Project FAQs

Who picks the annual theme?
The national NHD program, headquartered in College Park, Maryland, selects the annual theme. Themes are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate topics from a variety of areas of history. A set of about a dozen themes generally rotate, although new themes are occasionally introduced. In general, theme rotation is set so that a student could participate in the program each year they are eligible and not repeat a theme.
 
What does a good project look like?
There is no formula for a "good project." All History Day projects look different. Quality research and clear presentation are the backbone of a project. We have samples of projects and some documents that may be helpful if you need direction on organizing your information. 
 
Do topics have to be at least 20 years old?
There are no official rules for how “old” a topic needs to be for History Day. However, as a rule of thumb, topics should be more than 20 years old. Why? When you have a topic that is more recent than this, you won’t be able to make an argument about the topic’s long-term impact in history because we don’t know it yet! 
 
My teacher said that I can only have a certain number of group members or that my topic needs to be from a certain area of history. Why?
While the general rules for National History Day might be more flexible, teachers are able to limit the number of group members you can have, the type of project you are creating, or the area of history from which you can pick. They may limit these choices to help manage the number of History Day project in their class, hold students accountable with smaller groups, or to make sure that student research fits within the curriculum. 
 
What are the rules?
The official National History Day rules are in the NHD Contest Rule Book and apply to History Day students across the country, including Minnesota. Some teachers may have different requirements for projects at the school-level, such as which topic you can choose, how many sources you need, or limits on the number of group members you can have. 
 
Why did the rules change halfway through the school year?
In short, the official National History Day rules did NOT change halfway through the school year. The current version of the official rulebook was updated in 2014-15 and will never change in the MIDDLE of a school year. Some teachers however, set specific requirements for the school-level project, which may be more lenient than the official rules. This means that student advancing to an official History Day contest may have to revise parts of their project.
 
How can I get help on my project outside of school?
Visit a library or archive and get help from a librarian, attend a History Day Hullabaloo to get research assistance from History Day staff, or send questions to the History Day Hotline e-mail.
 
I'm having technology issues. Who can help me?
Your teacher or school media specialist are probably familar with the technology you are using. Check with them to see if they can help you out. If you're doing a website and have an issue with Weebly, check out the help section of the NHD Website Editor. They answer very quickly and do their best to keep you on track. And remember - bring back up Documentaries to competitions just in case you have technology issues there!
 
What Documentary software should I use?
There are no rules on the type of software you have to use to make a Documentary. The most common software used is iMovie or Windows MovieMaker. Some students have access to a more advanced software, like Final Cut Pro, but you don’t need fancy software to make a Documentary. If you don't have access to video editing software at home, be sure to check with your teacher about what is available through your school. 
 
How creative can I be with my final project? 
As long as you are following the general and category-specific rules for History Day, you are able to be very creative with your project. Go beyond the cardboard tri-fold and try a 3-D Exhibit. Consider creative writing in the Paper category. Try a Hamilton-style or spoken word Performance. No matter how creative you are with your project, however, remember that you will be evaluated usign the same judging criteria. Judges will be looking for research and analysis, no matter how you present your final project. 
 
What are the rules about including weapons, plants, or animals in my project?
The NHD Rule Book prohibits items that could be dangerous in any way. Do NOT include these items in your project. Replica weapons should be obviously not real. In general, if you wouldn’t be able to bring this to school, you shouldn’t bring it to a contest. Consider using “symbolic” weapons, such as a stick painted black instead of a rifle, in your Performance. 
 
“Rule 11: Prohibited Materials - Items potentially dangerous in any way - such as weapons, firearms, animals, organisms, plants, etc. - are strictly prohibited. Such items will be confiscated by security personnel or contest officials. Replicas or such items that are obviously not real are permissible. Contact your teacher and contest coordinator to confirm guidelines before bringing the replica to a contest.”
 
Why do I have to use the NHD Website Editor to make a Website?
In short, it’s a rule and required to judge the projects for competition. By using the NHD Website Editor, contest coordinators are able to lock students out of editing their Websites so judges can review them in advance. Your Website will also NOT be indexed by Google, which means that other students cannot search for it on the web. Be sure you are using the NHD version, and not just regular Weebly. Not only is this required by the rules, but you will get free access to certain features, like uploading videos.
 
Do I have to use the Minnesota History Day board to make an Exhibit?
While many students will use the cardboard Exhibit board available from Minnesota History Day to make their project, you are NOT required to do so. You can make your Exhibit from any variety of materials, as long as it fits within the rules for size limit
 
Can I change my project between competitions?
Yes! You are allowed and encouraged to change your project between competitions. It’s a good idea to keep working. Remember, everyone who is advancing to the next level also “won” and has a strong project, too. Consider using the feedback from your judges or the advice you may get from parents and teachers to change your project. In the end this is YOUR project. YOU get to make the final decision about what to change.
 
I’m having problems working with my partner or group. What should I do?
Teamwork can be an important - but challenging - part of the NHD process. Communication is important. Talk to your teacher to figure out how to negotiate conflict, divide the work, and make sure that everyone is contributing their fair share. 
 
What if I’m nervous about the interview or competitions?
While we hope you won’t be, it’s normal to be nervous about the competition. You can watch our Regional or State video, or read our Competition FAQ to learn more
 

 

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National History Day in Minnesota is sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota, Department of History
Minnesota Historical SocietyUniveristy of Minnesota