The Alabama History Day staff invites you to get creative and demonstrate your critical thinking skills in our annual competition. The best thing about this competition is that YOU select the topic and the presentation format! We have a ton of guides and other resources to help you along the way whether you build a website, create an exhibit, write a paper, prepare a live performance, or film a documentary.
You may work solo or in groups of up to five students. Also, remember that groups can be made up of students in different grade levels, as long as you are in the same division. If group projects are your thing, start texting your friends and classmates, and get to work!
- Junior Division – grades 6-8
- Senior Division – grades 9-12
First things first! Review the National History Day rule book with your teacher and family. This will be your guide to a successful project.
Contact your district coordinator for registration deadlines and contest details in your local competition. If your district is not hosting a local contest, please contact US to inquire about participation. We welcome all eligible students, including those from public, private, home, and cyber schools!
Your Theme: Breaking Barriers
Selecting A Topic
What Interests You?
Begin by thinking about a time in history or individuals or events that are interesting to you. Start a list of ideas.
- Read books, blogs, newspapers.
- Review websites, news reports, and podcasts.
- Talk with relatives, neighbors, or other people you know who have lived through a particular time in history that interests you.
- Keep thinking, reading and talking to people until you have many ideas that are interesting.
- Consider Alabama History Day and National History Day special award topics
- National History Day Special Awards
Now go back through the list and circle the ideas that you can easily connect with the theme. From the ideas that you circled, select one to begin your research.
Keep It Manageable By Getting Specific
Once you have identified a general idea break it down to identify specific topics from which to choose. Ask questions such as: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Mind maps are a great way to generate well defined topics. These hand-drawn maps visually represent sub-topics related to the general idea you select. Mind maps and other suggestions on how to narrow a topic can be found in the brief videos below.
2020 Topic Suggestions
If you are still having trouble coming up with a topic, maybe a topic suggestion will help get you started. Check out the pages below for theme specific topic ideas.
Defining A Thesis
Write A Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement explains what you believe to be the impact and significance of your topic in history.Your project should make a point about its topic. You will need to develop your own argument for the historical impact of the person, event, pattern or idea you are studying. The point you make is called a thesis statement.
A. Start with a Research Question. What do you want to find out about? Notice how the examples below would each take some research to answer.
- Why was Thomas Jefferson opposed to slavery?
- What happened to the Juvenile Court system to bring it to the crisis point?
B. Research enough to be able to take a stand and add your opinion. What is the issue or concern? Make sure it’s arguable.
- Even though Thomas Jefferson had slaves, he showed that he valued every human being in his words and actions.
- The Juvenile Court system was established to remove children from the adult criminal justice system and help youth reform, but over the years it became a source of punishment and imprisonment.
C. Evaluate your thesis statement by asking these questions:
- Is it clear what the project will be about?
- Is it arguable? / Is there something that has to be proven?
- Will research be necessary to prove the thesis?
- Is there only one main idea?
- Is it about something in the past that is important?
- Does it relate to the theme?
Go Beyond Description
The most successful Alabama History Day entries not only describe their historical topic, but they also analyze it and present it in historical context. The following questions can help guide your analysis and interpretation:
- How was my topic significant in history in relation to the theme?
- How did my topic develop over time?
- How did my topic influence history?
- What are the relevant characteristics of the historical context that influenced my topic in history (considering social, economic, political, and cultural aspects, as well as the physical environment) ?
- Why is my topic important?
Primary and Secondary Sources
What Are Primary and Secondary Sources?
While conducting your research keep in mind that your annotated bibliography will require you to identify and list primary and secondary sources in two different categories. As a general rule, remember that primary sources are items that were either created during the time period or created by individuals who experienced the event first-hand. Secondary sources interpret and analyze the historic moment or individual.
CLICK to enlarge the info-graphics below.
Finding Primary and Secondary Sources
Many resources can be found in your own community. Ask for help with research at local libraries, historical societies, museums and archives. Resources can also be located online when not found locally. Many larger institutions have excellent collections of digital artifacts available. The National History Day website has a list of several such links. Below are a few of our favorites to get you started!
Requirements For All Formats
Citations must be made according to either of the following style guides:
Annotated bibliographies include information about the source in addition to its bibliographic data. Your annotated bibliography will provide judges with some evidence on the depth of your research process. Basic requirements are outlined below.
