The time is nearing.
Topics have been chosen, research is in full swing, students are starting to ponder color schemes and costume choices. That can only mean that the time for one of the most difficult steps in the process is at hand: the writing of the thesis statement.
The thesis statement, best written when students are in the middle of their research so the statement is based on knowledge but still has a chance to be flexible, helps direct students through their argument and, later, judges and teachers through the project’s ultimate point. It is so important, and for a lot of students, so daunting.
There are no hard and fast rules for thesis-statement writing, but here are a couple of guidelines to ease students’ path.
- Keep it short. Thesis statements should hover between 40-60 words. Too short, and there’s not enough information to explain the argument. Too long, and too many details have been included. Plus, if the students are creating an exhibit, and they only have 500 student-composed words to use, it doesn’t make sense to use up 100 of those words on just the thesis.
- Include all five W’s. The thesis is the first thing the viewer reads, so we should know immediately the who-what-where-when, and also the why-is-this-important.
- Include the theme words. Judges and teachers need to know how the topic relates to the theme, especially if the topic is obscure, extremely narrow, or isn’t immediately clear in its connection to the theme words.
- Leave facts out, put arguments in. We don’t need to see every detail of the topic in the thesis. Leave those for the project itself. What we need to see in the thesis is the student’s argument, or the point he/she is trying to make.
- Write, revise, research, revise. Students should not use the first draft of their thesis statement, but instead should revise based on feedback, go back to their research or conduct new research to make sure the thesis is accurate, and then revise once more.
If you can, show students good examples of thesis statements, as well as bad examples. Here is a good resource to get you started. While a good thesis statement doesn’t automatically ensure a good project, it certainly makes the project better and helps the student find a focus.
Why Teach a Theme?
The 2018 theme is Conflict and Compromise in History.
Every year National History Day® frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Taking a Stand in History. The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.
See past annual themes.
The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.
The 2017 Taking A Stand in History Theme Webinar
Watch the video on SchoolTube!
Theme Book Resources
Newseum Resource for Coxey's Army
Ten Strategies for Using Chronicling America in Your Classroom
Learn More About the Flying Tigers
Read The 2017 Theme Book