As students begin the process of selecting their topics for History Day 2019, they may feel overwhelmed at their choices. We invited a current CHD student, Lindsay Meyers, to talk about her experience and to share her thoughts on picking a topic-- especially a local one!
Picking a topic for your History Day project can be a stressful but exciting experience. There are over a million great topics but choosing just one can be very difficult. My first piece of advice on choosing a topic is to make sure that you enjoy what you’re researching. Find a topic that includes your interests. For example, along with history, I have a strong passion for science. My past two years, I did topics relating to science, so I got to do lots of historical research, and learn more about different scientific fields.
Finding a local topic may seem daunting, but it is actually really easy. The first thing I always do when searching for a local topic is research about my town, to see if there were any historical events that occurred that may relate to the theme. I also look back at all of my notes from my history class. A lot of my past history teachers would include a common historical figure or event that had an impact on my town or the state. This actually helped me find my topic for 2016’s theme: Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange. My middle school was named Rochambeau Middle School, after the French general that aided Washington during the Revolutionary War. In class we were learning about American history, and had a lesson in depth about Rochambeau. I found out that Rochambeau had actually camped with his army in my town, not too far from my house! I did some more research on my own, and found that he would be a great topic for the theme.
One benefit about choosing a local topic is the abundance of sources that are very close. The archive at the state library contained many letters and primary documents from Rochambeau, that helped my research immensely. I was able to get to see these real documents, and not have to travel far!
If these two steps do not help you find a local topic or a topic that interests you, ask your friends, family, peers, and teachers, if they know of any interesting people or stories that may relate to the theme. During the 2017 theme: Taking a Stand in History, my sisters and I struggled to choose a topic. We asked our parents about some people who took a stand in history, and my mom told us the story of our grandmother. My grandmother created the National Organization of Rare Diseases, (NORD), a worldwide organization that helps treat and aid people with rare diseases, such as Tourette. My sisters and I were quickly intrigued, and called our grandmother to learn more about her story. After hearing her incredible story, we realized how it connected to the theme, and chose our grandmother as our topic.
Don’t be afraid to pick topics that are not commonly known! My grandmother and NORD had never been done as a history day topic before, so getting to be one of the first person to research and present it made me very excited! It may be hard to find resources at first, but that’s what makes it fun. You get to be one of the first people to research the topic and analyze all of the sources for others to use in the future.
I hope that this will help you choose a topic for this year! Best of luck to everyone!