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National History Day Winning Topics For Argumentative Essays

Nothing in history happens in a vacuum. To understand the connections between your topic and the time period, begin reading about the time period and as you read ask yourself questions:

  • Why did my topic happen at this particular time and in this particular place?
  • What were the events or the influences that came before my topic?
  • How was my topic influenced by and how did it influence the economic, social, political, and cultural climate of the time period?

All of these questions will help you to build the story of your topic and grasp the historical significance. This will also help you begin thinking about your thesis.

Develop a Thesis Statement

NHD projects should do more than just tell a story. Every exhibit, performance, documentary, paper and website 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. Example:

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.

Primary Sources

A primary source is a piece of information about a historical event or period in which the creator of the source was an actual participant in or a contemporary of a historical moment. The purpose of primary sources is to capture the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past. Primary sources help you to interpret what happened and why it happened.

Examples of primary sources include: documents, artifacts, historic sites, songs, or other written and tangible items created during the historical period you are studying.

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is a source that was not created first-hand by someone who participated in the historical era. Secondary sources are usually created by historians, but based on the historian’s reading of primary sources. Secondary sources are usually written decades, if not centuries, after the event occurred by people who did not live through or participate in the event or issue. The purpose of a secondary source is to help build the story of your research from multiple perspectives and to give your research historical context.

An example of a secondary source is Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson, published in 1988. They are a great starting point in helping you see the big picture. Understanding the context of your topic will help you make sense of the primary sources that you find.

The primary and secondary sources McPherson used are listed in the bibliography. Another researcher might consult these same primary sources and reach a different conclusion.

Citations/Bibliographies

To record the information the two acceptable styles of writing for NHD projects are Turabian and MLA. Historians use Turabian but we know that many classes in middle school and high school teach the MLA style. It does not matter which of these two styles you use, but it is important to be consistent. For help with questions about citations, you can check out Turabian or MLA guides from your local library.

Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is required for all categories. The annotation for each source must explain how the source was used and how it helped you understand your topic. You should also use the annotation to explain why you categorized a particular source as primary or secondary. Sources of visual materials and oral interviews, if used, must also be included.

List only those sources that you used to develop your entry. An annotation normally should be only 1-3 sentences long. Visit our Annotated Bibliography page for more information.

NoodleTools: NHD and NoodleTools partner together to bring teachers and students the opportunity to organize their research. Teachers can sign up and receive account access for all of their students to help complete their NHD projects. Noodle Tools can help students track their sources, take notes, organize their ideas, and create their annotated bibliographies. The program allows the teacher to see the progress the students have made and offer direct electronic feedback.

Conducting Interviews

Interviews are not required for an NHD project. Requests to interview historians or other secondary sources are inappropriate. Historians do not interview each other. You are encouraged to read and learn about your topic on your own. Consider interviewing primary sources- eyewitnesses to the events. Learn more at the link below.

The website category is the most interactive of all NHD categories. A website should reflect your ability to use website design software and computer technology to communicate your topic’s significance in history. Your historical website should be a collection of web pages, interconnected by hyperlinks, that presents both primary and secondary sources and your historical analysis. To engage and inform viewers, your website should incorporate interactive multimedia, text, non-textual descriptions (e.g., photographs, maps, music, etc.), and interpretations of sources. To construct a website, you must have access to the Internet and be able to operate appropriate software and equipment.

How is a Website Different from Other Categories?

Websites can display materials online, your own historical analysis as well as primary and secondary sources. Websites are interactive experiences where viewers can play music, look at a video or click on different links. Viewers can freely navigate and move through the website. Websites use color, images, fonts, documents, objects, graphics and design, as well as words, to tell your story.

  • Research your topic first. Examine primary and secondary sources. From this research, create your thesis. This will be the point that you want to make with your historical website.
  • Narrow in on the content of your website. Decide what information you want to incorporate in your web pages, such as any photos, primary documents, or media clips you may have found. You should be sure to have plenty of supporting information for your thesis.
  • Create your website with the NHD Site Editor.Click here to begin the registration process.
  • Consider organization and design.
    • Keep it simple: don’t waste too much time on bells and whistles. Tell your story and tell it straight.
    • Borrow ideas from other websites: find design elements that work and imitate them on your website. Just remember to give credit where credit is due.
    • Make sure every element of your design points back to your topic, thesis, and/or time period. There should be a conscious reason for every choice you make about color, typeface, or graphics.

PLEASE NOTE – If you converted your website to save from previous contest years, you will need to use a new email address to create an account for the 2015 contest. The email address is optional and only used to recover passwords in the event of forgotten or lost passwords.

With so many complaints in the past regarding the Scrib.d element on NHD Weebly, we have removed this element and recommend students post their bibliographies and process papers as PDF files on their websites, using the ‘File’ element under ‘Media’. Please visit the following website created by former NHD participant, Christopher Su, for helpful tips and guides: NHD Website Resources

If you have any further questions please email IT@nhd.org with your current URL and login information. If you have lost your login information, cannot convert your standard Weebly to NHD Weebly, or need an account recovered please email nhdsupport@weebly.com.

A process paper is a description of how you conducted your research, developed your topic idea, and created your entry. The process paper must also explain the relationship of your topic to the contest theme. For more information on the Process Paper and other rules, review the Contest Rule Book (English) / Contest Rule Book (Spanish).

National Contest Student Website Examples

Junior Group

Senior Group

Senior Individual

China's Surge into Silk: The Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange of the Silk Road

Tigan Donaldson & Brian Ely

The Visionary Exploration of Jacques Cousteau: Changing Perceptions of the Ocean through Undersea Encounters

Sovigne Gardner & Grace Gardner

Ada Lovelace, The Enchantress of Computing: Exploring the Beginnings of the Information Evolution

Denisse Cordova

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