History Day rules are determined by the National History Day office, ensuring that each state follows the same guidelines. The Contest Rule Book is available in English and Spanish, however, all entries entered for History Day competition must be in English. If you have a rules question, please contact Sarah Aschbrenner.
The current Rule Book was last updated in 2015 and is up to date.
- Contest Rule Book, updated for 2014-15 (English)
- Contest Rule Book, updated for 2014-15 (Spanish)
- Overview of Rule Changes from 2015
History Day exhibits are presented as mini-museum exhibits. Students use images, artifacts, graphics, and their own writing to deliver information to the judges. Exhibits are limited to 500 student-composed words, but there is no limit on quotes from other sources. For example, if they use an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, those words don't count towards the limit. There are also size limits for the exhibit boards. Projects may be no taller than 6 feet, no wider than 40 inches, and no deeper than 30 inches.
For those students who love technology, making a documentary might be the right choice. History Day documentaries are videos that students create using any number of technologies. Various computer programs will allow students to upload film footage and images, and add a music track and an audio track for the student-written script. Documentaries are limited to 10 minutes in length, must be in DVD format, and all equipment must be student-run.
Students with dramatic flair and an interest in public speaking might choose to do a performance. History Day performances are short plays researched, no longer than 10 minutes, which are scripted and acted by the students. These are live performances, not filmed in advance. Any props, backdrops, and media devices must be set up and run by the students.
Research Paper Category
The research paper category is an option for students who enjoy writing. Research papers are to be no less than 1,500 words and no more than 2,500 words. The paper category is also the only category in which students must work individually; there are no group papers!
Rapidly becoming one of the most popular categories, the History Day website category is another one that students who are comfortable with technology will enjoy. Students are required to use the National History Day Website Editor when creating their entry. Websites are limited to 1,200 student-composed words, no more than 100 MB, and no more than four minutes of multimedia (audio/video). If you are having difficulties wtih your website, or are unsure if you've created it in the correct format, please visit the History Day Website Editor Issues page for help.
Evaluation and Sample Judging Forms
For each of the five categories:
- 80% of the criteria is Historical Quality and Relation to Theme.
- 20% is specific to each project's medium.
- An annotated bibliography is required, showing what sources the student used to conduct his or her research.