Select a Topic
Your topic and the NHD Theme
Selecting a topic for your National History Day project first involves understanding the theme. Your topic must clearly relate to the National History Day theme. Failure to adhere to the theme will result in an automatic 20-point deduction in your History Day judging score. National History Day provides an annual Theme Sheet, which summarizes the theme, to help teachers and students to understand the theme. The 2012 theme is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History. See the 2012 Theme Sheet below to learn about the theme. The Topic Selection Worksheet, provided below, is an excellent tool to help students select a suitable topic for their History Day project.
Three Common Mistakes of Topic Selection
Three common mistakes that NHD students make in selecting their topic are selecting a topic that is too broad, too recent, or too complex.
- Too Broad - For a topic to be manageable it must be focussed. Examples of topics that are too broad include World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. Both have very long and complex histories that could not be adequately covered in a History Day project. Selecting a subtopic of one of these such as the Yalta Conference or Rosa Parks' part in the Civil Rights Movement will make for a manageable History Day Topic.
- Too Recent - If a topic is too recent it is difficult to determine their significance in history. Primary source material such as government documents and personal accounts may be limited. And it may be difficult to identify a topic's historical context. Examples of topics that would be too recent are the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks and their repercussions, the 2010 Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and The tragedies and effects of Hurricane Katrina. National History Day recommends that a topic be at least 20 years old.
- Too Complex - Topics that are too complex often involve technical topics such as medicine, nuclear weapons, computers, etc. Complexity can come in your own understanding of the topic or in being able to communicate the significance of a complex topic to your audience.