A documentary can be an exciting and innovative way of sharing historical research at the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair (HOTRHF). Documentaries are familiar features on television and other broadcast media. By creating a documentary for the history fair, you will learn about all of the steps necessary to create an effective, finished production.

Documentaries can take the form of video programs on film, tape or DVD, slide shows, and computer-based shows created with programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Whatever medium you choose, remember that the most important part of your project is the historical research and analysis you do. Remember, too, that all of your research, analysis, and conclusions must be contained in your documentary itself; you may not present any live narration or comments, and the presentation must not require any participation by viewers. Your presentation should include primary materials, but it must also be your own original production. To produce a documentary, you must have access to equipment and be able to operate it yourself.

A complete documentary project must include the documentary itself in whatever medium you choose, a title page, a process paper, and an annotated bibliography.

Documentaries created for HOTRHF must follow all of the rules for this history fair category, as well as the general rules for all entries. Be sure that you are familiar with these rules before you begin your project.


  • Choose a topic that interests you and that is suitable for the documentary format. Be sure your topic relates clearly to this year's theme. One technique is to brainstorm or pool your ideas about possible subjects. Be sure there are plenty of primary and secondary research sources available for research on your topic.
  • Research the topic. Be sure to use both primary and secondary sources.
  • Take notes on your reading and research. Be sure to record all of the information you will need for your annotated bibliography.
  • Write a thesis statement, supporting statements, and your conclusion.
  • Prepare an outline that includes all of the written text, photographs, drawings, and other elements you want to include.
  • Prepare a script. Keep it reasonable in length and allow time for your video and audio elements.
  • Storyboarding. Prepare a storyboard. This is a technique used by visual arts writers and directors to help them decide which picture will best suit the script. Divide your script into segments with appropriate slides, video segments, etc., drawn in. This will help you see which visuals fit best, what still needs to be created, what songs need to be recorded, or what costumes, signs, etc. need to be made.
  • Draw pictures, gather materials to be photographed, shoot films, make video and audio recordings noted in your storyboard.
  • Run through your script, time the documentary, and make sure pictures and script make sense together.
  • Put together the final program, including any additional recording, background music, and voice-overs.
  • Review completed documentary, keeping in mind the following:
    • the 10 minute time limit
    • the match of music, voice, and visuals
    • the length of time one picture remains on the screen
    • the historical quality of your documentary
    • the HOTRHF rules for a documentary.
  • Correct any problems.
  • Share the finished product with outsiders for a constructive critique.
  • Finalize process paper, checking for correct grammar, spelling, length. Check your bibliography for correct citation formats and informative annotations. Make sure your title page is in the correct form and includes only your project's title, the division and category entered, and your name(s).

HOTRHF NOTE: this page is current and up to date for 2014.