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Category Rules
In addition to the general rules which govern all HOTRHF project entries, specific rules apply to each project category:
Historical paper
Web Site

On this page are the rules which apply to all categories of history fair competition. Every project must adhere to these rules, as well as to the rules specific to the category in which it is entered.

This is a long page, but you must be sure to read it all and understand it. You must also read and understand the rules for your chosen project category. If you have any questions, contact the HOTRHF office via e-mail to or telephone (254)753-3251. IMPORTANT NOTE: the coordinator is changing in July - if you have an inquiry before the new coordinator is posted please continue to send your e-mail to Mrs. Martin. She will forward it to the correct person.

General Rules for All Categories - NHD is puslishing a new rule book for 2015 - review ALL rules to check for any changes - at this time June 10, 2014 - the 2015 rules have not been released by NHD

Rule 1: Annual Theme
Your entry must be clearly related to the annual theme and explain your topic's significance in history.

Rule 2: Contest Participation
You may participate in the research, preparation, and presentation of only one entry each year.
You may share research only with up to four other students who are fellow participants in your group entry. You may not create a common pool of research from which several entries are created.

Rule 3: Individual or Group Entries
A paper, individual exhibit,individual performance, individual web site, or individual documentary must be the work of only one student. A group exhibit, group performance, group web site, or group documentary must be the work of 2 to 5 students. All students in a group entry must be involved in the research and interpretation of the group’s topic.

Rule 4: Development Requirements
Entries submitted for competition must be original and have been researched and developed in the current contest year. Revising or reusing an entry from a previous year ’ whether yours or another student's ’will result in disqualification. The year begins each June, following the national contest.

Rule 5: Construction of Entry
You are responsible for the research, design, and creation of your entry. You may receive help and advice from teachers and parents on the mechanical aspects of creating your entry:

  • You may have help typing your paper and other written materials.
  • You may seek guidance from your teachers as you research and analyze your material, but your conclusions must be your own.
  • You may have photographs and slides commercially developed.
  • You may have reasonable help cutting out your exhibit backboard or performance props (e.g., a parent uses a cutting tool to cut the board that you designed).
NOTE: Objects created by others specifically for use in your entry violate this rule. For example, a parent takes photographs or an artist draws the backdrop for your exhibit or performance. You may receive reasonable help in carrying and placing props and exhibits.

Rule 6: Contest Day Setup
You are responsible for setting up your own exhibit, equipment or props at the contest. You may have reasonable help carrying them, but setup must be completed by you (and your group members if applicable) alone.

Rule 7: Supplying Equipment
You are responsible for supplying all props and equipment at each level of competition. All entries should be constructed keeping transportation, setup time, size and weight in mind (e.g., foam core v. solid oak exhibit or antique desk v. folding table for a performance). Projection screens for documentaries and performances may be provided if requested. Check with the history fair office coordinator; (254)-753-3251 about availability of equipment. Students must provide their own computers and software. Musical instruments such as pianos and Internet access are not provided.

NOTE: Be prepared; bring extension cords if needed and check with the HOTRHF office coordinator about the availability of equipment.

Rule 8: Discussion with Judges
You should be prepared to answer judges' questions about the content and development of your entry, but you may not give a formal, prepared introduction, narration, or conclusion. Let the judges' questions guide the interview. Ultimately, your entry should be able to stand on its own without any additional comments from you.
You should be prepared to explain the design, research, and creation of your entry if questioned by the judges. Judges need to know that your entry is the result of your own work.

Rule 9: Costumes
You are not permitted to wear costumes that are related to the focus of your entry during judging, except in the performance category.

Rule 10: 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 of such items that are obviously not real are permissible. Please contact your teacher and HOTRHF office coordinator to confirm guidelines before bringing the replica to a contest.

Rule 11: Title
Your entry must have a title that is clearly visible on all written materials.

