Perhaps no other subject connects you personally to history more than your neighbourhood. Writing about where you live gives you a sense of the real meaning of bigger events. Maybe there was a house on the Underground Railroad in your neighbourhood, or a Depression-era bootlegger. The people, architecture and businesses in your area can reveal your neighbourhood's connections to the wider world. You'll certainly have enough to write about: focusing and organising may be your biggest problems.
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Ask your family, neighbours, and especially any older residents of your neighbourhood what makes it special. Some things to look out for might be: What makes the neighbourhood distinctive to those who live in it? Did your neighbourhood play a small part, if even from a distance, in big historical events? Did it maybe have a larger role? Who are important people that have come from your neighbourhood? Why was it founded?
Research your neighbourhood at your local library to get into more specific and factual details. The librarian there should be able to point you in the right direction, but you'll probably want to look at your neighbourhood economically (unemployment, average income), culturally (religions, languages, ethnic groups, architecture) and historically. It might be interesting to see if there have been a lot of variations over time in terms of income, culture or major industries.
Write an outline for your essay. Make it as long or as short as you wish, or as your assignment requires. An outline typically consists of sections designated by Roman numerals. Your outline should be short and sweet. For each paragraph you want a topic idea, or even better a full topic sentence, and three or four details you can turn into supporting sentences. Organising your essay chronologically might be the best way to start: Begin in the second paragraph with the neighbourhood's founding and work up to the present day.
Write the introduction to your essay by explaining to the reader why your subject is important, what information they're going to get and a thesis: a sentence or two that encapsulates your essay. You don't have to start with, "My neighbourhood is important because ..." If you simply say why it's important, your reader will understand. "One day in April, 1963, Martin Luther King was planning a march that many in the neighbourhoods it passed through remember to this day ..." would be a better start because you can transition into other points easily from a vivid image.
Start each paragraph from paragraph II with a topic sentence that gives you some sense of the point of the paragraph. You might talk about a particular period --- the Roaring '20s, the Depression, World War II --- and then give some details about what happened in your neighbourhood at these times.
Link your conclusion with the introduction, and give the reader a nice image to carry away from the essay. If you started off talking about how Martin Luther King's march changed the neighbourhood, and then returned in the second paragraph to your neighbourhood's origins before the Civil War, now might be a good time to record some interesting information you gathered earlier about the people you've talked to. You might also want to include something about the direction the neighbourhood is going in the future.
Tips and warnings
- Print out your essay. You'll find errors much more easily if you print it rather than read it off a computer screen. Read it forwards once, and again backwards, sentence by sentence, out loud. You'll notice mistakes you couldn't otherwise, and an error-free paper impresses a teacher and shows your effort.
- After you've finished the essay, show it to the residents of your neighbourhood you talked to. They'll be interested to see what you've written, and it's more fun to write for people you know rather than just a teacher.
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