Resources for Students

Students show their North Carolina pride at the 2013 National History Day contest. Image courtesy Patrick Schneider Photography.

A great history day project is not one that simply lists events and people. It explains the "so what". Why did a particular event make a difference in the lives of others? What situations and circumstances did it change or impact?

Your project must show that you have looked at more than one side of an issue; that you have analyzed the research materials; and that you have drawn your own conclusions. Have a clear thesis statement and restate it in varied ways throughout your project. Also, make a clear connection between your thesis and this year's theme.

To help you succeed with your work, we've outline a few tips for getting started below. We've also put together guidance for each type of project and listed a few places you can go to started with your research.

Read the Rules

You should read the rules several times before you start. Once you have your project underway, you should continue to read them. Usually judges will be more lenient about violations in the early competitions, but in the end, the students who followed the rules will have the edge. 

If you have questions about specific rules, contact the state coordinator.

Download the Rule Book

Read the Current Theme Book and Pick a Topic

Read the current theme book to learn all about the theme and get ideas on topics. Make sure you select a topic that fascinates you, and connects to the them. Check with your teacher to make sure there are no additional classroom requirements for picking your topic. 

If you have questions about the theme and how to connect your topic to it, contact the state coordinator.

Current Theme Book 

Theme Organizer Worksheet 

N.C. History Topic Ideas

Get Tips Specific to Your Project Type

In addition to the general advice on this page, the North Carolina National History Day team has pulled together some tips and resources for each specific project category to help guide you as you work.

Get Specific Advice for Each Project Type

Ask an Expert!

National History Day works with the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct the Ask an NEH Expert Series. Previous installments addressed the five National History Day categories (documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, and websites), but the 2020 episodes focus on specific skills crucial to all NHD students, in all five NHD categories - Building an Argument, Validating Sources,  and Writing and Editing.

Ask an NEH Expert Series 

Documenting Your Work

Students should document their work through a process paper and annotated bibliography. The historical paper category is the only category that does not require a process paper.​

Process Papers

Your process paper is not a retelling of the information in your project.  The project needs to present your historical research and conclusions. The process paper instead should briefly answer these questions:

  • How did you choose your topic? Explain what interested you in the subject and how you finally decided on this particular topic​

  • Where did you do your research and how did you develop your project? Tell in general terms where you did the research and give some basic information about how you put your project together.

  • How does your topic relate to this year's theme? Write a paragraph that explains how your topic connects to the theme.

The ultimate goal for every project, regardless of category, is to include sufficient information and be organized in such a way that it will stand on its own. Someone should be able to watch or read your project and understand exactly what it is you want to convey without ever talking with you.

Annotated Bibliographies

Use a variety of research materials. The strongest bibliographies will be the ones that show that students have looked at a wide variety of materials. In addition to books, magazines, and newspapers, which are readily available at area libraries, don't forget that music, artifacts, historic sites, maps, government records, radio and television programs, movies and personal interviews are also accessible and can be excellent sources.

Use the annotations in your bibliography to describe how that source was helpful to you in doing your research. You may also use annotations to explain why a source is primary or secondary, particularly if it may not be evident to the reader. You may use either Turabian or MLA format for your bibliography.

Guidance from the National Program  

Annotation Guide from Minnesota's Program

Using Critiques to Improve

History Day students are encouraged to improve their projects after each level of review. Be prepared to change your project as suggestions for improvements are offered. This is an important part of the education process.

When choosing wether to make revisions, consider the judges' comments carefully. Judging history projects involves some subjectivity. Even though your work will be evaluated by highly-qualified, educated people, they may not be right in all cases. You must decide if you think their advice is correct.

The Getting Started Guide