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Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Preparing for Your Contest

Students presenting at History Day
Students presenting at History Day

So the day you’ve been working toward has finally arrived – you’ve chosen your topic, researched, developed your thesis and selected your project type. Unlike a typical school project, your work is not done. You now have the opportunity to present your project to a panel of judges, typically two or three, and answer questions about what you’ve learned.

You’re probably nervous – that’s OK! Your classmates and other students are, too. Here you’ll find helpful hints for contest day to make it run as smoothly as possibly for you.

Before the Contest

If you have any questions about your project or would like additional feedback, reach out to the NHDI team. They are here to help. Keep in mind it can take a few days to get back with your. If you ask for feedback just day before the contest, it’s likely it will not be addressed in time. Think ahead!

Do some mock judge interviews with family, friends, or anyone willing to help. Use the sample questions in the last section of this page titled “Sample Questions” to prepare Keep in mind, judges might not ask all of these exact questions. They may skip some or use some of their own. Either way, mock interviews will help prepare you.

Consider everything you will need to take with you to the contest a week in advance. Use the checklist below as a guide or create a more detailed one with your specific project needs!

__ Your project

__ 4 copies of your process paper

__ 4 copies of your annotated bibliography

__ Props and costume

__ Trash bag(s) to cover exhibit/props/costumes (we can’t always predict the weather!)

__ Change of clothes for after your performance

__ Any technical equipment, such as back-ups of your documentary

On Contest Day

The day of your NHDI contest can be a fun day to share all you’ve learned with your judges. You are now the expert in the room when it comes to your topic. It’s also a great day to spend with your friends who are presenting their own research.

Keep it Fun
The day can be hectic. Here are some tips to keep it fun:

  • Arrive early to avoid stress.
  • Dress professionally in business casual attire.
  • If you’re doing a performance, bring a change of business casual clothes.
  • Take your photo in our special NHDI photo opp to remember the day.

Don’t Leave Anything Behind
Make sure you have everything your need. Along with yourself and anyone you want to bring with you, have these with you:

  • Your project
  • Process paper – three for judges, one for you
  • Annotated bibliography – three for judges, one for you
  • Props, if you need them
  • Costumes, if you need them
  • Technical equipment, if you need it

When You Arrive
Go to the registration desk where you’ll be given the lay of the land.

  • You will be given a judging time and room number.
  • Exhibits are typically displayed in one or several rooms all together.
  • Performances and documentaries will occur one at a time in their designated rooms.
  • Websites and papers will have their own designated areas as well.
  • Your time indicated the time you will present your project and interview with the judges.

Judging Time
Your judging time is when you finally get to share what you’ve learned and gotten out of your project. Your interview with the judges is important, but remember, they’re just people. They’re also really excited to be there to see your projects and learn from you!

Who are the judges?
Judges are volunteers who love history. They can be historians, teachers, lawyers, college students…the list goes on. They might not be experts in your topic, but they are experts are research. They will be judging your projects, but this is also an opportunity for you to teach them something. Ultimately, everyone is here to learn and have fun.

Judging Process
Expect to have two or three judges reviewing your project.

  • When your judging time begins, introduce yourself and make sure they each have access to your process paper and annotated bibliography. Bring three copies for them and one for yourself.
  • Greet them professionally, shake hands and introduce yourself.
  • Present your project to them.
  • Show your excitement and enthusiasm. You worked hard and deserve to be proud!
  • When the judges are ready, they will conduct your interview.

The Interview
If the judges ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, just tell them that you don’t know. Be honest! Say something like, “I’m not sure about that, but I do know…” or “I will have to look into that…”

When the judges ask you a question, don’t just answer “yes” or “no.” Elaborate!

If you are in a group, make sure all of your partners have a chance to speak. It’s never good if only one group member does all of the talking. That makes it look like they also did all of the work.

Thank the judges at the end and shake hands. Most importantly, have fun!

After Judging
After the judges interview you, they will review your paperwork thoroughly and discuss your project among themselves in a designated room. There, they carefully go over all of their comments in order to determine how to score your project.

They will tally up all the scores to figure out placing for the projects in their groups. Sometimes this can take a while!

Sample Questions

The following are sample questions that the judges might ask. These are not all the questions or the only questions you could be asked, but this will give you an idea of what to expect in the interview.

  • What was your most important source and why?
  • What is the most important point you are trying to convey about your topic?
  • What is the most important thing you learned from doing this project?
  • Why did you pick this topic? What gave you the idea?
  • As you did your research, what surprised you most about your topic?
  • What did you find most difficult about doing research?
  • How did your primary sources help you to understand your topic?
  • How did you come up with your script or design for your project?
  • (If in a group) How did you decide to divide up the work, and why?
  • If you researched an individual, what were the biggest obstacles they faced?
  • If you researched an event, what were the most important factors that caused this event to occur?
  • What were the most important consequences of the event or individual you researched?
  • Why is this topic significant in history?
  • If you could go back and change one thing about your project, what would it be? Hint: Never say “nothing.” There’s always room for improvement.


- Whichever style you choose for your History Day project, be consistent! The judges will appreciate it.
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