Rules & Project Examples

2025 NHD Cover

Rules & Guidelines

General Rules for All Categories

These are rules form the National History Day Rule Book, with some additions that relate to the Colorado contests. For detailed rules, visit the link below.

The contest year begins immediately following the National Contest awards ceremony and runs through the next year’s National Contest awards ceremony. You may begin working on a project for competition after the conclusion of the previous contest year in June.
You may enter only one project (or entry) in one category within a contest year. Please see the Participation Information (Section 2, p. 4) for details about the Regional or Afliate Contest in which you must participate.
Groups may contain between 2 and 5 participants. Once a group enters a competition, students may not be added, replaced, or pursue an individual project.
Entries must be completed during the current contest year. Projects from a previous year cannot be revised or reused. You must choose a new topic each contest year.
Plagiarizing all or part of your NHD project will result in disqualifcation. You must give credit to the primary and secondary sources you use and provide a complete citation and annotation for all of your sources in your annotated bibliography. See for more information about crediting and citing sources.
 You may not tamper with another student’s entry. Intentional or malicious defacing of another student’s project will result in disqualifcation. Violations may include, but are not limited to, editing or deleting another student’s website, defacing or stealing elements of an exhibit, or purposefully causing disruption during a performance with the intent of distracting the performer.
Your entry must relate clearly to the annual theme.
All entries for competition must be submitted in English unless otherwise approved by your Contest Coordinator. Other languages may be used, if translations in English are provided. When considering translated text for the purposes of word count, judges will count only the English translation.
The Fair Use doctrine allows for educational use of copyrighted materials for noncommercial purposes. For this reason, you must not place your project in a nonacademic public setting, such as a commercial internet site, without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Read more here:
You are responsible for the research, design, and creation of your entry, but you may have reasonable help from others. See page 10 of the Rule Book for definitions about reasonable help.
You are responsible for supplying all props and equipment at each level of competition. Construct your entry with transportation, setup time, size, and weight in mind (e.g., foam board versus solid oak for an exhibit, folding table versus antique desk for a performance). You must provide your own equipment, including computers and software, unless the Contest Coordinator has specifed that certain equipment, such as projection screens for documentaries, will be provided at the contest venue. Check with your Contest Coordinator about available resources. Be prepared.
You are not permitted to wear costumes that are related to the focus of your entry during judging, except in the performance category.
The following are not allowed in any competition venue: weapons of any kind, including real, toys, or replicas in any form; live animals with the exception of service animals; live cultures or organisms; and anything that could cause damage to the competition venue.
Be prepared to answer judges’ questions about the content and development of your entry. However, you may not give a formal, prepared introduction, narration, or conclusion during the interview. The judges’ questions will guide the interview. Ultimately, your entry should be able to stand on its own without any additional comments from you.
Your entry must include the following written materials in the order presented below: a title page, process paper, and annoated bibliography.
Your entry must have a title that is clearly visible on the title page and on the project itself.
A title page is required as the frst page of written material in every category. Your title page must include onlythe title of your entry, your name(s), the contest division and category in which you are entered, and applicable word counts. Your title page is not included in the word count. Please see Figure 2 (p. 19) for examples of required title page elements for the paper, exhibit, performance, and documentary categories. View requirements for a website’s home page in Website Rule E4 (p. 34).
 A process paper is required for projects in every category. The process paper must be 500 words or fewer, and must not include quotes, images, or captions (Figure 4, p. 24). The process paper words are counted separately and are not part of the word count in the paper, exhibit, or website categories. Your process paper must answer the following questions: How did you choose your topic and how does it relate to the annual theme? How did you conduct your research? How did you create your project? What is your historical argument?In what ways is your topic signifcant in history?  
 An annotated bibliography is required for all categories. Your annotated bibliography must follow these requirements:List all sources that you consulted in developing your entry, combine photos or other materials from the same collection into a single citation, separate your bibliography into two sections: one for primary sources and one for secondary sources, do not attach primary or secondary materials to your annotated bibliography, do not include your annotated bibliography in the word count. Each citation must include a brief annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to provide information about your research process, not to provide analysis to circumvent the word count. Each annotation must be no more than two or three sentences. The annotation should explain the following:How you used the source, how the source helped you to understand the topic. Use annotations to explain your reasoning for classifying any sources that are not clearly primary or secondary. Classifying a source as both primary and secondary is inappropriate 
 Citations and bibliographic references must follow the most recent edition of one of the two permitted style guides below. Regardless of which manual you use, the style must be consistent throughout all written material. The Chicago Manual of Style by the University of Chicago Press or the MLA Handbook by the Modern Languages Association of America are both accepted.

Rule 21: Artificial Intelligence and your NHD Project: Guidance on how you may use (and may not use) AI tools when creating an NHD project can be found using this handout from NHD.

Exhibit Rules & Guidelines

Exhibits are displays of visual and written information. They are similar to exhibits found in a museum. People walking by should be attracted to an exhibit's main idea and, therefore, stop to learn more about the topic. To be successful, an exhibit must create an effective balance between visual interest and historical explanation.

The most common form of exhibit entry is a three-panel display. This style is the least complicated to design and build but is still a very effective way to present information.

Paper Rules & Guidelines

A research paper is the traditional form of presenting historical research. Various types of creative writing (such as fictional diaries, poems, etc.) are also permitted, but must conform to all general and category rules. Your paper should be grammatically correct and well-written.

The written work should consist of four parts: 

  • An introduction stating the thesis of the work 
  • A main section addressing the theme
  • A conclusion flowing logically from the thesis statement and body of the paper 

An annotated bibliography divided into primary and secondary sources


Website Rules & Guidelines

The Website category is the most interactive of all NHD categories. A website should reflect the students' ability to use website design software and computer technology to communicate the topic's significance to history. Your historical website should be a collection of web pages, interconnected by hyperlinks, that presents both primary and secondary sources and your historical analysis.

In designing the entry, students should include elements that actively engage the audience in learning about the topic. These elements do not have to be technologically complex, but they should let the audience participate in exploring the topic, rather than passively viewing information. The presentation should include primary source materials, but must also be an original production. To produce a web site, students must have access to appropriate software and equipment and be able to operate it. Students must submit their work on the NHD Portal for judging. All websites must be build on the NHDWebCentral platform!


Documentary Rules & Guidelines

A documentary should reflect your ability to use audiovisual equipment to communicate your topic's significance, much as professional documentaries do. The documentary category will help you develop skills in using photographs, film, video audiotapes, and graphic presentations. Your presentation should include primary materials but must also be an original production. To produce a documentary you must have access to equipment and be able to operate it.

Performance Rules & Guidelines

In this category, students present their research live to an audience that includes judges. A live performance may be one of the most exciting ways to participate in History Day. However, like the other project types, it comes with a set of strict requirements.
Entries in this category must have dramatic appeal, but not at the expense of historical information. It is easy to get overly focused on the costumes and drama. Students must take care to ensure their performance follows the requirements of sound historical research and presentation.