National History Day Essentials
Submitted by Ellen Greene
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
Primary / Secondary Sources
Primary and Secondary Sources Lesson
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.
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:
- Financial records
- Newspaper articles
- Creative works
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.