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Contest Rule Book

Section I. Program Overview

A. Themes

Each year a broad theme is selected for the National History Day contest. You may select a topic on any aspect of local, regional, national, or world history. Regardless of the topic chosen, your presentation of your research and conclusions must clearly relate to the annual theme. Be careful to limit the scope of your topic to make the research and interpretation of your topic manageable. In other words, narrow your topic to focus on an issue that can be explained and interpreted within the category limits of size and time.

B. Topics

Effective National History Day entries not only describe an event or a development, they also analyze it and place it in its historical context. Ask yourself the following questions about your topic:

  • How is my topic important?
  • How was my topic significant in history in relation to the National History Day theme?
  • How did my topic develop over time?
  • How did my topic influence history?
  • How did the events and atmosphere (social, economic, political, and cultural aspects) of my topic's time period influence my topic in history?
NOTE: You should ask questions about the topic's development over time and its impact in history. Your answers to such questions will help you draw conclusions about your topic's significance in history.

C. Rewards For Participation

At each level of competition, outstanding achievement may be recognized through certificates, medals, trophies, or monetary awards. A number of special prizes may be given at the regional, state, or national level. The most important rewards are the skills and new knowledge that you will acquire as you move through the National History Day program.

D. Divisions

The National History Day competition has two divisions based on school grade:

  • Junior Division - grades 6, 7, and 8
  • Senior Division - grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Entries in each division are judged separately at all levels of competition.

NOTE: Some states sponsor participation in 4th and 5th grades at the state level. Check with your state coordinator for more information.
NOTE: Students in non-graded schools must check with the National History Day office to determine in which division they should register for the competition.

E. Contest Categories

You may enter one of eight categories:

  • paper (individual only)
  • individual exhibit
  • group exhibit
  • individual performance
  • group performance
  • individual documentary
  • group documentary
  • individual web site
  • group web site

Each category in each division is judged separately. Groups may include 2 to 5 students. Group participants do not have to be in the same grade to compete together.

NOTE: Choose a category in which you can make the best use of your own special abilities, talents, and interests. Be careful to choose the most suitable category in which to present your research and conclusions and take into consideration the availability of equipment and resources.

F. Important Notices For Contestants

All contests are held in public areas, and you are solely responsible for the security and safety of your own equipment and artifacts. National History Day program officials and sponsors will not be responsible for the loss of or damage to exhibits, equipment, or personal belongings during the program activities.

G. Program Materials

Each year program materials such as topic suggestions, videos, and bibliographies are available upon request from National History Day to help teachers and students participate in the NHD program. The materials may be duplicated for classroom use. A glossary of program materials is available on the NHD Website at www.nhd.org. For further information or to order materials, contact your district or state coordinator or the National History Day office.

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