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Getting Started

Webpage last updated: August 11, 2022

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

NHD Contest Rule Book

The first step is to download your copy of the National History Day Rule Book (it’s free!) at Rule Book. You, your parents and your teacher should read the Rule Book carefully before you begin to work on your entry. Although your project may start as a class assignment, it must adhere to certain specifications if you intend to compete at higher levels. Contact the state coordinator if you need help understanding the rules and requirements: [email protected]

Understanding the theme

Each year your research must connect to the NHD theme. The 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.

Choosing a research topic

Topics for research are everywhere. Think about a time in history or individuals or events that are interesting to you. When choosing your research topic make sure you topic is not too broad. Selecting a NHD topic is a process of gradually narrowing down the area of history (period or event) that interests you to a manageable subject. For example The Spanish Colonization of the New World is much too broad. You should focus on a narrow topic like the Founding of St. Augustine. You may also want to choose a local or state topic which may provide you with easier access to sources. Finally make sure your ideas connect with the theme.

Choosing a Category

Choosing a research topic may be easier than choosing a category within which you’ll present your findings. Think about what hobbies you enjoy or excel at most: do you like to act in school plays or perform for your friends? Do you like to design, sketch, and assemble craft projects? Do you like to blog about your day or record events as they happen? Think about your interests outside of class and how they could bring your history day topic to life.

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 and how it relates to the theme.

Process Paper

All entries in each category must include a process paper. 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:

  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?

The process paper is not the place for you to state everything you learned about your topic. 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.

Annotated Bibliography

All History Day entries must include an annotated bibliography that is attached to the process paper (documentary, performance, exhibit), placed at the end of a historical paper, or embedded in a website. The bibliography lists all the sources that you consulted for your project. Primary sources are listed first, followed by secondary sources. Following each citation, an annotation—two to three sentences—explains how and why that source was useful. There is no limit to the number of words in the bibliography. If your project includes many photos from a single source, you don’t have to cite every image individually. Rather, you can cite the collection once and note in your annotation that the images appear throughout your entry.

National History Day and Florida History Day 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 The Chicago Manual of Style 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 can’t be mixed).