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And Here They Are … The Top Ten History Day Research Tips

Posted byJessica Ellison on 01 Nov 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

As we roll into November, more students across Minnesota are beginning the History Day research process. Whether you are knee-deep in primary sources at this point or have just opened your first encyclopedia, here are some helpful hints to guide you along your research path.

  1. Start your research with secondary sources. Once you have a basic understanding of your topic and its context and impact, it will be easier to find and comprehend the primary sources that you discover.
  2. Be wary of Internet sources. Wikipedia is convenient, but not 100% reliable. Make sure that the information you are collecting from the Internet is from reputable sources.
  3. Learn how to use sources as springboards. Most scholarly works will have bibliographies in the back that you can use to find other relevant sources.
  4. Read sources with a wary eye. You will find sources with information that conflicts with other sources, sources that have bias, and sources that force you to read between the lines. A wide variety of sources will help you draw conclusions when you run into these research difficulties.
  5. Don’t forget that primary sources can be a variety of different things. Newspapers and letters are primary sources, yes, but so are government documents, diaries, pamphlets, advertisements, commercials, historic sites, telegrams, paintings, court case decisions and autobiographies, among others.
  6. Use interviews if you can get them. Primary interviews, with witnesses to your event, are outstanding sources, and secondary interviews, with professors or other experts, can give you direction.
  7. There is no magic number of History Day sources. A solid project with good research will probably not be based on one or two sources, but that doesn’t mean you have to have 100 sources, either. Research until all your questions are answered to your satisfaction and you can prove your thesis.
  8. There is no perfect source. You will not find an 1850 diary entry from Harriet Tubman that explains exactly why and how she decided to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad. It is your job, as a historian, to find the information you need from various sources.
  9. Continue researching, even if you think you’ve found everything. You never know where you might find an amazing source. Visit public and academic libraries, archives, and historical societies to seek out additional sources.
  10. Ask for help. Don’t hesitate to ask if you feel stuck or frustrated or lost. Librarians, archivists, teachers and the History Day staff are all here to help you, and chances are you’ll be more successful if you have someone help you than if you ignore your questions.

Great University of Minnesota Resources

Posted byJessica Ellison on 27 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

For students looking for high-quality, in-depth resources on a few specific topics, the University of Minnesota has several fascinating collections and centers that can provide excellent information. Here are a few that may spark their interest.

Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The CHGS is dedicated to education about the Holocaust and other genocides. The website includes some sources, featuring virtual exhibits, histories and narratives, and links and other references, but the collections at the center are more comprehensive. Students can visit the CHGS from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday - Friday or by appointment.

Immigration History Resource Center. The IHRC promotes research on international migration. Sources include recently digitized and translated immigrant letters, personal papers, records of immigrant organizations, and ethnic periodicals. Students can visit during regular hours or make an appointment.

Social Welfare History Archives. The SWHA collects information on social services and social reform organizations. Subjects addressed in their collections include the settlement house movement, the social work profession, sexuality-related issues such as birth control, child welfare, community planning, and health care. The library is open weekdays and Saturday mornings, and appointments are recommended.

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. The Tretter Collection covers GLBT topics from all time periods, and includes sources such as books, manuscripts, digital images, community newspapers, artifacts and more. The collection is open weekdays and Saturday morning, and appointments are recommended.

Upper Midwest Jewish Archives. The UMJA includes the holdings of the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest. The collections include records of community organizations, synagogues, and women’s organizations, personal papers, and regional holdings.  Students must gain permission to use the archives. Archivist Susan Hoffman can guide students in the process of gaining permission.

Visit the Andersen Library website for information on other collections that may be helpful to a student’s research.

Sampling of Topic Ideas for D&D

Posted byJessica Ellison on 29 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

Our first History Day workshop of the year, held yesterday at the History Center, was a fun and interesting discussion about “Debate and Diplomacy in History.” History Day staff and teachers considered the meanings of the words debate and diplomacy, the complexities of this theme for students, and the surprisingly vast array of potential topics.

