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Selecting Your Project Type

NHDI logo on blue background

National History Day in Indiana has five different project types: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance and website. Each type of project emphasizes and develops a different set of skills. Since you may choose any type of project you would like it do, it is helpful to think about what skills you already have and would help you do the best on your project!

No matter what project type you choose, be sure to check out the official NHD Rulebook before completing any project. Also, check out our tip guide (coming soon) for making accessible projects.

Explore the many different project types, rules, organization tips and resources to get you started below!


Do you enjoy working with computers and creating audio-visuals? Do you love movies? A documentary might be the project for you!

Documentaries are perhaps one of the most technically difficult projects since they rely on the user knowing or learning how to use editing software. However, these projects can also be very creative as they rely heavily on primary sources for photographs or videos. Because you will be providing visual aids to go with your script, it is helpful to begin by writing your script based on your research. Once you have written the script, then you can do more research to look for photos and videos to accompany your script.


While you have the flexibility to arrange your documentary any way you would like, make sure your organization makes sense to a viewer. One helpful method of combining your script and your media is to storyboard your project! As you’re finding media to add to your script, remember to pace your documentary so that the audience has time to absorb the information.

One sample organization pattern is:

  • 1 minute for your introduction and thesis statement
  • 2 minutes for background information
  • 3 minutes for the main event
  • 3 minutes for the impact
  • 1 minute for the conclusion and credits screen


Your documentary must be able to completely run in 10 minutes or less. Timing begins at the first sound or image and ends at the last sound or image.

Before beginning your documentary, you must state the title of the documentary and the names of the participants. No other live interaction is allowed during the showing of the documentary.

You must include a credit screen at the end of the documentary that gives brief credit for each image and visual or audio clip used in the documentary.

Remember that different equipment may behave differently and technology does not always work. Make sure to bring multiple copies of your documentary in case the first copy fails.

Be sure to carefully review all of the rules in the NHD Rulebook.

Thinking of doing a documentary?

Be sure to check out past examples of documentaries to gain some inspiration!

Use our free Documentary Storyboard Worksheet to start assembling your documentary!


Are you artistic and love creating interesting visual designs? An exhibit project can draw upon both of those skills!

Exhibits allow you to use three dimensions to bring your topic to life! These can be as simple or elaborate as you like. You can use color schemes, pictures and physical objects to best tell the story of your topic. Whether you are using a traditional tri-fold board or a rotating display, you have plenty of room for creativity but make sure that your exhibit also clearly conveys the background, important information and impact of your topic.


No matter the type of board you are using, you will want the title board of your project to come first and the rest of your information to follow in a logical manner. For any exhibit, it is important that the reader know where to start reading. As you create your project, consider how to best show the distinction in sections. You may label them or use a different color for different sections. Also, consider how your project will look finished.

  • Are there too many pictures in one section and almost none in another?
  • Are there big blocks of text that are hard to read?
  • Are your title and thesis clearly shown?
  • Is everything presented on your board there for a reason? Is it all contributing to your thesis?


Your exhibit may not contain more than 500 student-composed words, which include titles, subtitles, captions, graphs, and timelines. The only exception is brief factual credit of sources and quotes.

All quotes and pictures must be cited on your exhibit board as well as in your annotated bibliography.

If you add any media to your exhibit through a media device, it may not play for more than 2 minutes.

Exhibits must not exceed size guidelines – 40 inches wide, 30 inches deep, and 6 feet high. If you choose a rotating display, it cannot be more than 30 inches in diameter.

Be sure to carefully review all of the rules in the NHD Rulebook.

Thinking of doing an exhibit?

Be sure to check out past examples of exhibits to gain some inspiration!

Use our free Exhibit Worksheet to start layout out some ideas for your exhibit board!


Do you enjoy researching but prefer to work alone? Would you like a project that is a little more traditional? A paper is the perfect category for you!

