National History Day - Frequently Asked Questions | Wisconsin Historical Society

National History Day - Frequently Asked Questions

  • National History Day Frequently Asked Questions. Email us to get answers to commonly asked questions about National History Day in Wisconsin.



  • How do I pick a topic? First, think about what you are interested in. Music? Nature? Sports? Everything has a history! We encourage you to pick something you are passionate about because you will enjoy this project 100x more. Take this opportunity to learn more about your interests. Next, narrow into what fascinates you about that topic. Are you interested in Asian American history because you want to learn about your own heritage? Do you play a sport and want to learn more about how the rules were created and/or broken? (Did you know girls could not compete in sports until the 1970s… look into Title IX) Start searching your interests and something will click! 
  • Can I work in a group? Yes, each category (except paper category) can be done in a group or individually. Be sure to verify your group with your teacher/ school coordinator.
  • Even if I don’t write a paper, do I still have to write something? Yes, if you are creating a documentary, website, performance, and exhibit you/your group will have to submit a process paper.  Find out more on process papers in the STUDENT tab.
  • What is primary source? Primary sources are anything created at the time of the event in question. A diary, a newspaper, a piece of clothing, or whatever was created at the time.
  • Do I have to register? Yes! And, there are deadlines for every regional. Check out the Contest page for more information.
  • What if I am homeschooled? Of course you can participate! Before you register, email us expressing your interest and where you are located. We can find the nearest regional for you. You will need your parent to become your sponsoring teacher so we can add them to our teacher listserv.
  • Do I have to choose a Wisconsin topic? No, you do not. The benefit of choosing a Wisconsin topic is having easier access to primary sources. You may select a National or International topic as well.
  • I am the only one at my school who wants to do NHD, how do I start? First, find a teacher to sponsor you. This does not have to be your history teacher, but a teacher that believes in you and can advise you throughout the process. Have them contact us, and we will get everything set!
  • Why do papers and websites have to be turned in early? Because they take longer to review. A judge cannot read everything you wrote, look at your sources, and interview you in the time period they have on contest days. We send your projects to our judges at least one week in advance so they can review your work before you arrive for your interview.


  • How old do students have to be to participate? Grades 6-12
  • How do I make the kids not hate this project? Focus on their interests. Allow them to explore areas that interest them. Students may want to learn more about their own heritage or explore the history of circuses—encourage them to do the research. Maybe even do the project with them, if they see you are passionate about it then they may not think this project totally “stinks.”
  • Do I have to host a school event? No, that is not a requirement. Some teachers host a school event to showcase student work, involve the local community, and shift focus off of competition.
  • How do I plan a trip the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives? Email us at: with some dates in mind along with approximate class size. Please send along a list of topics as soon as possible so our library and archives staff can pull resources ahead of time.
  • When do I have to register? For a list of regional and state dates and deadlines check the contest page. Deadlines typically close 2-3 weeks before the contest, but please double check! Remember, paper and website students must submit their materials by the registration deadline as well.
  • Which regional do I register for? If we haven’t told you or you have a conflict, please email us to confirm. Some regionals are closed due to capacity.


  • I did not study history, can I still volunteer? Of course! The only requirement for a NHD volunteer is a love of history and an appreciation of students’ hard work.
  • What should I do to prepare? If you know which category you are assigned, read over the following (in the VOLUNTEER tab):
    • Top 5 Things for your category
    • Judging Instructions for your category
    • Take the Quiz to test your knowledge
  • What if I know a student competing? You may still volunteer, however we will ask you to disclose who you know so we can assign you accordingly. We do not want any conflicts of interest while judging.
  • How long is the competition? Duration depends on what kind of volunteer you are.
    • Room monitors: depending on the space, a few hours seated and/or standing
    • Judges: depending on what you are judging, a few hours seated interviewing students or walking around exhibition halls.
  • Do we get breaks? Yes. Briefly between each judge time and for the lunch we provide.
  • What does a judge do? A judge’s role involves viewing student projects, encouraging students, and providing helpful written feedback. This consists of interviewing student(s) about their project and filling out comment sheets after the day. When all is said and done, you and your judge team will be selecting a couple of projects to advance to the next round.
  • What does a room monitor do? Keeps judging on schedule, is a friendly face for anxious students, and is our eyes and ears should any problems arise.
  • Can I choose what I want to judge? If you have a preference, we suggest noting that on your registration form.
  • How do I register? Head to and click on the contest you wish to volunteer for. Once you've selected the contest you wish to volunteer for you can follow the instructions there to create an account.


  • How can I help my student with his/her project? Be a source of encouragement! Your child will be doing a lot of research and writing. Support their effort and creativity. Take them to a local library. Ask them to tell you more aboout their project (the best way to check if they know something is if they can teach other people.) Remember this is their project.
  • What is plagiarism and how do I check for that? Plagiarism is when someone takes credit for another person's work. If your child is quoting another person, or using someone else's idea—be sure they cite the author/creator.
  • Can I attend the contest? Of course! Head to the CONTEST tab to find all regional and state dates.
  • What is a final round? Final Rounds are essentially a second round of judging. Due to number of entries we need to divide the projects into multiple groups so it is not just one judge team judging 20 junior group exhibits or watching 12 senior individual documentaries. These multiple groups each send on their top few projects to a "final round" or "second round" of judging to determine the regional or state finalists.
  • How do I know if my kid is in a final round? Depends on their category.
      • Paper, Website, and Exhibit* = WILL NOT know whether they made final rounds or not (there are no interviews in final round)
      • Documentary and Performance* = WILL know whether they made final rounds as they need to be present to showcase their project in-person (there are no interviews in final round)
      • *Keep in mind there may not be a final round at every regional since final rounds depend on number of entries. Check the program to see categories with final rounds.
    • STATE:
      • ALL projects will have final rounds announced*
      • NO projects will have interviews; only performance and documentary projects need to be present
      •  *Keep in mind there may not be a final round since final rounds depend on number of entries. Check the program to see categories with final rounds.
  • Do I have to pay to enter the contest? No, the public is welcome to observe all projects! Paper and website judging is closed to the public, but performances and documentaries are open. There is also specific time for public viewing of exhibits.
  • Can I volunteer? Yes, we are always looking for volunteers. Head to the VOLUNTEER tab to learn more.