Welcome, Students!


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.

Photo of Alabama Students at University of Maryland College Park

Prattville students at 2017 National History Day, University of Maryland at College Park.

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

Getting Started

First things first! Review the National History Day rule book with your teacher and family. This will be your guide to a successful project.

Contest Rule Book English

Reglamento del Concurso Espanol

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: Triumph & Tragedy

To help you focus your research, a competition theme is chosen each year by National History Day.  The 2019 theme is Triumph & Tragedy in History. The linked booklet will help you think about how to use the theme as a guide for discussing your topic.  It even offers some topic ideas!

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.

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.

Mapping Your Research Ideas

Six Creative Ways To Brainstorm Ideas

2019 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.

National Endowment For The Humanities EDSITEment

National History Day Sample Topics

DOCSteach at the National Archives

Alabama Local History Topics COMING SOON!

National Museum of African American History & Culture COMING SOON!

National Women’s History Museum COMING SOON!

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:

  1.      Is it clear what the project will be about?
  2.      Is it arguable? / Is there something that has to be proven?
  3.      Will research be necessary to prove the thesis?
  4.      Is there only one main idea?
  5.      Is it about something in the past that is important?
  6.      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.

Primary Source InfographicSecondary Source Infographic









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!

Alabama Department of Archives & History

Digital History

Encyclopedia of Alabama

Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama

Library of Congress Manuscripts & Mixed Materials

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

National Archives

PBS Learning Media

Schomburg Images of African Americans from the 19th Century

Smithsonian Institution

United Nations Photos

Requirements For All Formats


Citations must be made according to either of the following style guides:

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style
  2. MLA

Annotated Bibliography

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:

  1. Identifies what type of source this is (song, poem, book, website, journal article, diary entry, newspaper article, you get the drift….)
  2. Describes how you used the source.
  3. 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 Paper

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:
    1. How I chose my topic
    2. How I conducted my research
    3. How I selected my presentation category and created my project
    4. 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.

Judges Questions

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!

Special Awards

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 200-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 200-word statement and submit one collaborative document (up to five individual 200-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.

For any questions regarding the Interstate Character Council Award contact Alabama History Day coordinator, Jerald Crook at jcrook@alabamahumanities.org.


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.

Documentary Rubric     Documentary Rules Verification Checklist     Documentary Sample Judge’s Ballot


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.

Exhibit Rubric           Exhibit Rules Verification Checklist             Exhibit Sample Judge’s Ballot


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.

Paper Rubric        Paper Rules Verification Checklist          Paper Sample Judge’s Ballot


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.

Performance Rubric      Performance Rules Verification Checklist     Performance Sample Judge’s Ballot


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.

Website Rubric          Website Rules Verification Checklist          Website Sample Judge’s Ballot