Papers are a traditional method of presenting historical research and allow you to revise and perfect what they want to say. While revision is a part of any project, papers do not have the extra work of creating props, an exhibit board or dealing with technology, which allows you to spend more time finding research and revising the paper.
You will write your paper as you would write an essay for a class with an introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Clearly state your thesis in the introduction. The introduction should function as an orientation for the audience to your topic. It should not be too long or too detailed.
  • Defend your thesis and present the majority of your research in the body paragraphs. Remember, you are telling a story through your paper and your organization should reflect that.
  • Wrap-up your paper in your conclusion. While it should summarize your paper, it should not restate in detail what you presented above but should bring everything together and demonstrate significance.
  • Make sure to review your paper several times to look for all grammar errors or awkward phrasing.


Every single quoted and student-produced word counts as one word in the paper category.

Your paper must be between 1,500 and 2,500 words. Footnotes, bibliography and appendices are not included in the word count.

Your paper should be typed in 12-point font, double-spaced, printed single-sided and all pages should be numbered.

Be sure to carefully review all of the rules in the NHD Rulebook.

Thinking of doing a paper?

Be sure to check out some past examples of papers for inspiration!

Use our free Paper Outline Worksheet to help organize some of your research before writing your paper!

Do you like to perform? Are you in drama club or involved in theater? Presenting your research in the form of a performance could fit your skills.
In performance, you get to write a script to present your research in an engaging and dramatic style. Scripts should be refined and memorized, which adds to the time commitment of this project type. You will also need to develop props and costumes to help present your project more effectively. While a performance may seem to focus on the dramatic aspect of history, research is still important to a successful project. Before writing the script, make sure to do plenty of research on your topic and the historical context surrounding it. The research will help you create believable characters to portray!

Whatever genre you choose to make your performance drama or comedy be consistent. One way to organize your performance to fit into 10 minutes and to present all your information is:

  • 1 minute for your introduction and thesis
  • 2 minutes on historical context
  • 3 minutes on the main part of your story
  • 3 minutes on the impact
  • 1 minute for your conclusion
Since you are performing live, it is also a good idea to build in a little bit of extra time for interruptions.


You can design, rent or purchase your costume. Adults may help put the costume together, but the design concept must be your own work.

Your whole performance must fit in 10 minutes.

You will have 5 minutes before and after your performance for set up and tear down.

Be sure to carefully review all of the rules in the NHD Rulebook.

Thinking of doing a performance?

Be sure to check out past examples of performances for inspiration!

Use our free Planning Your Performance Worksheet to start mapping out ideas for your performance!


Are you interested in graphic design or working with computers? Designing a website may be the perfect category for you!

This category allows you to create an interactive project using primary and secondary sources and present them in multimedia formats. Building your project begins with a thesis. You can determine a few main sections that support your thesis statement. These sections can be your other pages. If you want your audience to read your website in a certain way or order, make that clear. By considering page placement and linking pages together, you can help your audience understand your website.


Your thesis should be your focal point.
Use your research to create the main body of your website.
What page titles do you want to use?
This is a multimedia project. Make sure to include photos and video clips.
Post your annotated bibliography and process paper on your website. You may include these on a separate tab.


Your homepage must include:

  • Website title
  • Your name(s)
  • Division
  • Number of student-composed words
  • Number of words in your process paper
  • Total length of your multimedia
  • A menu to access the other pages on the website

The website may not exceed 100 MB of file space.

The website can have no more than 1,200 student-composed words. This does not include the process paper, annotated bibliography, word count notifications or navigation instructions.

The combined running time of all multimedia clips cannot exceed three minutes.

You cannot link to external sites.

Be sure to carefully review all of the rules in the NHD Rulebook.

Thinking of doing a website?

Be sure to check out past examples of websites for inspiration!

Use our free Website Worksheet to start planning ideas for your website!

Need help spicing up your website code? Check out our guide for Developing a Website to learn basic ways to make your website stand out! *Coming Soon*

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