After bibliographic data for each source, include a 2-4 sentence description which:
- Identifies what type of source this is (song, poem, book, website, journal article, diary entry, newspaper article, you get the drift….)
- Describes how you used the source.
- Describes how the source helped you understand your topic and create your project.
Two Required Sections
Your annotated bibliography must be divided into two labeled sections:
- “Primary Sources”
- “Secondary Sources”
- Single-space each entry and skip one line between entries.
- All source citations are tabbed 1/2 inch (one tab) after the first line.
- URLs (web addresses) should NOT be hyperlinked.
All entries require submission of an annotated bibliography. The bibliography is not included in your project word count.
Process papers provide an overview for how you completed your project and demonstrate your understanding of the research process, from choosing a topic to developing a thesis statement, researching, analyzing and reporting. This brief paper explains how you conducted your research and created your entry.
- Word Count: 500 words or less.
- Four Required Sections:
- How I chose my topic
- How I conducted my research
- How I selected my presentation category and created my project
- How my project relates to the Alabama History Day theme.
A process paper is required for all entries except those in the paper category. Process papers are not included in your project word count.
You should be (and, after completing your project, will be) prepared to answer judges’ questions about the content and development of your entry. Let the judges’ questions guide guide the interview. Here are some sample questions. You’ve got this!
Alabama Historical Association Special Award
The Alabama Historical Association Special Award will be presented to one Junior project and one Senior project that addresses an Alabama historical topic with respect to the annual National History Day theme. The award consists of a $100 cash award and a one-year membership to the Alabama Historical Association. Students must self-nominate themselves for this award upon registering for the Alabama History Day competition.
Interstate Character Council Award
The Interstate Character Council Award is for AHD students who exhibit character or the development of character throughout the AHD process be it through their personal experience in the competition or as observed in their historical topic for the competition. Once their AHD project has been completed, students interested in being considered for this award should submit a 500-word essay citing specific instances of character engagement during the AHD process after. The character engagement can be from personal experience or identified within the scope of their history day topic (i.e. the courageous act of Harriet Tubman; the patriotism of Paul Revere, etc). For group projects, each student within a group should include a 500-word statement and submit one collaborative document (up to five individual 500-word essays in one document). The submission portal for the award is below.
Submissions should be uploaded in PDF (.pdf) or Word (.docx) format using the following naming convention: “Student Last Name_Student First Name_Student School.”
At the Alabama History Day award ceremony there will be one $250 award presented to students in each of the Junior and Senior categories for a total of $500 being awarded in total.
The Interstate Character Council Award has been made possible by the Interstate Character Council, Inc. an initiative whose mission is to promote, encourage, and support character building in schools and communities worldwide. The organization’s vision is to foster a better society built on strength through compassion and to encourage kindness to one another by connecting education and community stakeholders nationwide to promote character ideals. The Interstate Character Council, Inc. promotes character principles included in the Alabama Character Education Mandate of 1995 other southern character education mandates. They are as follows: courage, patriotism, citizenship, honesty, fairness, respect for others, kindness, cooperation, self-respect, self-control, courtesy, compassion, tolerance, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cleanliness, cheerfulness, school pride, respect for the environment, patience, creativity, sportsmanship, loyalty, and perseverance.
For more information about character education visit www.character.org.
Samuel Eichold II Prize in Medical History
The Mobile Medical Museum and the Eichold Family Foundation Fund are proud to offer the Samuel Eichold II Prize in Medical History, which is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category, in either the junior or senior division, that demonstrates academic excellence while exploring a topic in the history of medicine.
Founded by Dr. Samuel Eichold II in 1962, the Mobile Medical Museum preserves and exhibits medical artifacts and archives to commemorate Mobile’s prominent place in the history of medical education and public health in the state of Alabama and the Gulf Coast. The Museum’s collections and exhibitions provide the public with a broad understanding of the evolution of the art and science of health care.
The Museum’s collections include over 5,000 medical artifacts and documents from the past 300 years that can be used as primary sources. The Museum also houses the J.L. Bedsole Archives and Ben May Library, which together contain over 50 cubic feet of letters, doctor’s registers, and photographs, as well as thousands of rare books.
For more information about Mobile Medical Museum visit https://www.mobilemedicalmuseum.org/.
