Resources For Students

Want to make your History Day project the best it can be?

So do we! Below are some handy links and guides for you to use while researching and building your project. Make sure to check the additional pages on the sidebar for research days and more details about the contest!

  • Virtual Gallery
    We know that having a digital contest means you missed one of the most fun parts of the contest—talking to people! Since you didn’t get the chance to speak with judges in an interview, give your performance, or talk with other participants or volunteers, we wanted to give you the opportunity to show off your work in a short video, which we will post on social media.

    Submit a 2-minute video to or use WeTransfer to do a safe document transfer to that email address.

    You are welcome to get creative with your video: you can give a mini-tour of your exhibit, act out your favorite part of your performance, talk about a favorite source, create a TikTok-style video about your topic, or do something else related to your project.

    We will feature some of the videos on our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube) and website so that people can see and share the the immense creativity of Maryland students—all from their homes.

  • Topic Lists

    Need a topic? Here are some lists from museums and libraries in Maryland. Many of these sites welcome you to come for a research day or to schedule an appointment for research.

    Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

    Enoch Pratt Free Library: Maryland State Library

    Maryland Historical Society

    National Museum of African American History and Culture

    The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture

    Thinkport Inquiry Kits

  • Finding Sources

    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.

    Great thesis statement: Child labor laws of the early 1900 broke barriers to rights and protections from exploitation and set precedents for later workplace protections.

    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.

    Writing Your Thesis Statement

    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.


    Using Primary Sources


  • Sources + Citing

    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. Try not to only describe the source, but explain why it was important to your project. 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.

    How to Cite the Right Way

    Making An Annotated 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. This is your chance to show the judges all the work you put into your project.

    Primary and Secondary Sources

    Primary and Secondary sources can be confusing! Fortunately there are many online guides to help you decide whether something is a primary or secondary source. The NHD Contest Rule book describes primary and secondary sources on page 11. A primary source is something written down by an eyewitness or someone who lived through the time period you’re researching. Primary sources can come in a lot of forms! However, articles, books, or papers written after the time period or by someone who did not experience an event is a secondary source. Interviews with someone who lived through an event are primary sources, but interviews with an expert who did not live through the time period are a secondary source.

    Primary and Secondary Sources

  • NHD Resources
    Looking for the rule book, interview guidelines, or past projects that won at the national level? This tab has those and more!

    NHD Theme Book – This changes every year for the theme. It includes a narrative that invites you to think deeper about the theme, as well as topic suggestions and articles by scholars.

    NHD Rule Book – Want to know exactly how the judges do the word counts on exhibit boards? Need the details on time limits, costumes, or using the first person in papers? The NHD rule book should be first in your reading for competition details.

    Guidelines for Conducting Interviews – While an interview is not required for projects, you may want to include one in your project creation. Use this page for etiquette, guidelines, and the distinction between primary and secondary sources.

    Project Examples – These examples, while not the only way to success, may give you some inspiration or help you see how other students have created their project.

    Ask The Expert! – NHD Produced this series with NEH researchers, giving tips and tricks for categories. See what they say!

    Creating the Annotated Bibliography – If it’s your first time or your fifth, creating a bibliography is difficult! Keep this guide handy while you’re writing your entries and annotations.

  • “History Day inspired me to become deeply invested in historical topics which I never thought I’d enjoy. It is an amazing experience that has the ability to make learning fun for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in.”

    Addie Skillman, National History Day Gold Winner
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “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
  • “My students went deeper with primary and secondary sources than ever before. They used critical thinking skills and applied the transfer goals and essential questions on a deeper level than they could have in class. It challenged them to think deeper and defend their findings.”

    Maryland History Day 2019 Teacher
  • “The excitement of the research was wonderful for my students’ academic progress. They now feel capable of doing any research paper that may be assigned in college!”

    Maryland History Day 2019 Teacher
  • “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
  • “We were very impressed with the depth of research all the students did for their History Day projects. It was fun to see them interacting with each other during the competition and events.”

    Lori and Josh Skillman, History Day Parents
  • “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 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’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
  • “[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
  • “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
  • “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
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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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