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State Historical Society of Iowa
NHD exhibits in exhibit hall, 2023.


Project Elements

Once you have completed the bulk of your research, you will create your National History Day project. All NHD projects are composed of three elements: the project itself, a process paper and an annotated bibliography.


Your NHD project is a summary of your research findings that uses the information you've gathered from primary and secondary sources to support your thesis or historical argument. 

Process Paper

The process paper is a short summary of your NHD journey. It should answer the following questions:

  • How did you choose your topic and how does it relate to the annual theme?
  • How did you conduct your research?
  • How did you create your project?
  • What is your historical argument?
  • In what ways is your topic significant in history?

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography is a list of all sources you consulted in developing your project. You may cite your sources in either Chicago or MLA style. Each source must have an accompanying annotation or short description that answers the following questions:

  • How did you use the source?
  • How did the source help you understand your topic?

For more information on annotated bibliographies, read the NHD Annotated Bibliography Guide.


NHD projects fall into one of five categories:

  • Documentary
  • Exhibit
  • Paper
  • Performance
  • Website

Each category has its own unique strengths and challenges. Learn more about each category and view example projects, including process papers and annotated bibliographies, here.

Judging Criteria

NHD projects are evaluated according to a rubric with fixed criteria; some criteria is shared across categories while other criteria are category-specific. Learn more about judging criteria and the judging process here.

National History Day and AI

National History Day offers specific guidance about the use of AI in projects. View the policy here

National History Day in Iowa Project Resources

Insider Tips Project Webinars

Insider Tips is a webinar series that outlines the NHD process from start to finish. The videos below focus on creating your project, including common mistakes to avoid.

Creating the Project - featuring Annals of Iowa Editor Andrew Klumpp, Ph.D.
Ask the Mentor: Stand Out in Your Category - featuring former national contest competitors Alex Bare and Andrew Boge