Choosing Your National History Day Topic

Are you  struggling to come up with a topic for this year’s theme (Remember: it’s Rights and Responsibilities in History)? For many, this can be the most difficult part of creating your National History Day project. But, I promise, once you get that topic, your research will move along smoothly. So, how do you jump that hurdle?

Your first step is to think about the theme:

  • What are rights?
  • What are responsibilities?
  • Does one lead to the other?
  • As students, what are your rights?
  • Do you have any responsibilities to your teachers or your fellow students? To your parents?
  • Questions like these can help you start to think about the theme to make it manageable


You probably already have a basic understanding of the theme without even realizing it, so don’t be concerned!

Now that you have an understanding of the theme, now what? How do you find a topic that fits it? National History Day deliberately chooses broad themes so that you can find almost anything of interest that will work with it, so I guarantee you can find something that is of interest to you that will make a viable topic. You just may have to get a little creative and think outside the box. Below are a few suggestions I have.

Using your own hobbies, favorite things to do or learn about:

  • Start by thinking of 2-3 things that just interest you. Maybe it’s ballet, baseball, horses, watching tv, soldiers, etc. 
  • Write down those 2-3 things that interest you that you may want to learn more about.
  • Ask your teacher, librarian, or parent to help you find a good secondary source (like a biography, encyclopedia, or website) that can give you background information on your subject of interest.
  • From there you may be able to find a particular person, event, location, time period, etc related to your subject that you want to learn more about. This can lead you to a topic that both interests you, is historical, and can be easily related to the theme.

Using the information you read every day to help you figure out a topic:

  • You can also look in current magazines and newspapers (online or in print!) to find current events that interest you.
  • Then you can start to research backwards to discover how we got to the current event.

Using what’s already out there to help you think about the theme:

  • There are also several suggested topic lists on this website and in your themebook that can help you narrow down your interests.
  • They provide a wide variety of topics that relate to many different types of history. Use them as a jumping off point!

Lastly, if you have questions about topic selection or your potential topic contact me! I’m always available to help.

Your erstwhile NHDKy coordinator,

Cheryl Caskey (




Chronicle|History Burgoo|KJHS

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