Special Award in Sports History
The Special Award in Sports History is awarded to four outstanding projects in both the Junior and Senior division in any category that successfully embodies the contest theme with a topic in sports history. The prize is comprised of a $300 student award (to be divided amongst team members if applicable) and a $300 award for the successful student’s teacher sponsor(s) to be used in part. The Special Award in Sports History is an at-will award which reserves awarding preference for students and teachers from the Birmingham City Schools district.
The Special Award in Sports History is sponsored by the Birmingham Athletic Partnership, a non-profit 501(c) corporation founded in March 2002 that is dedicated to assisting the Birmingham city public middle and high school’s athletic, cheerleading and band programs. BAP is committed to be a resource that will enhance the athletic departments’ abilities to provide the necessary leadership, education, facilities and equipment to assure that students have opportunities to excel in their interest in sports and related extracurricular activities.
For more information about the Birmingham Athletic Partnership visit https://bapteam.org/.
Alabama Multicultural History Award
The Alabama Multicultural History Award is presented to the top-ranked individual project, in either division, in any category, that, with respect to the competition year theme, covers an Alabama multicultural history topic, “multicultural” being understood to mean “relating to or constituting several diverse cultural or ethnic groups within a society (e.g. Native American history, African American history, Latin American history, religion, gender, sexuality, etc.).
The Alabama Multicultural History Award is sponsored by the Alabama Historical Commission, the state agency created in 1966 by Governor George Wallace to preserve and promote state-owned historic sites as public attractions, and to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities.
For more information about the Alabama Historical Commission visit https://ahc.alabama.gov/
Alabama History Award
The Alabama History Award is presented to an outstanding individual project, one in each division, that covers any Alabama historical topic with respect to the competition year theme.
The Alabama History Award is sponsored by the Alabama Historical Commission, the state agency created in 1966 by Governor George Wallace to preserve and promote state-owned historic sites as public attractions, and to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities.
For more information about the Alabama Historical Commission visit https://ahc.alabama.gov/.
CHOOSE FROM 5 DIFFERENT PRESENTATION FORMATS!
CLICK the tabs above for information about each of the formats.
CLICK Award Winning Entries to view examples from previous competitions.
Do you find yourself critiquing every movie you watch? Do you love to tell stories using imagery and sound? if you answered yes to those questions, documentary is the category for you!
- Documentary entries may not exceed 10 minutes.
- You must state your names and the title of your entry for the judges before playing your documentary.
- Media requiring audience participation is not allowed.
You may work alone or in groups of up to five.
The tools below should help to clarify expectations and define scoring criteria for history day documentaries. You can also use them to judge and revise your work.
Do you find yourself doodling on the sides of your notes? Do your friends come to you for creative advice? If you answered yes to those questions, exhibit is the category for you!
- Exhibits may be no larger than 40 inches wide x 30 inches deep x 6 feet tall.
- Word count is a maximum of 500 words.
- Visual primary sources such as maps and images may be included!
You may work alone or in groups of up to five.
The tools below should help to clarify expectations and define scoring criteria for history day exhibits. You can also use them to judge and revise your work.
Do you best express yourself through writing? Do you prefer writing over speaking in front of a crowd? If you answered yes to those questions, paper i the category for you!
- Both traditional research and creative writing papers are accepted.
- Word count should be between 1500 and 2500 words.
- Paper is the only category that does not require a Process Paper.
You must work alone. There is no group category for papers.
The tools below should help to clarify expectations and define scoring criteria for history day papers. You can also use them to judge and revise your work.
Do you love being in the spotlight? Do you enjoy speaking in front of a crowd? If you answered yes to those questions, performance is the category for you!
- Performances may not exceed 10 minutes.
- Performances must open with an introduction including a title and the names of participants.
- Use of media within performance is allowed when operated by students registered with the performance.
You may work alone or in groups of up to five.
The tools below should help to clarify expectations and define scoring criteria for history day performances. You can also use them to judge and revise your work.
Do you love working with the latest technology? Do your friends come to you for technical advice? If you answered yes to those questions, website is the category for you!
- Websites must be created on nhd.weebly.com
- Multimedia clips cannot exceed 4 minutes in length.
- Total visible word count must be posted on home page and cannot exceed 1200 words.
You may work alone or in groups of up to five.
The tools below should help to clarify expectations and define scoring criteria for history day websites. You can also use them to judge and revise your work.