An essential component of a successful History Day project is a solid thesis. A thesis is what you will prove in your project. (The word ‘thesis’ originates from the Greek word for “proposition”). Your thesis is your argument, your point, your reason for all of your research. You have to have one!
While a thesis is usually associated with written papers, you will need to have a thesis in whatever form of project you choose to produce for the History Day competition. In a documentary video, a performance, and exhibit, or a website, you will also need a thesis!
In your research, your thesis my come at the beginning, the middle, or near the end of the process. Your thesis may also be modified or change completely as you research and complete your project.
So what makes a good thesis? Maybe the best way to answer that question is to ask yourself the simple question “What’s the point?” What are you trying to say, to argue, or to prove in your research? What’s the big deal about your topic? Why should someone read / watch / listen / point and click around your research?
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you have chosen “The Children’s Crusade in Birmingham in 1963” as your topic. What are you going to prove about the topic? What’s the big deal?
As you research, you find out that young children (as young as seven) marched to protest the segregation in Birmingham and the treatment of protestors by the local government. You decide your thesis will be “Children participated in the Children’s Crusade against the local government in Birmingham in 1963”.
Is it a thesis? No – but it’s a start. Get more specific. Make an argument. Prove a point.
As you research, you find that the Children’s Crusade had an impact in the desegregation of the city and the publicity of the Civil Rights movement nationally. You change your thesis to “The Children’s Crusade was important in the desegregation of Birmingham in the 1960s.” Good thesis? Not yet, but you are getting there.
Get more specific. Why were they important? How important? Use some vocabulary to solidify your thesis. After more research, you finally arrive at “The sacrifices of young African Americans in the Children’s Crusade and the resulting media coverage were essential to changing the public opinion of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s”. It may be a mouthful but it’s shaping up!
Check out some helpful thesis statement hints on this site from Literacy Education Online.
The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina has a great site describing the ins and outs of a thesis statement, available at http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html