Independent work is a defining feature of Princeton’s undergraduate education. Juniors get the opportunity to conduct their own research under the guidance of a faculty adviser, serving as a precursor to the senior thesis. While some conduct archival research, others participate in field-based research, even traveling abroad to collect data.
As a history concentrator, I write one research paper per semester, known as the Junior Paper. My seminar, “Slave Emancipation in Latin America,” introduced me to the tools, methods and techniques of historical research in preparation for the Junior Paper. I received guidance from my professor through every step of the process, all the way from topic selection to draft submissions.
Although the writing process was daunting at first, I enjoyed getting to read primary sources and draw my own interpretations based on the work of other historians. It was the first time I truly felt like a historian, perusing scores of books in the Firestone Library basement. Out of all of the skills I acquired, working independently on a long-term project proved to be indispensable. In order to turn in the paper before the deadline, I set a daily goal of how many pages I would write or the number of sources I needed to annotate.
Independent research at Princeton gave me the opportunity to bond with a faculty adviser, discover an interest in the historiography of slavery and learn how to incorporate evidence to strengthen my argument. All in all, the experience of writing my first Junior Paper was extremely rewarding.