Wisconsin Historical Society National History Day in Wisconsin Update

December 2011
National History Day logo Greetings!

Right now, students across the state are working hard on their NHD projects. In this month's update, we hope to share ideas and resources that will help students dig deeper in their research and begin to think about the next steps in the NHD process.
As a teacher, it can be challenging to guide a classroom full of students - all studying different topics - through the research process. It's important to remember, however, that you don't need to be a content expert on each of the topics. Rather, as a History Day teacher you will be an expert in the process of doing historical research.  
  • General Reference: Students first need to get a basic understanding of the narrative of their topic. Reading an encyclopedia or textbook can provide them with the basic who, what, when, and where information.
  • Beginning Research: Once students have some background knowledge, they can move on to richer research sources. General Internet searches will reveal some useful information, but students will need to move off the web into school, public, or college libraries. Books will give students a deeper understanding of the topic and help to place their topic into broader historical context.
  • Strengthening Research: Once students have a foundation of knowledge about their topic, they should think about primary sources. At this point, students will have the background knowledge necessary to understand the letters, diaries, newspaper articles, video footage, or interviews that make primary sources so exciting. Students may also want to consider more scholarly sources, like journal articles.
  • Additional Tools: The "Research" PowerPoint, included online or on your curriculum CD provides general reminders for teachers and students about the research process
Archives Fieldtrip
Visiting a public or college library can be a great addition to the NHD experience for many students. Not only will students find more information about their topic, but they will also gain valuable skills in locating information in a research facility. The Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives welcomes student researchers. As the North American history library for UW-Madison, our collections are great for students researching topics related to United States history. Be sure to check out our website to learn more about these opportunities!

When students email us and let us know that they've hit a research roadblock... where to we look to help them out? Here are a few of our "go-to" places to help students find more information: 
  • Wisconsin Historical Society: If the topic is related to Wisconsin, there's a good chance that we're going to have something on it. You can search our website to see what we have online, however, much of what we have isn't digitized. Our archival holdings are cataloged in ArCat and our library collections are in the UW-Madison catalog, MadCat.
  • MadCat: MadCat catalogs all the libraries on the UW-Madison campus. Even if you can't make it to Madison to use these resources, chances are that you can get it transferred from us to your school or public library through interlibrary loan.
  • Google Books: Especially for topics taking place before the 1920s, Google Books can be a great resource. Some of the books are full text (especially older ones) and some are just previews or snippets.
  • The Internet Public Library: The search engine available through the Internet Public Library searches just websites that have been previewed by librarians. While the results are more limited, the ones that do appear tend to be higher quality  and more focused than a general Internet search.
  • Badgerlink: Badgerlink is a great tool available to Wisconsin students. We especially recommend that students check out NewspaperArchive, with digitized newspapers from all over the state, country, and world.
  • Wikipedia: Students are used to hearing us tell them to avoid Wikipedia, but there is one part of Wikipedia they should definitely check out. At the bottom of many articles, they will find an "External Links" section. This is a great listing of other resources to check out that are NOT on Wikipedia, but rather available at historical societies, universities, museums, etc.  
NHD Criteria Pie Chart
As students are researching and creating their NHD projects, it's important to share with them the criteria that will be used to evaluate their work. Remind students the HISTORY is the most important part of their project.
  • Entry is historically accurate: Main ideas are supported by facts; entry contains no obviously inaccurate facts.
  • Shows analysis and interpretation: Entry has clear thesis, original interpretation, and thoughtful analysis; entry demonstrates significance of topic, and acknowledges strengths and weaknesses of historical evidence.
  • Places topic in historical context: Entry utilizes accurate and appropriate references to time period, surrounding events, ideas, people, places, and objects; entry specifies political, economic, social, and cultural influences.
  • Shows wide research: Entry has investigated a variety of types of sources, in accordance with what might be available given the topic.
  • Uses available primary sources: Entry shows clear understanding of the relationship between primary and secondary sources, using primary sources where appropriate and readily available.
  • Research is balanced: Entry may focus on one interpretation, based on evidence and analysis; but entry acknowledges and analyzes other possible points of view. 
NHD in Wisconsin Website
If a student is having trouble with any aspect of the NHD process, please encourage them to contact us directly. We are happy to help!
History Day Exhibit Boards
High-quality exhibit boards are once again available from the NHD in Minnesota program. Teachers and students like these boards because they offer more space than a traditional science fair board at a competitive price. These boards come in black or white with optional title panes also available for purchase. Boards must be purchased in packs of 10 and are available through the Minnesota Historical Society's online store.   

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  • Society Weekly E-newsletter
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  • Wisconsin Historical Society Press Periodic Email Updates
  • National History Day in Wisconsin Monthly E-Newsletter 
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Sarah Michele and SarahTHANKS FOR READING!
Thank you for reading! We appreciate your support of National History Day in Wisconsin.  We are excited to have you as part of our program!

Sarah Aschbrenner, State Coordinator
National History Day in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Historical Society