By now, students have identified topics for their History Day projects and are in the beginning stages of research. Students begin their project research by concentrating on secondary sources. Like other projects, students should use a guiding question to direct their research.
Once students have chosen a topic, one of the first tasks of students is to narrow the topic. So often, students try to research a big, broad topic and that just is not possible. Encourage students to focus their topic into a doable topic that strongly links to this year's them of Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.
Encourage students to "funnel" their interests from a broad topic to a narrower, more focused one.
Have students develop a research question to guide their work. A research question is not a thesis statement, but it is a guiding question that students seek to answer through research. I've included an example showing how starting with a broad topic (American School for the Deaf) can lead to a targeted research question.
It is often tempting for students to want to jump right to primary research, but it is vital that they start with good secondary research. Secondary sources are ones that are produced by someone who did not experience the historical event first hand.
Why is good secondary research so vital? Secondary research helps students:
Good secondary research involves utilizing a variety of types of sources such as books, articles, documentaries, and websites. Too often, students do a google search and list a bunch of websites as secondary sources. Some websites might be appropriate, but students need to be sure the website is a reputable source. I encourage students to utilize their local libraries for research since they will have access to books , articles, documentaries, and databases.