Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Writing a Process Paper

National History Day in Wisconsin

Writing a Process Paper | National History Day in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

A process paper describes how you conducted your research and created your entry. It gives your judges a better idea of how you went about creating your project. If you had a unique research experience or an interesting reason that you chose your topic, highlight it in your process paper in order to explain this to your judges.

When to Write Your Process Paper

Most students write it toward the end of their process. Since the paper describes the process you went through to do your research and create your entry, you have to be far enough along in your project to write it.  This means you need to know your topic and thesis, have most of your research done, and know overall what your project will look like.

Important Requirements

Category Requirements

  • Exhibit, documentary, performance, and website categories require one process paper for each entry. 
  • The Historical Paper category does not require a process paper.

Group Entry Requirements

  • If you are working in a group, you only need one process paper per entry.
  • Group process papers must be written from the perspective of all group members and contain words like "we" and "our" to reflect that everyone in the group contributed to the project.

Writing Style

The process paper doesn't need to be as formal as your NHD project itself. It’s okay to write in first person and use words like "I" and "we" when talking about your project. You should be careful, however, not be too informal. Using slang is never appropriate. Using proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling is also a must. Your process paper is one of the few things the judges get to take with them after they are done viewing your project. Leave them with a good impression!

Writing the Paper

The process paper has a title page and four sections. The sections allow judges to get insights into your specific topic and processes.

Length: No more than 500 words


  • The process paper can be written in a narrative style, incorporating all of the sections.
  • Or it can be in question and answer format, with a descriptive paragraph answer for each question. 

Title Page

Your title page must include the title of your entry, your name(s) and the contest division and category in which you are entered. Do not include your age, grade or school name.

Section 1 - How I chose my topic

The first section should explain how you selected your topic.

Section 2 - How I conducted my research

The second section should explain how you conducted your research. For example, was it difficult to find primary sources for your topic? Where did you go to find your sources?

Section 3 - How I selected my presentation category and created my project

The third section should explain how you selected your presentation category and created your project.

Section 4 - How my project relates to this year’s theme

The fourth section should explain how your project relates to the NHD theme and why is your topic significant in history. How did you develop the ideas of your thesis to make it fit the theme? Make sure that your theme connection and thesis are clear in your project itself, as well as in your process paper. This paragraph is often the most important part of your process paper.

See Sample Process Papers

You'll find sample process papers on the National NHD Website.

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