Project Titles

Can I offer one more teensy-weensy suggestion for your History Day projects?  You can take my advice or leave it, because this has nothing to do with the rules.  It has everything to do with clarity, however, which is something I value very much.

I was thinking today about project titles.  I have been to many History Day contests now, and I want to point out an observation I have made.  It has to do with project titles, which as you know, are all that the public sees before you educate them on your topic.  Some of these project titles clearly let us know what the project is about by simply using the topic as a title: “The Atom Bomb in World War II” is an example.  Some start with a catchy phrase – like a quote or the NHD annual theme – and then their topic is listed after a colon.  I love this because, as an observer, I know what I am getting in to when I step into a judging room.   

What confuses me, and this is really personal preference so take what I say with a grain of salt, is when project titles use obscure quotes or words that don’t clearly state the topic.  Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but as an audience member, I always appreciate when I am given a clue as to what to expect.  It can be unnerving to walk into a performance called, “And The Band Played On” expecting to hear the conflicts and compromises associated with being a contestant on American Idol, only to be blindsided by a stunning and sobering presentation about the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. 

Ok, ok, that is not the best example, I know.  But do you see what I am trying to say here?  All I ask is that you give serious thought to your project titles.  I am all for including a clever catch-phrase that grabs attention in your title, but make sure you put a colon after that with your topic clearly indicated.  Here are a few good examples from last year’s contest:

“Spinning for a Living: A Lowell Mill Girl’s Diary”

“Lucky Lindy? The Triumph and Tragedy of an American Hero”

“Man of Destiny: MacArthur’s Triumph and Tragedy in the Philippines”

“Mistaken Identity: The Triumph of Japanese Americans in the Face of Tragedy”

“Broken Rings of Peace: The Tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics”

“‘They Hit the Pavement Just Like Rain:’ The Tragedy and Triumph of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire”

See what I am saying?  These titles are strong; they have an emotional punch.  And the best part?  They help people like me prepare for your project emotionally and mentally.  So keep this in mind when you are filling out your registration forms for History Day.

What?  You have already filled out your form and your title wasn’t like my examples?  That’s OK!  As a said, this is just my personal preference here.  Your title isn’t part of your judging evaluation.  I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.


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