social media can be a great tool for networking and learning new skills, but don’t let it take over your life. 

Concluding Thoughts

If you create an account – tag me and let me know you read this article! @the_active_historian

Go out and inspire people! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Write A Research Paper In 8 Easy Steps

So you’ve been assigned a research paper for class… When I received the prompt for my first research paper I was so lost and didn’t know what to do. I began looking for resources (kind of like how you found this article!) and was hoping for some guidance. By the end of this article you will be ready to tackle that research paper with confidence! Grab your pencil and get ready to jot down a few notes! 

8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

1). Read the prompt and pick out a topic that addresses all of the key points in the directions. 

2). Do a basic google search and see if there is information on this topic already out there. You can also search in the your school library’s databases. Make a list of the sources that you want to use to write your paper. Make sure to cite the information in the correct citation style for your class. Always include a bibliography at the end of the paper. 

DO NOT PLAGIARIZE EVER! You will get caught and you will be in big trouble. Please don’t ever take someone’s ideas and try to submit them as your own. ALWAYS include citations from where you got your materials. 

3). Create a thesis statement for your paper. What will you argue in the paper? A good thesis statement will be included in the introduction and conclusion of your research paper. 

4). Create an outline for your paper. I like to separate research papers into the following categories: introduction, body paragraph 1, body paragraph 2, body paragraph 3, and conclusion. This is the most basic outline you can create. There can be more body paragraphs or additional literature reviews if needed. Always write your thesis statement at the top of your outline. Connect all supporting paragraphs back to the thesis statement. 

5). Write a rough draft of your paper. Take all of the ideas you wrote in the outline and develop them into sentences. You can move the ideas and paragraphs around to make your argument stronger. 

Make sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence. The topic sentence will help organize the paper and give it structure. 

6). After writing a rough draft of your paper you can ask your professor or TA to look at it. You can then incorporate their feedback into your paper to make it stronger and get a better grade! 

BONUS TIP: Many universities have writing centers that you can visit as well. You schedule an appointment and they help you fix grammar, style, and clarity issues. The writing center at my university was so helpful – I took several papers there. 

7). Write a final draft of your paper incorporating all of the feedback you received from the professor and writing center. Read and reread the paper before submitting it! 

8). Upload your paper to the dropbox or turn it in to your professor! 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope these research writing paper tips were helpful! Stay tuned for more helpful tips!

Happy Writing! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

13 Tips for Passing History Class

History class… Boring, right? WRONG! I can’t tell you how many times students would come to office hours and complain about how dry the subject was. Many of the students were freshmen and didn’t know how to engage the materials. College courses are different from high school courses and the students would become overwhelmed. As a GTA, it was my job to teach the students how to engage the materials given to them by the professor. As a GTA, I created a list of helpful tools and gave it to my students to help make college less daunting. This blog post is a summation of that list!

*Disclaimer: These are tips that I utilized and observed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). Check with your GTA to see how the class will work at your school! 

Kaitlyn’s Helpful Tips For Passing College Courses

1). Download and read the syllabus before going to your first class. The professor will most likely go over the syllabus, but you want to be able to ask questions when they are done. 

2). Make a friend or two in class on the first day. Swap emails or phone numbers so that way if you miss class you can get notes from them. You can also study together for exams or work on writing assignments.

3). Buy a planner, download a free calendar app, or set reminders on your phone for important assignment dates during the first week of class. You don’t want to turn things in late because you’ll either get a point deduction or the professor might not accept it at all. 

4). Use different colored folders, spirals, highlighters, and pens to keep your thoughts, notes, and classes organized. 

5). Ask your professor or GTA if they have any tips to be successful in the class (i.e. note taking strategies, library resources, study sessions, etc.). 

6). Figure out when your professor’s and your GTA’s office hours are. You will want to visit office hours as frequently as you can. You can ask questions, discuss the material, and learn more about the topic. (Bonus: Some professors even offer bonus points for bringing in early assignment drafts to office hours.) 

7). Do the readings for class! You will learn so much and some professors require class participation in discussions as a part of your grade. 

8). Engage with the materials for class. Look for other sources online that compliment the topic if you aren’t understanding it. There are hundreds of YouTube videos, podcasts, social media accounts, and online resources that make history easy to understand! 

9). Always go to lecture (unless you are sick or have extreme circumstances). Some classes have attendance grades! Don’t skip class for fun or because you think you know all of the material already.

10). Always take notes in class. It doesn’t matter if you use a spiral or a laptop. Write down what the professor is saying because not all of the information will be on the slides – if they even use slides – you will want to reference this material when studying. (Bonus: Always write down the name of a slide because those words could wind up being the vocab words on the test. 

11). When completing a writing assignment start with an outline and then write a rough draft. Have your professor or GTA give you feedback on the rough draft. Incorporate the feedback into the final drafts of your paper! 

12). History exams are typically an essay test. Make sure to answer the following questions for every ID term: 





Why is this ID term significant

Giving the significance of a term is the most important thing you can do in a history class. The professor will tell you why it is significant in the lecture so make sure to write it down! 

13). Spend time in the library. There are so many amazing free resources in university libraries! They have free computers to rent, books on every topic you can imagine, archive collections, digital databases, workshops, and more. 

Concluding Thoughts

These are my 13 tips for passing history class! Thank you for reading! Here’s another helpful article on How to Write a Research Paper!  

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