Getting Started

Do you wonder about the past? Why events occurred? Why some people became famous? If so, Florida History Fair is for you. Let’s get started!

NHD Contest Rule Book

You, your teacher, and your parents should read the National History Day Contest Rule Book carefully before you begin to work on your entry. You can download the Rule Book for free. Although your project may start as a class assignment, if you intend to compete at higher levels, it will have to adhere to certain specifications. The NHD Rule Book will ensure that your project aligns with these requirements. Contact the state coordinator if you need help understanding any of the rules.

Process Paper

All entries except those in the historical paper category must include a process paper. In a maximum of 500 words and four paragraphs, you must describe how you came up with your idea; the steps you took to research your topic; and how you actually created your exhibit, paper, documentary, performance, or website. The final paragraph should explain how your topic relates to the annual theme and, word limit permitting, your thesis statement.

The process paper is not the place for you to state what you have learned. That information should be presented in your entry. Rather, the process paper confirms to the judges that you worked with an original idea, conducted original research, and created your project using your own energy and creativity. Examples of process papers are available on the National History Day website.

Annotated Bibliography

All history fair entries must include an annotated bibliography at the end of the process paper or historical paper. The bibliography lists only those sources that actually contributed information to the project. Primary sources are listed first, followed by secondary sources. Following each citation, an annotation—one or two sentences (or more if you desire)—explains how and why that source was useful. There is no limit to the number of words in the bibliography.

National History Day and Florida History Fair require citations to follow one of two style guides:  the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, published by the Modern Language Association of America, or A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate Turabian, published by the University of Chicago Press. You must use the bibliography, footnote, and other style formats in one book or the other (i.e., formats cannot be mixed).

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a one- or two-sentence explanation in which you make a claim about your research topic and summarize the argument(s) and analysis that will follow. Your thesis statement should pinpoint the main idea of your topic, and it should be expressed clearly and early in your project, regardless of the category. Your thesis statement will help you to remain focused as you develop arguments and present relevant evidence that lead to your conclusion. It also lets judges know what to expect or look for and how you intend to interpret the significance of your topic.

Judging Criteria

FHF staff do everything possible to prevent bias on the part of judges and to protect the anonymity of students. The selection of judging teams is based on several criteria: 1) a team includes three people; 2) two members have judging experience; 3) at least one person has historical research experience; and 4) at least one individual has experience in the category being judged. However, if judges don’t show up on contest day, this ideal combination may be sacrificed. Judges receive a packet of evaluation guidelines before the contest and a verbal orientation on the day of the contest. FHF and NHD consider the judges' decisions to be final.

When judges review an entry, they are looking for ideas and connections that students have made.

  • Does the topic relate to the contest theme?
  • Does the entry merely describe an event, or does it place the topic into historical context, addressing such matters as time and place, and cause and effect?
  • Does it address the historical significance of the topic—that is, its subsequent impact or influence?
  • Does the entry clearly state a thesis and a conclusion?
  • Is the research based on primary and secondary sources?
  • Have these sources been analyzed and interpreted?

Students should keep these questions in mind as they plan and prepare their entry. The criteria that state and national judges use are available on the National History Day website.

NHD Curriculum

National History Day has developed a set of curriculum guides to help students and teachers with the process of researching a topic and creating an entry. Making History includes five bookets:

  • A Guide to Historical Research Through the National History Day Program
  • How to Create a Historical Exhibit
  • How to Create a Historical Documentary
  • How to Create a Historical Performance
  • How to Create a Historical Paper
  • How to Create a Historical Website
Content descriptions and ordering information are available on the
National History Day website.