National History Day Projects!

Your project gives you the chance to work with library databases to improve the quality of your work.   Read why middle schoolers use databases instead of web sites for history projects!

If you choose, you can compose your bibliography by making use of NoodleTools.  Many students competing will do so, too.  Learn more and ask Maggie for help during I-Block if you want to try it out.

1) Learn how to form a Research-able Question:

  • Resources at the National History Day web site can help you  learn about this year’s theme (Breaking Barriers in History) and follow their tips to develop a theme into a research-able question.
  • Over-Arching Question and Focus Questions – apply the “prime” stems.
  • ESPRAT+G  – helps you take really broad topics and learn the sorts of questions you could ask to explore just one part of that topic in a really deep way:  economic, social, political, religious, artistic, technological or geographical.

2) Apply Selected Resources:

Use the following resources to begin formulating a Research-able Question.  Remember to explore Reference Sources such as specialized encyclopedia articles to get a broad overview of your topic and see the  directions in which a very narrow study could go. Your goal is to move beyond common knowledge and explore a topic related to this year’s National History Day Theme:  Breaking Barriers in History!


Reference Sources- these databases are great:

  1. For an overview of your topic, use the World Book or Britannica databases.
  2. If you want materials that are a little easier to read, try Kids Infobits.
  3. Move on to Gale World History in Context database.   It also provides reference sources.
  4. Opposing Viewpoints in Context is outstanding for presenting different perspectives on controversial issues.

Secondary Sources:

  1. Move into Gale World History in Context database.  (Select the US History in Context database, instead, if you are studying a topic of US history.  Or if your project is about a person, use Gale Biographies in Context database.) Each of these databases provides professionally written articles from reference sources, magazines and primary sources.  It also provides carefully reviewed web sites and videos.  (The “Academic Journals” might be written for an older audience.)
  2. Do a library catalog search on your topic. Many times, print books will be your best resource, especially if your topic is historical.  History is best taught in books, and the authors aren’t giving away their life’s work for free on the internet.  In a small library like ours, you can also just go to the 900s for History, or to the the BIOGRAPHY section to look on the shelves for a call number 92-_ _ _ where the last part is the first three letters of the biographee’s last name.  Example:  92-LIN  is where to find biographies on Abraham Lincoln.
  3. Advanced Research: Put the name of your person or event in “quotation marks” when you search the database called Proquest E-book Central. Use “advanced search” for important options and see how many different types of media it brings forth!Work further with Gale/Cengage which provides access to Gale’s DATABASE OF DATABASES.  Does your topic of inquiry get support from a very specific database listed there? Try that specific database.

Primary Sources:

  1. Wikipedia articles on your topic sometimes link primary sources.  Those are the BEST AND MOST CREDIBLE information that Wikipedia might provide a scholar; be skeptical of other information in Wikipedia. (Don’t cite Wikipedia in your research papers.)
  2. Work inside the databases to efficiently find primary sources that have been collected for you. Use the last link on Dan’s “Canvas” menu to go to HBW’s databases.
  3. Library books are great sources of primary sources such as images and speeches that were collected by the author to add detail and evidence to her work.   Do a library catalog search of “all libraries” within Arlington Public Schools and get help from the librarian to obtain an inter-library loan (ILL) if necessary.
  4. Gale’s History in Context database is helpful for understanding the context in which a historical figure lived.  It links lots of primary sources when you research about the time period (instead of the person.)
  5. Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebookslink.

For a list of Information Literacy Skills emphasized for Middle Schoolers at HBW, use the link at left.  Need help?  Ask your librarian!  She might have the perfect resource to help!