July 17, 2020

NHD 2018: Selecting a Topic for a History Project

Basic Guidelines to Selecting a History Fair Topic

The graphic above from the Chicago Metro History Fair (CMHF) is a great encapsulation of how to choose a topic for a history fair project. In addition, ask yourself the questions listed below.

  • Does the topic relate to the 2018 National History Day (NHD) theme: Conflict & Compromise in History?
  • For Illinois students, does the topic relate to local or Illinois state history?
  • Does the topic really interest you?
  • Do you have a personal connection to the topic? (It’s not necessary but it can be a good thing.)
  • Will you be able to find enough primary and secondary sources to thoroughly research the topic?
  • Why is this topic important?
  • What will people learn from your project?

Below we dig a bit deeper and uncover some strategies from TPS-Barat and CMHF for selecting a topic for your history fair project.

Understanding the theme

Each year NHD chooses a particular theme that must be the focus of student projects. For 2018, the theme is Conflict & Compromise in History. Before doing anything else, make sure you understand the theme.

A few more suggestions adapted from suggestions from a NHD coordinator from an article found on the CMHF website are listed below.

  • Discuss how the theme of Conflict & Compromise relates to people, events, and issues you’ve learned about earlier this year and in previous years and make a list.
  • Free write about what the theme means to you personally or to someone you know.

Exploring topics

  • Create an outline or mind map of the topic ideas listed in the articles above.
  • Review the NHD sample topic ideas and the sample topic resource lists compiled by TPS-Barat, which consist of primary sources & other resources primarily from the Library of Congress.
  • Illinois students need to keep it local so it can help to review the CMHF suggested topic ideas and search the TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus for related resources.
  • Flip through newspaper and magazine articles about current events that you find interesting or concerning and then consider the historical and local angles to those topics. (Remember, the theme is Conflict & Compromise in History; your project may not be about a current event.)
  • Browse through a history textbook.
  • Check out local and state historical sites, museums and websites.

Narrowing choices

Evaluating topic selection

  • Review the excellent graphic organizer from CMHEC highlighted below.
  • Download the graphic organizer (.pdf; includes a blank copy).

CMHEC: Selecting a Topic Graphic Organzier

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