Developing a Thesis PDF Print E-mail

What is a Thesis?

A thesis statement tells the reader/viewer in one to two sentences what your project will attempt to explain or analyze and introduces your audience to what you hope they will learn from your project.  In a History Fair project, the thesis takes a stand on a historical issue: it may explain why or how something happened, express an interpretation related to the annual NHD theme, and suggest the larger significance of historical events or actions.

The thesis is also the lighthouse guiding the entire project, meaning that it helps you make decisions about what to include, and what to exclude, in your final project.  If that photo, quote, or other primary source doesn’t connect to your thesis in some way, then it doesn’t belong in the final project.

Recommended Resources

College writing centers and historical institutions have many excellent ideas for teaching students to write a thesis and support an argument.  The following links contain a few of our favorites:

“What’s Your Point?” -

A more light-hearted approach to introducing thesis from “Mr. History,” the Minnesota National History Day State Coordinator, this YouTube video features a game show introduction of important elements in a NHD thesis.

“Reading, Writing, and Researching for History; A Guide for College Students by Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College”

The Rael writing manual offers many excellent, concrete teaching ideas that help students understand what makes a strong thesis in historical writing, and prompts to help students form a strong thesis and thesis paragraph.

“How to Write a Thesis Statement” by Indiana University Writing Tutorial Services --
Offers ideas on how to generate a thesis if a topic is assigned, or open-ended, as well as concrete examples of strong and weak theses – NOT specific to historical writing.

“Thesis Statements” by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill --

Offers steps to form a thesis and questions to consider if your thesis is strong or not, examples provided.

“Thesis Statement” by The Write Place, St. Cloud State University --

Contrasts examples of weak and strong theses statements by breaking down key characteristics (broad vs. narrow, vague vs. specific, etc.).


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