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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.

Funds Available for History Day Research Field Trips

Posted byJessica Ellison on 20 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Teachers

If you are looking to get your students into libraries, outside of school, to do research, History Day has a way!

The Council for Regional Public Library Service Administration (CRPLSA) has partnered with History Day to provide financial support for student research. Schools and libraries have the opportunity to receive reimbursement for travel and research-related expenses at public, academic or specialty libraries. These dollars can reimburse the following expenses:

  • Bus/transportation expenses
  • Substitute fees
  • Teacher stipends (for weekend/evening work)

The dollars CANNOT reimburse the following expenses:

  • Food
  • Overnight hotel stays
  • Field trip expenses not related to research

Schools should work in partnership with libraries to create the best possible research experience for students. Our expectations are that the research must be History Day related and that the majority of students taking advantage of this opportunity will follow this project to completion. Schools and libraries will need to complete an approval form; you can find the form online.

This is a excellent chance for students to gain access to a variety of resources and see the world of libraries beyond their school or public libraries. If you have any questions about this great opportunity, contact Naomi Peuse at 651-259-3435.

History Day Workshops You Won’t Find Elsewhere

Posted byJessica Ellison on 11 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Teachers

In addition to the half-dozen workshops History Day has scheduled throughout the fall at the Minnesota History Center, there are a few workshops in Greater Minnesota, or sponsored in St. Paul by other institutions, that History Day teachers may be interested in attending.

West Central Ultimate and Theme workshop
Otter Tail County Historical Society, Fergus Falls
Tues., Oct. 19, 2010. 9:00 a.m. - noon (ultimate) and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. (theme)
Fee: Free, lunch included
E-mail Laura Zeccardi to register.

South Central Ultimate History Day workshop
South Central Service Cooperative, Mankato
Thurs., Oct. 28, 2010. 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Fee: Free, lunch included
Visit the SCSC website to register.

Central Ultimate History Day workshop
Stearns History Museum, St. Cloud
Fri., Oct. 29, 2010. 8:00 a.m. - noon.
Fee: $30
E-mail Laura Zeccardi to register.

History Day @ Your Library
Minnesota History Center, St. Paul
Wed., Nov. 10, 2010. 8:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Fee: $40, lunch included
Visit the Metronet website to register.

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.

Teacher Workshops Available for all Experience Levels

Posted byJessica Ellison on 21 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: Teachers

Teacher workshop season officially begins next week. Whether you are a new or veteran History Day teacher, we have workshops that will guide you along the path to History Day success.

The Theme Workshop: Debate and Diplomacy in History. Tues., Sept. 28 and Tues., Nov. 16. Explore this year’s theme, get ideas for presenting Debate and Diplomacy to students, and walk away with many topic ideas.

Ultimate Introductory Teacher Workshop. Tues., Nov. 9 and Wed., Dec. 1. Get everything you need to know to get your History Day program up and running. History Day staff will present teaching strategies, and History Day students will present their projects.

Advanced Classroom Management Workshop. Thurs., Dec. 2. For our more veteran teachers, this is an opportunity to learn from your peers and get new ideas for improving or expanding your program. Recommended for teachers who have participating for a few years.

Hands-on History Day Technology: Documentaries and Websites. Thurs., Dec. 9. The technology categories, documentaries and websites, can be complicated to teach and can present students with presentation challenges. This hands-on workshop will allow teachers to play the student and learn how to teach the best ways to use the technology categories.

If you have questions about workshops, call 651-259-3440 or e-mail Mary Ecker.

More moving into the Digital Age: The Intro Pack CD

Posted byJessica Ellison on 14 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: Teachers

Early each fall, History Day teachers rush to their mailboxes in anticipation of the coveted “History Day Intro Pack,” a folder of brightly colored pieces of paper explaining the ins and outs of the History Day universe. As they tear open the large manila folders to expose the colorful folder within, teachers can finally satisfy their curiosity about the new workshops offered, the new teaching materials available, and of course, the yearly national changes to the website category.

Perhaps it is not so exciting as that. But the intro packs do mark the official beginning of the History Day season, and whether or not teachers are clamoring for their print copy of the theme narrative, the information provided at the start of the school year seeks to give teachers a solid foundation on which to build their 2010-2011 program.

This year, the History Day staff has edged closer to the digital age and has transferred the intro pack to CD form. Most of the resources usually offered in the intro pack will be on the CD, as well as many additional materials, such as thesis statement curricula. Program deadlines and competition process information are also prominent in the new CD, in an effort to provide as much information as possible on the front end. Few of these materials are available on our website; the CD and intro pack only go out to enrolled teachers.

The intention of the CD was to make information more easily accessible to teachers, compress all of the somewhat-overwhelming data into a nice digital package, allow teachers to keep all materials in one compact location, and save paper. The capabilities of a CD allow the History Day staff to include much more helpful program info for teachers.

For you purists and paper-company supporters out there, we are still providing the paper copies this year to aid in the transition. The History Day staff intends to survey teachers about the CD, and based on that feedback, it might mean an end to the stacks of brightly colored paper. For this year, at least, you will have your choice of either, so keep watch on your school mailbox … the packets will be arriving shortly.

Plot Out Your History Day Calendar

Posted byJessica Ellison on 07 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: Teachers

The great thing about History Day is that it can be molded to fit just about any school schedule, whether you are on a block, a traditional six-period day, or working with an after-school program. There are endless possibilities for structuring your program, but the History Day staff has assembled a recommended schedule to provide guidance and approximate deadlines throughout the year.


  • Introduce History Day to your students. Explain the rules, the categories, the theme, and encourage them to start thinking about topics.

Before Winter Break

  • Have students and parents sign a contract. The contract ensures that both students and parents know the obligations of the History Day project and that students are committed to completing assignments related to the project.
  • Group choice. Students determine if they will work individually or in groups, with full understanding of the pros and cons of both choices.
  • Topic choice. Students choose a topic that relates to the theme. The topic may narrow, or become more specific, as the year progresses.
  • Category choice. Students decide which category they will use to present their topic. Some topics lend themselves to particular categories.
  • Preliminary research. Many teachers will have students conducting early research before the new year. Much of this early research may be from the internet.

Early January

  • Continue research. Students should begin to visit libraries and more sophisticated online repositories to find primary and secondary sources.
  • Develop first draft of thesis statement. As students’ research expands, they should determine their thesis. The thesis, or their central argument, is a work in progress at this stage.

Late January/Early February

  • Complete research. Students should have a good mix of primary and secondary sources.
  • Develop a rough draft. At this stage, students should be able to compose a rough draft of their script or text blocks. An annotated bibliography should also be in the works.


  • Project completed. Most schools will conduct their school History Day events at this time, so students’ projects should be completed and teachers should have had an opportunity to view them.


  • Regional events. In March, 12 regional events take place across the state. Visit our website to find your regional event date.


  • State History Day. Sunday, May 1, 2011.

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.

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