Skip to main content

Rules

Before you begin work on an entry for competition, the student, teacher, and parents should carefully read the Contest Rule Book. There are general rules that apply to every project, and rules that are specific for each category.

Theme & Topics

Each year your research must connect to the National History Day theme. Themes are chosen to be broad enough to encourage investigation of topics ranging from local history to world history, and from ancient time to the recent past. To understand the historical importance of your topic you need to ask questions about time, place and context, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. You must consider not only when and where events happened, but also why they occurred and what factors contributed to their development.

Research & Writing Tips

You can't have a Michigan History Day project without research! Students use primary and secondary sources to understand the connections between their topic and the time period, examine the significance of their topic in history, and to explore the different perspectives of those involved. Click the button below to visit the MHD Research page for suggestions of some great places to find sources and for tips to help you as you research your topic.

Historical Argument or Thesis

Your historical argument states the central point or focus of your project in two or three sentences. It is sometimes called a thesis or claim. Historians create historical arguments after carefully analyzing evidence from the past. The evidence that supports your argument will come from the primary and secondary sources that you discover during your research. Your argument should reflect your analysis of the historical evidence that you gathered.

Your historical argument must make a meaningful connection to the theme and show why your topic is significant in history. It must be incorporated into your project and be clear to those who read or view it. However, labeling your historical argument in or on your project is not required.

Example for the theme, Breaking Barriers in History: The 1919 Treaty of Versailles subjected Germany to significant economic penalties. The treaty created an economic barrier between Germany and the rest of Europe, which led to hyperinflation and, when coupled with the Great Depression, the rise of the Nazi Party.

Process Paper

The process paper is a very important part of the judging process. It is the first thing that judges read, so you do not want to save this part of your History Day project until the last minute. 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. 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. The answers do not have to be included in the following order in your process paper.

1. How did you choose your topic and how does it relate to the annual theme?
2. How did you conduct your research?
3. How did you create your project?
4. What is your historical argument?
5. In what ways is your topic significant in history?

Instructions for preparing written materials:

  • Print your written materials on plain white 8.5 x 11-inch paper, with 1-inch margins on all sides, in 12-point font. A4 paper will be accepted from international Affiliates.
  • Use single or double-sided printing.
  • Staple materials in the top left corner. Do not enclose these materials in a binder, folder, etc.

Student Voice

Student voice refers to your ideas and analysis. The audience wants to know what you think about a topic and see the evidence that supports your ideas. For History Day contests, student voice is part of the clarity of presentation criteria. Check out the resources below from National History Day in Minnesota.

Student Voice 101 Handout

Student Voice Video (7:33)

Research Rendezvous

Join librarians, historians, and MHD staff as they share their expertise and knowledge about researching and creating History Day projects.

Research Rendezvous

Categories

Documentaries

Do you find yourself watching the History Channel a lot on television? Do you like the idea of interviewing people? Are you familiar with and excited about using editing software? A documentary might be just the right mix of technology and creativity. It uses audiovisual equipment to explain your topic’s significance just like a professional documentary would set out to do. Documentaries typically use photographs, film, and audio recordings.

Things to Remember:

  • May not be longer than 10 minutes
  • Students must film and edit production
  • The documentary must have recorded narration, not live narration
  • Credits must be shown at the end of the documentary
  • A process paper and annotated bibliography is required
  • See the Contest Rule Book for the complete set of rules.

Uploading Process
Please see the Contest Guide for details about submitting your project. Students will upload a single PDF with their title page, process paper, and annotated bibliography and a link to their documentary to the registration system. The Contest Guide for the State Finals is available at mi.nhd.org.

Review the Rules
Please review the rules for the competition and your category in the National History Day Contest Rule Book

Exhibits

Do you like to design or build things? Do you like going to museums? Do you have access to craft supplies? If so, then you may want to create an exhibit to display all of your research findings! An exhibit is a visual representation of your research and your conclusions. It uses things such as writing, photos, quotations, and artifacts to explain the significance of your topic.

 Things to Remember:

  • Plan ahead! You may need to submit your exhibit digitally if the contest is virtual. Exhibits that are round, multi-sided, or have moving parts are hard to photograph and recreate digitally.
  • A 500 word limit applies to all text and video that is part of the exhibit. This includes titles, captions, etc. The limit does not apply to quotations.
  • A brief credit for all visual sources must appear on the exhibit itself.
  • The exhibit must be no larger than 40 inches wide, 30 inches deep, and 6 feet high. Circular exhibits must be no more than 30 inches in diameter.
  • Media devices used in an exhibit must not run for more than two minutes.
  • A process paper and annotated bibliography are required. (These do not count towards the 500 words.)
  • See the Contest Rule Book for the complete set of rules.

