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Building a Project

Three girls working at laptop in a library. Girl in foreground looks at camera.

Whether you have been creating NHDI projects for a while or are looking at creating your very first project, we have all the tools you need for success. We will guide you through the steps of creating a project, from learning about the annual theme, to research, to designing your project and presenting at a regional contest.

You can also take a look at some example projects from previous contest years. See what Indiana students have created in exhibits, performances, documentaries, websites and papers. Use them for inspiration, explore your interests, then begin your own project!

Annual Theme

Each year, the National History Day® offices select a theme to guide project creation. The annual theme is broad enough for you to pick a topic from any time period of place. The theme helps guide you to look for the impact and significance of your topic in history.

The 2023-2024 theme is Turning Points in History.

Projects can cover a wide variety of topics centered on the idea of change. Projects should keep in mind the historical context, thinking about the significance of the topic over time along with the intended and/or unintended consequences of that change. To better understand the theme, let’s dig a little deeper and look at the definition of a turning point.

Turning Point (n):

A point at which a significant change occurs. A turning point could be an event, person, action or decision. This point could be political, social, economic or geographic. The turning point should be something or someone that brought about change. This could be something that happened a long time ago or could be something that occurred in more recent years. The idea is to explore the topic and see how it has impacted the course of history and our lives today.

Keep in mind that a turning point does not always have to be one event or person. It can also be a group of people or a movement that caused a change. The other aspect of this theme to keep in mind is the consequences of that change. The consequences of that turning point could be both intentional and/or unintentional. Remember that the consequences could have been felt at the time of the turning point or felt years later.

As you explore your topic and how it connects to the theme, think about what your turning point is that you want to talk about, and the consequences that made that turning point continue to have significance up to the present day.

Don’t forget to look at topics that are at least 20 years old; you want to have a topic where there is enough time to gain some historical context. You also want to choose a topic where you can find enough information through primary and secondary sources to adequately explore your topic.

For more information regarding the annual theme, visit the NHD website and download the Annual Theme Book.

Your project starts with an idea about a topic. Remember that your topic needs to relate to the annual theme. Outside of relating to your theme and teacher approval, your topic can be any time, place or event in history. It can be local, national or world history. Is there a time period in history or a place that you have always wanted to study? Is there a subject like art, sports or music that you’re especially passionate about and can turn into a project? Do you have a favorite person in history that had an impact on communication in history? It is a good idea to pick something that you are curious or passionate about. Also, make sure your topic is researchable and that the information is out there for you to have enough sources!

For inspiration, take a look at our 2023-2024 Student Topic Guide. This guide will give you a taste of many different Indiana history topics and break down some places to start your research. If you’re set on winning a special prize, why not take a look this year’s special prizes and draw inspiration from Indiana-related topics? Also, be sure to take a look at past years’ projects to get some good ideas flowing!

Need help deciding if the topic you chose is right for a National History Day in Indiana project?

Topic Guide 2024 – Turning Points In History

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