Research FAQs

How important is research to History Day?
Research is the foundation for your History Day project. Judges will carefully look at your bibliography to make sure that you have: 
  • Looked at primary and secondary sources
  • Used a variety of sources (not just photographs or websites)
  • Thought about different opinions and points of view
What is a primary source? Secondary source?
Historians divide up their research into categories, primary and secondary sources, based on who created that source and that person’s relationship to the topic. Check out this handy video to learn about the differences. 
How many sources should I have?
There is no required number of sources you should have for History Day, although your teacher might have a minimum.  The History Day philosophy is that you are never done researching, and more sources can always be found.  Keep researching until all your questions have been answered.
Do I need to do an interview for my research?
Official National History Day rules do NOT require students to conduct interviews for their research. 
Where can I find information on my topic?
There are many places to find resources for History Day topics. Libraries, historical societies, and colleges or universities are great places to look for books, journals, newspapers, and documents to answer questions about your topic. To start, we have a list of web resources that may be helpful. 
I keep finding the same information over and over again. Help!
This is one of the biggest complaints students have when they only doing Internet-based research. Just searching your topic on the web can bring back a lot of results, but many of them say the same thing. You will want to investigate books, databases, or more primary sources to get more in-depth information about your topic. 
How can I find databases and newspapers for research?
The Electronic Library of Minnesota is the best place for Minnesota students to start looking for databases. If you can visit a college or university library, you may be able to use their databases while you’re on campus.
What is interlibrary loan?
Interlibrary loan is a great way to get books that your library doesn’t have. If you find a book at another library that you want to read, tell your school or public librarian. They can then borrow that book and have it sent to your library for you to use. Watch our video to learn more!  
My teacher said I can’t use Wikipedia. Is that true?
If your teacher said it, then it’s true for his or her classroom and you should probably listen. National History Day doesn’t ban Wikipedia, but we do think you should understand its role in scholarly research. You may want to use Wikipedia to see if you like a topic, but it shouldn’t be your only or even a major source of information for your research. The one part of Wikipedia you should definitely check out, however, is the External Links section on the bottom of the page. This section often has great links to online archives and articles that can really help your research!
Can I use an online citation generator to make my bibliography? 
Yes. You can use one of many different web-based programs, like NoodleTools or BibMe, to help create your citations for your bibliography. Talk to your teacher and see if your school has a subscription to one of these services. 
Where can I get more help?
Your first stop for research help should always be your school or public library. But don’t just visit the library… talk to a librarian! Explain your project and the type of sources you need. 

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National History Day in Minnesota is sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota, Department of History
Minnesota Historical SocietyUniveristy of Minnesota