Entering the Contest

Interested in participating in Maryland History Day and want to know how to get started? Explore this page for more details.

  • Getting Started

    Before selecting your topic and beginning your research, you, your teacher, and your parents should review the contest rule book. The rulebook is your guide to a successful project.

    rulebook in English (PDF) RULEBOOK IN SPANISH (PDF)

    You should also determine whether your district is hosting a local contest. Then you and your teacher should contact the district coordinator for registration deadlines and contest details. If your district is not hosting a local contest, please contact Maryland History Day staff to inquire about participation.

    Annual Theme

    Each year National History Day chooses a different theme to help students focus their research. The 2019 theme is Triumph and Tragedy in History

    This year’s theme requires you to view history from multiple perspectives. Compromise can sometimes prevent a conflict, but what happens when it does not? If a conflict occurs, how can compromise help to end the conflict? What happens if a failed compromise leads to an even larger conflict?

  • Topic Selection

    The great thing about History Day is that you can choose a topic that interests you! You can research an event or individual in any area of history: science, music, sports, politics – the list goes on and on. Just remember to start broad (the Civil Rights Movement) and then narrow your focus (think Rosa Parks).

  • Divisions
    There are two History Day divisions based on school grade:

    • Junior Division – grades 6-8
    • Senior Division – grades 9-12

    Students can compete as individuals or in groups (the paper category is individual-only). Groups may include two to five students, however, teachers can determine the number of students permitted in a group. Group participants do not have to be in the same grade, but they must be in the same division.

  • Conducting Research

    Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

    These are six questions you should be asking yourself as you conduct your research. Answering these questions will help you develop your thesis.

    A thesis statement is a summary of the main purpose of your project. It explains what you believe to be the impact and significance of your topic in history, and it demonstrates how your topic connects to the National History Day theme. A good thesis statement is specific and does not include generalizations.

    • Good thesis statement: Child labor laws in the early 1900s were necessary in order to protect the human rights of children.
    • Bad thesis statement: I am going to tell you about child labor laws.

    Primary and Secondary Sources

    The basic definition of a primary source is material written or produced by a participant in, or an eyewitness to the event being investigated. Examples are diaries, letters, images, music, historic sites, autobiographies, or other items created during the time of the event. A secondary source is a book or article written by an author who was not an eyewitness or participant in the historical event. Examples are textbooks, encyclopedias, biographies, and other things written after the event occurred.

    Where can students go to find primary and secondary sources?

    Libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies are the perfect place to start. The staff at these cultural institutions are eager to help students like you!

    If you do not have access to such places in your community, there are great online resources, including the National History Day website or the Maryland History Day Facebook page:


  • Creating Your Entry
    There are five different categories to choose from: paper, exhibit, documentary, website, and performance. Choose carefully and make sure you read the category-specific requirements in the rule book. No category is easier than another. Play to your strengths!

    If you would like another pair of eyes to look over your project before you submit it to the state contest, take advantage of our electronic review service.

    Conducting Interviews

    Interviews (also known as oral histories) are not required for NHD. However, if you are interested in conducting an interview, there are some guidelines.

    Citations, Annotated Bibliography, and Process Paper

    National History Day requires that citations be formatted in Turabian or MLA style. Style guides can be found at your local library or you can consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

    Annotated bibliographies not only show the reader the quantity and quality of your sources, the annotations inform the reader how you used your sources. Check out the National History Day Annotated Bibliography Resource Guide! Another great resources is NoodleTools, an online platform that helps students organize resources and create their bibliography.

    The process paper is required for all categories except paper. In no more than 500 words, you must answer four questions: how you chose your topic, how you conducted your research, how you selected your category, and how your project relates to the theme.

  • Submitting an Entry
    Pre-registration is required to participate in all levels of competition. Registration for the state contest opens in February.

    Before you submit an entry, make sure you check that your project meets all the requirements for the competition by using the National History Day Rules Verification Checklist!

  • “The students are now far more prepared for the high level of scholarship and achievement that will be expected of them in future years. MHD also elevated many other skills too. These include public speaking, the use of technology, learning to collaborate.”

    ​Maryland History Day teacher
  • “My students became more competent researchers, and took ownership of their work. They had total free reign to choose their topic, direct their research, and create their final project.”

    ​Maryland History Day 2015 Teacher
  • “I had never done anything like this before so it was a totally new experience to write a paper, be interviewed, and defend my positions. I now really know how to do research and it has improved my writing skills.”

    ​Maryland History Day student
  • “I think the continual process of improving her research and presentation through the various levels of competition has been incredibly valuable. It has caused her to dig deeper in her research and build upon and refine her work and presentation.”

    ​Maryland History Day parent
  • “By using a variety of sources, I was able to get angles on my topic that I wasn’t able to before. Also, I learned so much about a topic near and dear to my heart that will enrich my learning later in life.”

    Maryland History Day 2015 Student
  • “MHD illustrated the applicability of the study of history to contemporary issues and current events. It was very motivating to converse with the students about their historical topic and observe how they applied it to current events and their own life circumstances.”

    ​Maryland History Day parent
  • “[The students] learned a variety of ways to present their material and they could focus on what they wanted to learn about. The students had a choice in their learning. It was about their learning NOT what someone else felt they need to learn.”

    ​Maryland History Day teacher
  • “The part of History Day that had the most impact on me was seeing all the other entries and entry categories. It was really inspiring to see so many different people of history honored for their leadership and legacy as that was this years theme. You forget that the whole world has a history and there are so many different people and leaders who make up that history. The fact that this day brings together all of us students, our imaginations, our creativity, research skills, and history really reminds you how much of us would be lost if we didn’t remember those who made an impact.”

    ​Maryland History Day student participant
  • “I had never done anything like this before so it was a totally new experience to write a paper, be interviewed, and defend my positions. I now really know how to do research and it has improved my writing skills.”

    ​Maryland History Day 2015 Student
  • “[My son] became a real expert in his topic and, he says, developed a life-long love of history, especially the history of music. I cannot thank you enough for this rare and incredible opportunity.”

    Andrea LeWinter, parent of Maryland History Day participant
  • “Maryland History Day challenged my daughter to go deeper, deeper in research analysis and presentation. It took her to a whole new level academically.”

    ​Maryland History Day parent
  • “The researching and communicating skills have made me a more confident person in all academic endeavors. These are skills that will last me a lifetime.”

    ​Maryland History Day student participant
  • I’ve loved judging! It’s exciting to see the passion the middle schoolers have put in their projects. I hope that my critiques have helped strive for excellence throughout their lives.

    Dee Krasnansky, Maryland History Day Judge
  • “It provided an opportunity for my child to learn through experiential opportunities. He had interviews and tours that were relevant to his topic that helped the history come alive and create unforgettable memories.”

    Maryland History Day 2015 Parent
  • “The thing that had the most impact were the skills that I got from this project. I developed better hunting skills in terms of looking for reliable sources and I also learned to work hard and not procrastinate to achieve something great.”

    Maryland History Day student participant
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Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities.
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