Publishing in The Concord Review: The Complete Guide
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Getting published in The Concord Review is the most prestigious achievement for a high school history student. It’s like a math wiz winning the International Mathematical Olympiad or a science prodigy winning the Regeneron Science Talent Search. And most Concord Review authors go on to have amazing college careers. Here’s just a partial list of where they end up as of last count: 35 at Brown, 31 at Columbia, 152 at Harvard, 76 at Princeton, 86 at Stanford, and 123 at Yale.
So what is The Concord Review? It’s the only dedicated quarterly journal for history research papers by high school students. Founder Will Fitzhugh founded the magazine in 1987. As a history teacher (with a MA in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from Princeton), he was disappointed with the curriculum’s general dumbing down of student essay writing. He created the journal as a place to encourage and showcase the very best student research from all over the world, and he employs a team of experts (composed of professors, teachers, and other professionals in their fields) to help him select only 12-18 research papers per quarterly issue. It has received attention from some of the world’s finest historians themselves, including Arthur Schlesinger Jr., David McCullough, and Shelby Foote.
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In short, if your passion is history, The Concord Review should definitely be on your radar. Below is a guide for navigating the steps toward publication. Note that the Review is very selective and only about 45 out of the approximately 900 submissions they receive get published each year. But even if you aren’t selected, the process is well worth the effort. Writing a research paper for the Review teaches you the lifelong skills of how to do research, how to work independently, how to think deeply about one subject, and how to generate and organize your own ideas. (You can also submit your paper to other publications, such as Perspectives on History or the Journal of Student Research.)
If you do get published, the Review is a laudable resting place for all your hard work. And it looks amazing on college applications!
Signing up for the newsletter gives you free access to a few past Concord Review essays. Reading these can give you a sense of the historical subject matter, essay length, research sources, and tone of the journal and inspire your own work. You can also, of course, subscribe yearly or purchase copies of the journal and individual articles on subjects that interest you. If you submit a paper, you will also be subscribed to a year’s worth of The Concord Review.
Your paper must be written by you as the sole author before you graduate from high school and unpublished. “Sole author,” however, doesn’t mean you need to write in complete isolation. Historians don’t generally work in a vacuum. Famous historian Robert. A. Caro, for instance, always discusses his research with his wife, Ina. It’s important to have a knowledgeable teacher or mentor to chat with about your ideas. With Polygence, you have a built-in collaborator. While you’re doing the actual writing and researching, your history mentor will help you stay the course.
Your essay must be around 5000-7000 words (the average are 5500 including the endnotes and bibliography and the largest one accepted has been 21,000!). No need to print out your 18+ page essay and haul it to the post office because only electronic submissions are allowed.
The rules for formatting are very specific. Your paper must include Chicago-style endnotes and a bibliography. (They don’t include a minimum number of sources, but you should aim for a minimum of ten.) Be sure to look through their Essay Requirements page. There you’ll find rules like: use only Arabic numerals for endnotes, not Roman numerals. All endnotes should end with a period. Use only one font family style. If you want to learn more about the importance of bibliographies, check out our handy guide for how to think about citations and references. The paper must be in a Word doc or RTF format, not Google docs or pdf. The filename should be your first and last name followed by an underscore and the first 3 words of your essay title. Etc. None of this is difficult; it just requires some attention to detail. The paper should also go through at least one draft before being proofread and submitted. It should be clear, well-written, and mistake-free. Again, your mentor can help you by providing feedback.
There is a $70 submission fee, but it includes a yearly subscription to the ebook version of the journal. (These submission fees also help keep the journal running.) If you want a print subscription, the fee is $110 for U.S. students or $150 for international students.
Concord Review Deadlines
As far as deadlines are concerned, The Concord Review comes out in the summer (June), fall (September), winter (December), and spring (March). In order to be eligible for a specific issue, here are the deadlines:
For summer issue, by February 1st
For the fall, by May 1
For winter, by August 1
For spring, by November 1
They have a rolling admissions policy and your essay will be eligible for at least the next four issues after they receive it. If your paper is selected, you’ll get a letter the month before it’s published!
Because publication in this journal is so highly regarded by college admission boards, you should ideally try to get your paper in at least six months or so before you apply to college. So say you are applying for college in January of your senior year, you would want to submit a paper before or by February 1st of your junior year. That way you could at least be eligible for the summer, fall, or winter issues before your application is due. But if you’re already a senior, always is better than never! You just need to have written the paper in high school in order to submit it. You can also submit more than one paper before the end of your high school career.
So now… what should you write about?
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Your essay can be about any historical topic, ancient or modern, domestic or foreign. If you haven’t started writing yet, you may be wondering how to pick your topic. Will Fitzhugh himself says, “I tell people, the topic doesn't matter; it's the quality that matters, so a kid learns the joy of scholarship. If you learn what it means to go in-depth, you also realize when you're being superficial.''
The most important thing about choosing your topic is picking something you can get fired up about because you’ll be spending quite a bit of time and energy thinking about it. Does the subject spark your imagination? Does it make you ask a lot of questions? Does it resonate with something in your own life? It also helps if your question addresses a gap in the existing academic literature. Here’s a great article on finding a good research topic and organizing your research. Once you’ve found your direction, get going!
Now—if you’ve chosen a subject dear to your heart—comes the fun part!
So where do you find sources? Start by gathering 3-5 books on your topic. For primary and secondary sources, you’ll also want to visit your local library and arrange for online access to digital databases such as JSTOR, eLibrary, Gale, EBSCO, and Congressional Quarterly. Choose at least 10 total potential sources. Admittedly it can feel overwhelming to find 10+ sources for your research, but one way to manage the task is learning how to skim related books and articles.
To stay motivated, remember Robert A. Caro’s favorite piece of advice: “Turn every page.” In our digital age, that may mean scrolling down further. Read articles that may not support your thesis. You will start with a provisional thesis and new research can always cause you to alter it. Discovery is a big (and fun!) part of the process.
As for the writing process itself, we already wrote this super useful step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper. It gives you a structure for how to attack the project: how to conduct preliminary research, how to draft a thesis statement, how to draft a preliminary outline, crafting expert transitions, how to conclude the paper, and how to work with sources,
As mentioned, having a mentor to bounce ideas around and to proofread your work is priceless. The process of writing your research paper will teach you a lot, but a mentor can push you to make new connections and take your work further.
On Working by Robert A. Caro
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
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