What makes a good History Fair topic? Here’s a checklist:

  • It’s History – It happened at least 25 years ago.
  • It’s got sources – It has plenty of primary and secondary sources.
  • It’s local – The topic is rooted in Chicago. (This applies only to 7th/8th graders.)
  • It’s significant – It connects to bigger themes in history.
  • It’s got soul – You care about it!
  • It demands interpretation – There’s a “big idea” that you want to communicate – not just facts. Interpretation means making an argument based on evidence.

Not sure how to start choosing a topic? Here’s a suggestion:

1. Consider your own hobbies or interests. If you could learn about anything in the world, what would it be? Don’t worry about the nitty gritty details of your project or how you’ll present it; just think about what you love. Then, you can start moving toward a historical period, event, or person.

2. Once you have narrowed your focus to a larger topic, consider some of the events or movements that have played a role in that topic. For example: Let’s say you love theater. Is there a particular kind of theater you’re most drawn to? Let’s pretend it’s improvisational comedy. So, you take a trip to the library and consult your friend Google, and discover that improv comedy’s roots are right here in Chicago. What do you know?

3. Now that you have narrowed yourself to a specific aspect of theater–improv comedy–you start to research who the important figures in this field might have been. Make a list of potentials. Start reading about their contributions to this field. As you research, ask yourself these questions:

Did this figure or group leave a legacy that endured past her own, individual life?

Did this figure or group lead others in their cause?

How enduring are these changes? How important are they?

These are the questions that will help you decide whether this figure is a good choice for your History Fair project.

Still stumped? Download this History Fair Topic Selection Sheet produced by NHD.

Finally, here are two lists of suggested topics.

1. NHD list of suggested topics

2. Chicago-related topics, suggested by the CMHF

We recommend saving these lists for last resort, simply because the best project will be the one that originates from your own, personal interests. Someone else’s idea will always be only a shadow of what you could have done yourself. Finally, remember that the History Fair website is a great resource for helping you get started. Check out their “How to Choose a Topic” page right here.

Good luck!


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