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National History Day: Steps in the Research Process

Getting Started

Historical Research Steps

Step 1: Determine an area of interest.  .
Step 2:  Dissecting the Theme.   
Step 3: Choosing a Topic
Step 4: Finding a Research Question.  
Step 5: Doing Research.  
Step 6: Building a Thesis
Step 7: Choosing a Category.   
Step 8: Creating Projects.  
Step 9: Feedback.  

Paper Management System

Organize your notes and citations

While researching, use source sheets to keep track of what sources were used, where you found the information within the source, and where you found the source.

Source Sheets you can print to keep tract of your sources and take notes.

Set up an annotated bibliography document right away, so you can easily get back to any source quickly.

Choosing A Topic

How do I choose a topic? Think, read, talk...

Think Broadly. Remember to think broadly when searching for books and other items - realize that your specific topic will probably be treated in items that cover a broader subject. Keep thinking, reading and jotting down questions until you have many ideas that are interesting. Now go back through the list and circle the ideas that connect with the theme. From the ideas that you circled, select one to begin your research.

Choose something different! Judges may see three or four entries on common topics. If you choose something a little unusual; You'll learn more, You'll show that you've taken the time and made the effort to do something special, You'll get a "Wow!" effect

  • Think of a person who was the leader or catalyst at a Turning Point in History
  • Think of an idea that changed the way we think about or deal with an issue.
  • Think of an event that changed the direction of a society.

Choose something for which good sources are easily available. Judges look for good, reliable, varied sources that you have used for research and for evidence that you have actually read the sources in your bibliography, and may ask you how you used each source! It’s better to have fewer sources that you have read and understood than lots of sources you clearly have not read and used in your project.

Thesis Statement

Thesis Development Worksheet

NHD resource for building a thesis

Develop a Thesis Statement

NHD projects should do more than just tell a story. Every exhibit, performance, documentary, paper and web site should make a point about its topic. To do this, you must develop your own argument of the historical impact of the person, event, pattern or idea you are studying. The point you make is called a thesis statement. A thesis statement is not the same as a topic. Your thesis statement explains what you believe to be the impact and significance of your topic in history.

The thesis answers the question, “So what?” The thesis is the significance of the incident that you are  describing. The thesis is what the given information adds up to, your explanation of it, your purpose in presenting it. The thesis is the point you are trying to prove. A thesis is a promise, fulfilled in the project.

Try to state your thesis in one sentence.  It will help you to stay focused.

Topic: Battle of Gettysburg
Thesis Statement: The battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point of the Civil War. It turned the tide of the war from the South to the North, pushing back Lee's army that would never fight again on Northern soil and bringing confidence to the Union army.

Sources To Begin With

Begin with secondary sources to acquire background knowledge about your topic. Start with an encyclopedia article to get a broad overview.  Then, find a book or two in the library using school's Destiny Online Catalog to find books on your topic.This will enable you to narrow your topic further. This also will let you view other historians' opinions and compare and contrast them.


If You Are Working In A Group

A. Divide up repsonsibilties and split the work equally!

B. Use your own indiviudal talents and interests to strengthen the quality of the project!

C. Communicate with each other to make sure everyone knows what each other is working on. Share your research findings, your personal theories and ideas, etc.

D. Organize your personal work and your group's work by using source sheets, notebooks, notecards or google docs.