An extraordinary system of cultural and historical resources.

History Day Getting Started

Getting Started with History Day

History Day displayHistory Day is a fun way to learn about the past, design a creative project, and possibly win scholarships or other prizes.  Once you decide to participate in History Day, what's your next step?

  1. Read all the requirements carefully before beginning the history research project, including the Contest Rule Book and the regional contact information.  In Idaho, the contest consists of three different age categories:  Youth (grades 4-5), Junior (grades 6-8), and Senior (grades 9-12).  All three age categories compete at the regional and, if they advance, state competition level.  Only Junior and Senior competitors can advance to the national level.

  2. Every year the National History Day office chooses a theme for the program.  Check for this year's current theme.  All student projects must relate to the theme.

  3. Determine if you want to do an individual or group project.  Individual students work alone.  Groups are two to five students who work as a team.  Papers are the only category where students must work as individuals.

  4. Select a topic that interests you.  It can have local, state, regional, national, or world topic.  Remember that your project must reflect this year's theme and be focused on history.  For example you can research vaccines but make certain your project centers more on the history and impact of vaccines rather than on the science of their development or how they work.  Here are some possible Idaho related topics.

  5. Research the chosen topic.  Be certain to use primary and secondary resources.  A primary source is a direct record of some time or event in the past such as a diary, autobiography, or photograph.  A secondary source is an account of the past created by someone who wasn’t present at the event such as a text book, encyclopedia, or biography.  Here are tips for researching Idaho History. nbsp; The National History Day office also has tips for conducting good research.

  6. Select the type of entry: documentary exhibit, historical paper, performance, or website.  

  7. Create your project.  Be creative but remember the historical research should be the focus of the project. 

  8. Complete your Annotated Bibliography.  An annotated bibliography lists your sources along with a few sentences describing the information from that source and how you used it.  The annotated bibliography needs to be split into primary and secondary source categories.  

  9. Write your Process Paper.  A process paper describes how you decided on your topic, the research you did, and how you created your project.  A process paper is not a summary of the information in your project.  

  10. Register and enter your project in the appropriate local or regional competition.

Have fun and good luck!

Parents' Role

Preparing a National History Day entry is a very involved task for a student.  Parental support is welcomed and encouraged.  Students need to research and analyze their topic to create an outstanding project. They often need parental help.  For example, a student might locate a primary source at a state library or historic site and need transportation. 

Parents may:
  • Encourage project progress
  • Be a sounding board for ideas
  • Help narrow the focus of their topic
  • Provide access to resources such as internet access or transportation to research institutions
  • Assist with creating a timeline to avoid the last minute scramble
  • Help with tools (drills, hammers, and saws) that the student is not old enough or physically capable of safely using.  Students must design the exhibits/props/graphics and construct the project on their own. 
  • A National History Day project must be the work of the student - during the judging process it will become apparent if it is not. For more detailed information on assisting with student projects, see the Contest Rule Book.
  • Students and parents do not have to spend a great deal of money to produce an entry – very simple, low cost but well designed and researched projects will do just as well or better than costly designs.
  • Parents are encouraged to volunteer at the regional and state competitions. You can be a judge for example (but obviously not in the panel that judges your own child.)