Picking a topic for your National History Day® project is the most important first step. You must make sure that your topic fits within the annual theme, that it fits the entry category (exhibit, documentary, etc.) you want to pursue, and that it is narrow enoughto allow you to tell the whole story easily. Don’t hesitate to look at areas you are interested in, even if they don’t appear to be historic. History can be found in science, sports, transportation, and fashion. History is not all about dead presidents and treaties. Research something you want to know about!
Choosing Your Topic
- Make sure your topic fits the theme
- Choose a topic that is not likely to be selected by others.
- The topic should be narrow enough to be researched thoroughly in the time available.
- The idea is to gradually narrow the area of history (period or event) that interests you to a manageable subject. Keep in mind the parameters you are given for each category (see the Rule Book). You only have so many words and, in some categories, a time limit to present your project.
- Develop your thesis. Analyze the preliminary information you have collected to assist in supporting your thesis.
- You need to have a good balance of both primary and secondary resources for your project. There are many historical institutions that have large collections of both primary and secondary resources available to assist with your research project.
- Primary sources are first hand evidence to help support your thesis. A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records.
- A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Some types of seconday sources include textbooks, magazine articles, histories, criticisms, commentaries, and encyclopedias.
- Remember to take detailed notes throughout your research process.
- Decide which type of category you want to use to present your project. You can choose an exhibit, documentary, performance, historical paper or website. In Bucks and Montgomery Counties’ regional contest the exhibit category is the most popular. This means winning a place to the state competition is much more difficult than in some of the other categories.
- Read the Rule Book! This details everything you will need to know about your category. It is a guideline on how to create your project.
- Outline the details of your project. This will assist you in knowing the resources you will need to support yourthesis
- Ask for advice from teachers, parents, and friends.