Required Written Materials For All Entries

Rule 12: Written Materials
Entries in all categories except historical papers and web sites must include four copies of the following written materials in the following order:

  1. A title page as described in Rule 13.
  2. A process paper as described in Rule 14 (process papers are not part of historical paper entries; all other categories, including documentaries, exhibits, performances, and Web sites, must include a process paper)
  3. An annotated bibliography as described in Rule 15.
These materials must be typed or neatly printed on plain white paper and stapled together in the top left corner. Do not enclose them in a cover or binder.
You must provide four (4) copies of these materials, except in the historical paper and Web site categories.
Web site entries must include these required written materials within the site.
The title page and annotated bibliography must accompany historical paper entries.

Rule 13: Title Page
A title page is required as the first page of written material in every category. Your title page must include only the following items:

  1. TITLE
  4. CATEGORY (e.g. Individual/Group Exhibit, Documentary, Performance)

NOTE: The title page must not include any information (pictures, graphics, borders, school name, or grade) other than that described in this rule.

Rule 14: Process Paper
All categories except historical paper must include a process paper with the entry. It must describe in 500 words or less how you conducted your research and created your entry. The process paper must include

four sections:

  1. explain how you chose your topic;
  2. explain how you conducted your research;
  3. explain how you selected your presentation category and created your project; and
  4. explain how your project relates to the annual NHD theme.
Go to the National History Day Web page to view sample process papers.

Rule 15: Annotated Bibliography
An ANNOTATED bibliography is required for all categories. List only those sources that contributed to the development of your entry, sources that provided usable information or new perspectives in preparing your entry. You likely will include fewer sources than you actually use. Sources of visual materials and oral interviews must be included. The annotations for each source must explain how the source was used and how it helped you to understand your topic. Annotations of Web sites should include a description of who sponsors the site. For example:

Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. New York: David McKay Co. Inc., 1962.
Daisy Bates was the president of the Arkansas NAACP and the one who met and listened to the students each day. This firsthand account was very important to my paper because it made me more aware of the feelings of the people involved.
Annotations of Web sites should include a description of who sponsors the site.

NOTE: Oral history transcripts, correspondence between you and experts, questionnaires, and other primary or secondary materials used as sources for your entry should be cited in your bibliography but not included as attachments to your bibliography.

Rule 16: The Separation of Primary and Secondary Sources
You are required to separate your bibliography into primary and secondary sources.

NOTE: Some sources maybe considered as either primary or secondary. Use your annotations to explain your reasoning for classifying any sources that are not clearly primary or secondary. Listing a source under both primary and secondary is inappropriate.

Rule 17: Style Guides
Style for citations and bibliographic references must follow the principles in one of recent editions of the following style guides:

  1. Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
  2. Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th or 6th Edition.
Regardless of which manual you use, the style must be consistent throughout all written material.
HOTRHF IMPORTANT NOTE: When using automated citation tools, be sure to use one that allows you to select a specific style guide. Some tools, like EasyBib, assign a combination of styles and may result in documentation not being in compliance with Rule 17.)

Rule 18: Plagiarism
You must acknowledge in your annotated bibliography all sources used in your entry. Failure to credit sources is plagiarism and will result in disqualification.

Contest Participation

Rule 19: Entry Procedure LINK NOT WORKIG - it will be replaced soon.....for more information. You must meet specific deadlinesand follow procedures established by HOTRHF. Each registered, participating student must also check in in person at the fair. Parents, teachers, or other group members are not allowed to check in for a student competitor; each student must check in for herself or himself.

Rule 20: Competition Attendance
Students must check-in and register at the time of the regional fair according to the Schedule of Events or forfeit all awards. Individual students and groups must be present for an entry to be judged at the regional, state, and national contest.

Rule 21: Contestants' Responsibilities
All contests are held in public areas, and you are solely responsible for the security and safety of your own equipment and artifacts. HOTRHF program officials and sponsors will not be responsible for loss of or damage to entries, equipment, or personal belongings left overnight or during the program activities.


HOTRHF Note: Rules listed on this web site have NOT been confirmed for 2015 by National History Day.