The “So What” Factor: Things to Consider When Surveying a Topic

After you have surveyed your topic, you need to select whether you will examine a local, regional, national or world history. Think about the interests you have and whether they would be best served studying a certain kind of place. Regardless of the topic chosen, the presentation of your research and conclusions must clearly relate to the annual theme. Manage your topic—make it narrow enough to focus your research and interpretation of issues that can be explained and interpreted within the category limits of size and theme. When thinking about your topic, use the following guidelines:


1. Good entries describe events or developments, but also analyze and place it in its historical context.

2. Choose 3 or 4 topics that look interesting to you, then step back and analyze them.

  • Can your topic fit with the yearly theme?
  • Will you have access to primary and secondary sources?
  • Presentations are not descriptions, but arguments.
  • Why should anyone care about your topic or presentation: “so what?” 

3. While your favorite topic might be interesting and you may be able to find a great deal of material, did you find enough information that will allow you to:

  • Describe how your topic is important?
  • Describe how it developed over time?
  • Describe how it influenced history?

4. Choose topics that are not recent (less than 25 years old); your teacher may have additional regulations.

5. If you have a topic that many people are doing, or have done in the past, try to find a new twist in how you are presenting it.