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National History Day!   Tags: linoff, national_history_day  

Last Updated: Nov 8, 2010 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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National History Day Essentials

Submitted by Ellen Greene


Materials/Teacher Preparation

  • Internet accessibility
  • Handouts for each student.  Each lesson has links to articles and/or worksheets.  You can print these out for the students or they can follow the links in the lessons.


    These lessons are designed to touch on the more specific aspects of scholarly research that are required for a National History Day project.  While many of the standard instructions for doing research are needed to complete a National History Day project, there are also considerations and tips that students can learn in order to find the best, scholarly sources and to apply them to their finished projects.  This lesson will cover finding reliable Internet sources, sources beyond the Internet, distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, choosing a National History Day topic, information analysis and annotated bibliographies.

    Recommended Grade Level
    Grades 6-12

    Time Required
    Each lesson will take 1-2 class periods.



    • Students will look for availability of sources as criteria for choosing a research topic.
    • Students will incorporate key terminology in creating a thesis statement for an NHD project
    • Students will learn how to determine reliability of information found on the Internet.
    • Students will learn where to look for and what other resources they have outside of the Internet.
    • Students will practice differentiating between primary and secondary sources.
    • Students will learn how to analyze the information they find in their research and to draw conclusions about their topic based on their analysis.
    • Students will learn the proper format for the annotation in an annotated bibliography.

    Primary / Secondary Sources

    Primary and Secondary Sources Lesson

    Suggested Procedures
    This might be review for some students, but it is essential to understanding National History Day research.  In most school reports or research papers, students are expected to find sources of research, but usually stick to secondary sources only.  With a NHD project, primary sources are of supreme importance.  Many students think that a primary source is a source that was integral in their research—they list the sources they got the most information from as “primary”.  Primary and secondary are determinations that have nothing to do with the amount of information they got from the source; they are determined by the author and date of the source.

    Opening Exercise
    Start by defining primary and secondary sources and giving examples of each.

    Primary Source—documents that are related to the event through participation (the person witnessed events first-hand) or time (the documents was created at the time of the event).

    Secondary source—documents that was created later by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the event you are researching.

    Some examples of primary sources:

    • Diaries
    • Letters
    • Reports
    • Photographs
    • Financial records
    • Memos
    • Newspaper articles
    • Creative works
    • Interviews

    The key to a primary source is who created them—the creator must be a participator or first-hand witness to the event—and when they were created—during the time period of the event.  These same types of documents are also secondary sources, but the distinction will be based on who created them and when they were created.


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