A sampling of some of the fascinating topics discussed at the workshop:

  • The Equal Rights Amendment. Since 1923, the federal Equal Rights Amendment, requiring equal rights for men and women, has failed to be ratified by the necessary number of states. Supporters and opponents have debated the issue for decades. It is still being debated, and three states are currently needed to ratify.
  • U.S. films in European markets. In the 1940s, American filmmakers negotiated with European governments to allow more U.S. films to be shown in overseas theaters, due to falling domestic markets. Many European countries were reluctant. These new relationships changed the film industry, especially its economics.
  • Loving v. Virginia. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation, or ban on interracial marriage, to be unconstitutional. The case overturned an 1883 Supreme Court decision and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States
  • The Three-Fifths Compromise. During the Constitutional Convention, the delegates agreed upon a compromise that counted blacks as three-fifths of a person. This compromise, in answer to a debate regarding taxes and representation and as part of a debate between large and small states, changed the South’s representation in Congress and strengthened the stronghold of slavery in that region.

Stay tuned for more topic ideas, or attend our second theme workshop on Tues., Nov. 16.

Welcome to the 2010-2011 school year!

Posted byJessica Ellison on 30 Aug 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

As summer ends and school begins, the History Day season is officially on! 2010 was a great year for Minnesota History Day, culminating with a fantastic showing by the Minnesota delegation at the national competition in June. In all, Minnesota captured seven medals, including a first-place win in the senior group performance category. For complete national results, visit our website.

The History Day program is off and running as soon as September begins. Here are a few items to get you started in the 2010-2011 season:

  • The 2011 theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.” More information on the theme is available online. Two theme workshops are available for teachers: Tues., Sept. 28 and Tues., Nov. 16. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the theme with staff and receive many topic ideas! Call 651-259-3440 to register. Keep checking our website for more History Day workshops throughout the fall.
  • Minnesota History Day is now on Facebook! Keep up-to-date on all things History Day and join in our conversations on our Facebook page.
  • All teachers who participated in 2010 will be automatically enrolled for 2011. If you are a new teacher, please enroll online to make sure you receive all of our mailings throughout the year.
  • Update your 2011 calendars now! State History Day is Sunday, May 1, 2011.

Stay tuned to the blog for further updates, topic ideas, research suggestions and more, throughout the 2011 season!

State History Day is One Month Away — Have you Turned in your Forms?

Posted byJessica Ellison on 01 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

State History Day is one month from today, and registration forms are due tomorrow. All exhibit, documentary and performance regional finalists must have their forms in our office by tomorrow (website and paper students are already registered). You can drop them off or fax them in.

Address: 345 Kellogg Blvd. W, St. Paul. Our offices are on the second floor, across from the Education Center.

Fax number: 651-259-3434

Remember that you can make any changes that you want between regions and state, as long as your category and topic remain the same. Exhibit students: If you would like to purchase a new exhibit board, we have some available. Individual boards must be picked up at the History Center; we can ship boards in groups of 10. White boards are $7.00, plus $2.00 for a title board. Black boards are $8.00, plus $3.00 for a title board. Contact Ali Kappes to place your order.

Going to State? Do more research!

Posted byJessica Ellison on 25 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

If you have been chosen as a regional finalist and are headed to state on May 1, it would be a really good idea to polish and increase your resources. Although it is important what your final project looks like, it is even more important that your research is as solid as it can be. Judges will be surveying your bibliography very critically to make sure that you have sought out a variety of reliable sources. Take these next few weeks as an opportunity to improve not only the look of your exhibit or the costumes of your performance, but also the primary and secondary sources that have illuminated your topic.

This is also a good time to reevaluate your bibliography and make sure that your sources are listed correctly. Make sure that all of your primary sources are actually primary. Remember that a primary source is a source that was created at the time of an event or created by a witness to an event. Timelines, general information websites, most biographies, individual quotes and sources that are current but have given you a lot of information are not primary. The judges will be checking to make sure that all your sources are listed properly, so ask a teacher, parent or History Day staffer to determine if your sources are correct.

Get Help with your State-Bound Projects!

Posted byJessica Ellison on 17 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

If you were chosen as a regional finalist and will be headed to the State History Day competition on May 1, you have an opportunity to get a bit of extra help with your project. The History Day staff will be conducting Category Help Sessions for any state-bound students who want some feedback as they make changes to their projects.

