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History Assignment Questions

If you think of your focus as a single, overriding question guiding the exploration of your topic, you can think of your thesis statement as an answer to that question. Your thesis:

  • Defines your point of view on your topic
  • Briefly outlines your arguments
  • Is often only fully developed toward the end of your research process


Examples: From Topics to Guiding Questions to Thesis Statements

Broad Topic: Zombies

Guiding Question: What is the allure of zombies in American popular culture?

Thesis: Zombies are a huge part of the current American zeitgeist because they are a physical (and fanciful) embodiment of our post 9/11 fears.

Broad Topic: Teen drug use

Guiding Question: Are reality-based drug awareness programs any more effective than a “just say no” approach?

Thesis: An abstinence-based “just say no” approach to drug prevention is ineffective for most media-savvy Millennials, and a much more effective approach is to accept that many young people will experiment with drugs and will best be served by receiving honest, accurate information from authority figures.

Go beyond the ordinary. Using creativity in designing assignments demands creativity from your students. The following assignments were gleaned from a variety of books, handouts and web sites. (See: Sources)

Nobel Peace PrizeStudents nominate someone or a group for the Nobel Peace prize. Learn about person, prize, jury.Research, writing
Research an eventStudents attend an event (game, concert), write a citation for it and find an article, a book and a web site about the composer, the sport, etc.Research, writing
Topic on WebStudents choose topic and find all websites which discuss it. Include annotated bibliographyResearch, history, writing
Information searchWrite short paper about research process with bibliography of web sites.— state info need, research, evaluate.Research, writing
Historical figureStudents are a historical figure for a day. Research person, time period, costume, culture. Be prepared to talk about it.Research, history, writing
Discussion between historical figuresStudents take persona of historical figure and interact with other figures keeping in character. Research history etc.Research, history, writing
Adopt personaStudents write letters or diary as real person or fictional character about historical event, everyday lifeResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Newspaper storyStudents write newspaper story describing event (social, political, cultural)Research, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Write editorial or column of opinionStudents write editorial or opinion piece. Could be in historical contextResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Create entire newspaperInclude 'reports' of actual events, editorials, letters to editor. Eg. Abolitionist newspaperResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
News conferencesSimulate interviews with real people of period. Questions contemporaries would have asked & questions with hindsightResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Create anthologyStudents compile anthology of articles and/or books plus introduction to show understanding of subjectResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Build book collectionStudents build book collection for fictional library. Provide annotated bibliography with justification, availability, costResearch, analysis, writing
Compare articlesCompare journal articles with conservative vs liberal tendenciesResearch, analysis, writing
Review a performanceWrite a review of a musical or dramatic performance. Reference reviews of debut, history, chronologyResearch, analysis, writing
Compose an examCompose an exam on a topic. Include annotated bibliography of sources and rationaleResearch, analysis, writing
Plan off-campus studyStudents provide itinerary for an off-campus study trip — rationale, sites, annotated reading list for participantsResearch, analysis, writing
Create an action planStudents create an action plan for organizing around an area of interest. Investigate agenciesResearch, analysis, writing
Job interview preparationAssemble background information on a company or organization in preparation for a hypothetical interview.Research, analysis, writing
Write a grant proposalWrite a grant proposal addressed to a specific funding agency, with literature review, budget.Research, analysis, writing
Class peer reviewHave class members peer review any written assignmentAnalysis, writing
Research topicResearch topic in literature from '60s and '70s and then in '80s and '90s. Compare literature in bibliographic essayResearch, analysis, writing
Evaluate psychological testDetermine adequacy of psychological test based on literature. Then develop a test battery designed for clinical situation.Research, analysis, writing, psychology
Criticism of literaturePrepare written criticism of literature on a topic with book reviews, citation indexes and biographical sources.Research, analysis, writing
Primary sourcesUsing bibliographies, guides to the literature and Internet, students find primary sources on an issue or eventResearch, analysis, writing
Responsible patientAs patients, students research a disease and diagnosis. 2 pages describes condition, symptoms, comparison of treatmentsResearch, analysis, writing, biology
Legislation trailFollow piece of legistation through Parliament; understand issue and different political viewsResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Foreign policyFollow particular foreign policy situation as it develops. Organizations involved, history, ideological conflictsResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Research major person in disciplineThrough periodical literature, follow major person in a discipline; CV, bibliography, citationsResearch, analysis, writing
Research a careerDescribe and research an aspired career. Leading companies; outlook for occupation, expected starting salaryResearch, writing
Research a companyChoose a company and find out employment policies, net worth, patentsResearch, writing
BiographyWrite a biographical sketch of famous person including time periodResearch, writing
Research portfolio or journalHave students maintain paper trail — document sources consulted, first draft, working bibliography, reflect on processResearch, writing
In-class writingAssign topic for students to research and bring note cards to class then write the paper in classResearch, writing
Debate in classAssign controversial topic & have students research and bring note cards to class then debate the topic on one side of the issueResearch, writing
Literature ReviewChoose topic applicable to women and examine the literature from the '50s & '60s to see how the topic was being treated thenResearch, analysis, writing
Update literature reviewChoose number of specific psychological phenomena treated in review articles several years ago; student must update the reviewResearch, writing, psychology
Primary sourcesStudents examine primary materials on slave life or abolition and compare them to textbook treatment of subjectResearch, analysis, writing, history
Analysis of journals of opinionExamine body of journals available across political spectrum; select three representing different views; examine editorial opinionResearch, analysis, writing, political science
Analyse differing articlesFind several articles on same topic but with different positions; analyse two differing articles relating to your own ethical theoryResearch, analysis, writing, philosophy
Iconography of work of artWrite paper on iconography of one of eight works of art based on students' own observation, library sources, time period, etcResearch, analysis, writing, fine arts
Dramatize historical eventsGroup of students choose a topic and develop an effective method to present topic to class (trial, debate); background researchResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Compare definitionsStudents write their own definition of Afro-American music and then compile definitions from other sources; then compare; evaluateResearch, analysis, writing, music
Create a portrait of an author and his literary lifeChoose author and reconstruct their life, their times and assess their work; can be highly personal judgementResearch, analysis, history, creativity, writing
Reaction to fictionStudents write a short response to reading a novel giving their honest reactionCreativity, writing
Explore a clicheSelect a cliche and translate into psychological terms; research related issues and state whether you think cliche is trueResearch, writing, creativity, Psychology
Interview family memberInterview older family member about their earlier life; research that time period and weave personal material with backgroundResearch, writing, creativity, History
Early music in its settingSelect piece of music and research setting for an early performance; write fictionalized account of you at performance (letter, diary)Research, analysis, writing, music
Prepare for interview of famous personAs journalist, extensively research an individual, compose intro to interview, draft 10 questions to askResearch, analysis, writing
Personal journalsMath students keep a journal about their thought processesWriting
Letter to a sick friendMath students write to a sick friend explaining what they missed in classWriting, comprehension, math
Letter to a history majorMath students write to a friend who is a history major explaining what Calculus is all about and why they should take itWriting, comprehension, Math
Tracing a chain of eventsChoose an past event and trace how it was covered in the various types of media (news, newspapers, magazines, journals, etcResearch, analysis, writing
Primary sourcesChoose a decade of history and ask students to find primary sources and put together a montage of information and imagesResearch, writing, creativity, history
Primary sourcesHave students read secondary source and determine which primary sources were used. Discuss how they would locateResearch, writing
Primary sourcesGive students a primary source from the time period or topic under discussion; brainstorm on questions it raises and how to researchResearch, writing, creativity