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Contest Rule Book

Section II. Rules For All Categories


Rule 1: Annual Theme
Your entry must be clearly related to the annual theme and explain your topic's significance in history.

Rule 2: Contest Participation
You may participate in the research, preparation, and presentation of only one entry each year.

NOTE: Do not share research with other students unless you are members of the same group and creating one entry together. It is not acceptable to have a common pool of research from which several entries are created.

Rule 3: Individual or Group Entries
A paper, individual exhibit, individual performance, or individual documentary must be the work of only one student. A group exhibit, group performance, or group documentary must be the work of 2 to 5 students. All students in a group entry must be involved in the research and interpretation of the group's topic.

Rule 4: Development Requirements
Entries submitted for competition must be researched and developed during the current contest year that begins following the national contest each June. Revising or reusing an entry from a previous year — whether your own or another student's — is unacceptable and will result in disqualification.

Rule 5: Construction of Entry
You are responsible for the research, design, and creation of your entry. You may receive help and advice from teachers and parents on the mechanical aspects of creating your entry:

  1. You may have help typing your paper and other written materials.
  2. You may seek guidance from your teachers as you research and analyze your material, but your conclusions must be your own.
  3. You may have photographs and slides commercially developed.
  4. You may have reasonable help cutting out your exhibit backboard or performance props (e.g., a parent uses a cutting tool to cut the board that you designed).
NOTE: Objects created by others specifically for use in your entry violate this rule. For example, a parent takes photographs or an artist draws the backdrop for your exhibit or performance. You may receive reasonable help in carrying and placing props and exhibits.

Rule 6: Contest Day Set-up
You are responsible for setting up your own exhibits, equipment, or props at the contest. You may have reasonable help carrying them, but set-up must be completed by you (and your group members if applicable) alone.

Rule 7: Supplying Equipment
You are responsible for supplying all props and equipment at each level of competition. All entries should be constructed keeping transportation, set-up time, size and weight in mind (e.g., foam core v. solid oak exhibit or antique desk v. folding table for a performance). Projection screens for documentaries and performances may be provided if requested. Check with your contest coordinator about availability of equipment. VCRs (VHS format only) and monitors are available at the national contest for the documentary category only. Students must provide their own computers and software. Pianos and Internet access are not provided.

NOTE: Be prepared: bring extension cords if needed and check with your contest coordinators about the availability of equipment.

Rule 8: Discussion with Judges
You should be prepared to answer judges' questions about the content and development of your entry, but you may not give a formal, prepared introduction, narration, or conclusion. Let the judges' questions guide the interview. Ultimately, your entry should be able to stand on its own without any additional comments from you.

NOTE: You should be prepared to explain the design, research, and creation of your entry if questioned by the judges. Judges need to know that your entry is the result of your own work.

Rule 9: Costumes
You are not permitted to wear costumes that are related to the focus of your entry during judging, except in the performance category. If you are entering the performance category, you may rent or have reasonable help creating your own costumes (e.g., a parent helps you to use the sewing machine).

Rule 10: Prohibited Materials
Items potentially dangerous in any way — such as weapons, firearms, animals, organisms, plants, etc. — are strictly prohibited. Such items will be confiscated by security personnel or contest officials. Replicas of such items that are obviously not real are permissible. Please contact your teacher and contest coordinator to confirm guidelines before bringing the replica to a contest.

Rule 11: Title
Your entry must have a title that is clearly visible on all written materials.


Rule 12: Written Material
Entries in all categories except historical papers must include three copies of the following written material in the following order:

  1. A title page as described in Rule 13.
  2. A process paper as described in Rule 14 (process papers are not part of historical paper entries)
  3. An annotated bibliography as described in Rule 15. These materials must be typed or neatly printed on plain white paper and stapled together in the top left corner. Do not enclose them in a cover or binder.

Rule 13: Title Page
A title page is required as the first page of written material in every category. Your title page must include only the title of your entry, your name(s) and the contest division and category in which you are entered.

NOTE: The title page must not include any other information (pictures, graphics, borders, school name, or grade) except for that described in this rule.

Rule 14: Process Paper
A “process paper” is a description of no more than 500 words explaining how you conducted your research and created and developed your entry. All categories except historical papers must include a “process paper” with their entry. The process paper should include the following four sections: (1) explain how you chose your topic, (2) explain how you conducted your research, (3) explain how you selected your presentation category and created your project and (4) explain how your project relates to the NHD theme. Go to www.nhd.org and in the Contest section click on Creating a Process Paper to view sample process papers.

Rule 15: Annotated Bibliography
An annotated bibliography is required for all categories. It should contain all sources that provided usable information or new perspectives in preparing your entry. You will look at many more sources than you actually use. You should list only those sources that contributed to the development of your entry. Sources of visual materials and oral interviews must be included. The annotations for each source must explain how you used the source and how it helped you understand your topic. Annotations of web sites should include a description of who sponsors the site.

For example:

  • Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. New York: David McKay Co. Inc., 1962.
  • Daisy Bates was the president of the Arkansas NAACP and the one who met and listened to the students each day. This first hand account was very important to my paper because it made me more aware of the feelings of the people involved.

NOTE: Oral history transcripts, correspondence between you and experts, questionnaires, and other primary or secondary materials used as sources for your entry should be cited in your bibliography but not included as attachments to your bibliography.

Rule 16: The Separation of Primary and Secondary Sources
You are required to separate your bibliography into primary and secondary sources.

NOTE: Some sources may be considered as either primary or secondary. Use your annotations to explain your reasoning for classifying any sources that are not clearly primary or secondary.
Rule 17: Style Guides
Style for citations and bibliographic references must follow the principles in one of the following style guides:
  1. Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
  2. Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th Edition.

Regardless of which manual you use, the style must be consistent throughout the paper.

Rule 18: Plagiarism
You must acknowledge in your annotated bibliography all sources used in your entry.

Failure to credit sources is plagiarism and will result in disqualification.


Rule 19: Entry Procedure
At each contest level you must submit a complete, accurate, and legible entry form and meet specific deadlines and procedures established by your contest coordinator.

Rule 20: Entries to National Competition
Each state is limited to no more than two entries per contest category in the national contest. Ties at state contests will be resolved at the state level.

Rule 21: National Competition Attendance
Individual students and groups must be present for an entry to be judged at the national contest. Substitutions can be made with the approval of the National History Day Staff upon review of a written request.

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