Twenty-minute sessions with HD staffers will be available on one of two dates:

  • Tuesday, April 6: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 10: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you would like to take advantage of this great opportunity, e-mail Jessica Ellison with the following information:

  • Your name (and group members’ names, if applicable)
  • Your project category
  • Your school
  • Your preferred date and time

These help sessions are first-come, first-served. We will try to accommodate time requests. If you choose to sign up, bring your project (performers, be prepared to perform live) and your bibliography. Staff will review your project and make suggestions for improvement. DO NOT sign up if you are unwillingly to make some changes to your project. HD staff is happy to help you, but you have to be ready to take advice and run with it.

Correct Bibliography Citations are Important

Posted byJessica Ellison on 10 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Students, Teachers

Many students are using online citation programs, such as Easy Bib or Noodle Bib, to generate their citations. While these programs can sometimes be helpful as students assemble their bibliographies, there are certain flaws that can result in incorrect citations. For example, when using Easy Bib’s MLA style to cite a government document, the citation formula does not ask for an original date of publication. Students citing the United States Constitution, as found on the Library of Congress website, will be asked for the date the document was published on the website and the date the document was accessed, but not for the original publication date.

Be cautious of online citation generators. History Day rules require the bibliography citations to be in either MLA or Turabian style, and certain citations assembled online do not match either of these. In general, it is always a good idea to have students use the printed guides, “A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations” by Kate Turabian or “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers” by Joseph Gibaldi, instead of using the online generators. It’s similar to the skill of telling time or doing long division; digital clocks and calculators are available, but students still need to learn how to read traditional clocks and do long division by hand. Additionally, the online generators seem easier, but in many cases it is more complicated than simply referencing one of these books.

If the books are not available at your school library, here are a few helpful citation guides online for Turabian and MLA.

Let the Games Begin!

Posted byJessica Ellison on 02 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: Parents, Students, Teachers

Welcome to regional event season! Our events begin today with Metro Senior at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and throughout the month of March, 11 other events will take place at various locations. To see a list of all event locations, visit the Event Info website.

If you are new to the History Day competition process, here are some helpful hints to get you through your exciting, yet sometimes nerve-wracking experience at the regional events.

1. Get your registration forms in on time. Schedules need to be made in advance, and if we don’t have your forms well before the event, we don’t know that you need a space at the event.

2. Dress accordingly. Remember that this is an academic competition, and you are presenting yourself as a historian. Leave your pajama pants and ratty t-shirts at home!

3. Bring at least four paper copies of your bibliography and process paper. Don’t bring them only on a flash drive!

4. Arrive early to register and check out your judging space. It’s good to know the layout of your judging room or where your exhibit will be.

5. Greet the judges with a smile and a handshake. Don’t be too nervous around the judges; they are there to learn from your project.

6. View other people’s projects. This is a time for you to learn, too.

7. If you advance to state, your registration deadline is April 2, 2010.

8. Enjoy yourself! This is a great time to present your work, hang out with your friends, look at some amazing projects, and add something impressive to your academic resume.

Chronicling America - Minnesota Newspapers Digitized and Online

Posted byJessica Ellison on 21 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: Students, Teachers

There is exciting progress in the effort to digitize historic newspapers in Minnesota!

The Minnesota Historical Society has been working with the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), thanks to a grant made possible by NEH and the Library of Congress.  They have just finished their first grant cycle and have digitized and made available online 25 years of The Saint Paul Globe Newspaper (and its earlier titles: Daily Globe and St. Paul Daily Globe), from 1880-1905 and one year of the Minneapolis Journal newspaper (1901).

These newspapers can be found on the Chronicling America website –

In the next grant cycle more years of the Journal will be added, as well as several other newspaper titles from around Minnesota.  About 15 other states also have newspapers up on Chronicling America. Compared to the days of looking at microfilm, Chronicling America is an amazing resource – both for the ability to view the newspapers and to search their content online.  Images can be downloaded and printed out.

You can search by newspaper and year, and can search individual newspaper pages using a keyword search.  The keyword search is particularly neat and is an extremely fast way to search for information on your topic. This is a great way to access primary sources and find visuals for your projects in the form of newspaper headlines and political cartoons.

If you are doing a Minnesota topic be sure to check out the website!

Happy Researching! - Laura

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