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Nhd Thesis Statements

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.

In the world of history there is one thing you can never escape… writing a thesis.

A thesis is the key to any history project, not just for National History Day.  I suggest you start getting real comfortable with writing a thesis because this skill will not only be beneficial in a history classroom but also in an English class as well as any class where you need to write a paper.  A thesis (or sometimes known as a topic sentence) is your explanation of what you believe the impact or your topic is.  You can find a thesis in the introductory paragraph on an essay and is usually the last or one of the last sentences.  A thesis can also be 2-3 sentences long.  The thesis describes what you will talking about in your paper and the arguments you are going to be making.  So a thesis is sort of like a road map, it tells the reader where you will be going in your paper.

A good thesis statement for a National History Day project consists of three things: addresses a narrow topic, explains what you believe the historical significance of your topic is, and it connects your topic to the National History Day theme.  A way to make sure that the reader can clearly see the relationship between your topic and the year’s theme in your thesis is by using similar wording in your thesis that is found in the description of the year’s theme.  A great thesis statement is one that takes a stand or expresses a certain feeling about your topic.

Okay, now that I have gone on this lengthy description of what a thesis is and why it is important; now let’s make one together.  It is true what they say, practice makes perfect. For example, let say the History Day theme is Turning Points.  Personally, I am interested in the Civil War and particularly the Battle of Gettysburg (if you don’t know much about the Battle of Gettysburg I suggest you look it up).  Next, I make my tentative thesis or my thesis in progress; the Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the war.  After I have my tentative thesis, I look at the lasting impact my topic had on history and then combine the two to create my final thesis; the Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War.  It turned the tide of war from the South to the North, pushing back Lee’s army that would never fight again on Northern soil and bringing confidence to the Union army.  You can all hold your applause; I know that’s a great thesis.  What can I say I am proud of my thesis as all of you should be about yours.  By the end of this project you should all be thesis writing experts.

Ali, Delaware Historical Society intern

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