Uploading Process 
Please see the Contest Guide for details about submitting your project. Students will upload a single PDF with their title page, process paper, annotated bibliography, and exhibit to the registration system. Students will submit photos of their exhibit as a preview for judges. Exhibit students can make changes to their project in the weeks leading up to the contest but should be prepared to explain those changes to the judges. The Contest Guide for the State Finals is available at mi.nhd.org.

Review the Rules
Please review the rules for the competition and your category in the National History Day Contest Rule Book

Papers

Do you like to work independently? Do you want some really good practice for college? Papers are a great way to show off your research and writing skills!

 Things to Remember:

  • No group entries - only individuals
  • Papers must be between 1,500  and 2,500 words
  • Citations are required
  • Double space and use 12-point font
  • You will be asked to provide four copies of your paper and annotated bibliography prior to the competition
  • See the Contest Rule Book for the complete set of rules. Paper students are now required to write a Process Paper.

The Uploading Process 
Students will NOT send in hard-copies of their papers. Please see the Contest Guide for details about submitting your project. Students will upload a single PDF with their title page, process paper, paper, and annotated bibliography to the registration system. The Contest Guide for the State Finals is available at mi.nhd.org.

Review the Rules
Please review the rules for the competition and your category in the National History Day Contest Rule Book

Performances

Do you like speaking in front of an audience? Do you like dressing up in costumes? Do you like to design or build props? If you answered yes, then the performance category may be for you! It is a dramatic portrayal of your topic’s significance in history. It should be scripted based on your research of your topic. Your performance is allowed to feature fictional characters, but they need to be based on historical fact.

Things to Remember:

  • A performance requires the same amount of research as the other categories
  • Your play must be student-produced and you must set up for the performance by yourself
  • Plan ahead! You may want to keep groups small this year. You must follow all social distancing guidelines and preventative actions in your school, county, and state.
  • May not be longer than 10 minutes
  • A process paper and annotated bibliography are required
  • See the Contest Rule Book for the complete set of rules

The Uploading Process
Please see the Contest Guide for details about submitting your project. Students will submit their written documents (title page, process paper, and annotated bibliography) before the State Finals contest whether it is in-person or virtual. If the State Finals are a virtual contest, you will be able to submit a video of your performance. Please read the Performance Video Submission Guidelines for suggestions and instructions. Contact your district coordinator for instructions about your district contest. You can find contact information for coordinators on the Contests page. The Contest Guide for the State Finals is available at mi.nhd.org.

Review the Rules
Please review the rules for the competition and your category in the National History Day Contest Rule Book

Websites

Do you appreciate a well-designed website for its creativity and content? Perhaps the website category is your ticket to fun! A website offers a great opportunity to create an interactive presentation of your topic. You are required to create your website by using the National History Day website software (NHD WebCentral). NHD Weebly will not be used for the 2021-2022 contest year.

2021-2022 Changes to NHD WebCentral

  • The need to add a container before building each page is GONE. Every page now starts with a container so the student can drag and drop their elements into that container. This container CANNOT be resized or deleted.
  • The “Image & Caption” block has been changed to “Image & Citation” block to correspond with the NHD Rule Book.
  • There are now preset design theme templates – preset colors and fonts for all pages (if students want this option).
  • iPad/tablet compatibility has been modified
  • Additional video walkthroughs and tutorials – these will go on our YouTube playlist and on our website. This includes an NHDWebCentral Website Walkthrough I’ll be adding more resources in the fall on our website and our YouTube channel. Stay tuned!

 Things to Remember:

  • The website deadline is before the actual contest because websites are blocked from editing so that judges may view and read ahead of time
  • There is a 1,200 word limit that applies to all student-composed words
  • Links to other websites should not be on your website (except to point out where to download software plug-ins)
  • A process paper and annotated bibliography are required. They must be in PDF format and included as an integrated part of the website.
  • The website may contain multimedia clips that total no more than three minutes
  • All quotes and visual sources must be credited within the website
  • See the Contest Rule Book for the complete set of rules.

Submission Process 
Please see the Contest Guide for details about submitting your project. Students will share the link to their website in the registration system. The process paper and annotated bibliography will be embedded in their website. The Contest Guide for the State Finals is available at mi.nhd.org

Review the Rules
Please review the rules for the competition and your category in the National History Day Contest Rule Book

Visit the Michigan History Day YouTube channel for helpful hints and tips!

Michigan History Day Logo