No matter what a student's key interests are, there is a way for them to engage with Ohio History Day!


Check out these resources to help get familiar with the Ohio History Day program and contest.


Can't Decide?

Use these Project Graphic Organizers to help you decide and create your project!

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Ohio History Day Project Categories

Exhibits, websites, papers, documentaries and performances! Which one will you create? Consider these questions...

  • Which category best fits your interests and skills (or the talents of group members)?
  • Will you have access to the equipment or materials you need to present your entry? (This is especially important for documentaries!)
  • Does your research fit one category better than another? (For example, do you have enough pictures for an exhibit?)
  • Once you have selected a category, visit the Contest Information page to view a sample project created by other students. This may help give you ideas about the best way to present your topic.
  • Remember, your own creativity, in combination with good research, will make your project stand out.

Similar to exhibits in a museum, exhibits are designed to display visual and written information on a topic in an easy-to-understand and attractive manner. To be successful, an exhibit must create an effective balance between visual interest and historical explanation.


The availability of video cameras and digital editing software has increased the popularity of this entry category. Become a filmmaker and develop skills in using photographs, film, video, audio, computers, and graphic presentations to communicate your topic's significance. If you are able to use editing equipment this can be an exciting and educational project.


The process of the historical research paper is similar to the writing of articles and books by college professors. A research paper requires three basic steps.

  1. Collect information
  2. Organize information
  3. Present your topic in an interesting way
Related Documents Papers Overviewpdf-icon

The Performance category allows you to create a historical play. Entries in this category must have dramatic appeal, but not at the expense of historical information. Creativity is the key here, and students must make effective use of their 10-minute time allowance. Innovative performances have made this category the highlight of many History Day competitions!


The website category is the most interactive of all History Day categories. A website should reflect your ability to use website design software and computer technology to communicate your topic’s significance in history. Websites MUST be created using NHDWebCentral. Websites not created using the NHD software will be ineligible for advancement at the contests.


Research Journey

Choosing a Topic

The key to an effective Ohio History Day entry is the combination of a good topic with good sources. Here are some questions to think about when you select a topic to research:

  • Does it fit the theme for the year? (Check out the theme book in the related documents below)
  • Can you find sources to document the topic?
  • Why is this topic important in history? (What will people learn from your presentation?)

Narrowing Your Topic

A good way to choose a topic is to start with a general area of history you find interesting. This might be information you read about in your textbook or something related to family history. It can also be related to a hobby or personal interest, such as sports, comics, film & tv,  politics, science and engineering - all of these have a connection to history.

Once you define your interest, the next step is to narrow your general ideas into a more focused topic. Use the below resources to help you!


Developing a Historical Argument (Thesis Statement)

For a History Day project to be successful, you need to do more than report facts. You need to dive a little deeper into your research and create a historical argument - also know as a thesis statement. A historical argument is an informed opinion on your topic. It's supported by evidence from your sources.

A historical argument:

  • Tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • Is a road map for your project; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the project.
  • Directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of your project might be the Oberlin Rescuers. Your argument tells me why your topic fits the theme and why it is historically significant.
  • Makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • Use the Thesis Statements and Logic Models Organizer to help you!

As you do more research and find more information, your ideas on your topic might change. Your historical argument should change to show this. Remember, your argument needs to be supported by the historical evidence! See pages 9-13 of the 2024 Student Research Guide (Coming Soon) for more help!


Finding Sources and Creating an Annotated Bibliography

As you start to gather information, it is important to have a research strategy. A good research strategy has two parts:

  • Finding sources of information: It is always best to start with secondary sources in order to get an overview of your topic. Then you can begin hunting down primary sources. Check out city and college libraries, historical societies, national or local archives, interviews, and the Internet.
  • Keeping track of notes and sources: Information is only valuable if you can record it and use it later. One of the best ways to organize your research is to use note cards. Also try apps and programs like Refworks, Noodle Tools, Evernote, Trello, and Pocket.

Find Primary Documents

  • This document will give you ideas on where to find primary documents and where certain types of primary documents are typically housed.

Research Planning

  • This worksheet will help you pinpoint where and how to find reputable sources related to your topic for History Day.

Reputable Websites

  • This document is a list of reputable websites and their descriptions that you can use for research for your History Day project.

Key Word

  • This graphic organizer will help you brainstorm keywords and people related to your topic that you can use when researching your topic on the internet.

Analyzing Sources

In your research journey, you may come across some important cartoons, photographs, facts, or quotes that you may not fully understand. These analysis documents can help you understand the meaning and importance behind these significant sources.

Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography is an alphabetized list of the sources you used. An annotated bibliography not only lists the sources but also gives a short description (2-3 sentences max.) of the source and how you used it in your entry. A History Day bibliography should be separated into primary and secondary sources. For guidelines on bibliographic style, you should refer to A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian, or the style guide of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA).

Use the Evaluating Sources and Creating a Bibliography Organizer  to help you! See pages 19-20 in the Contest Rule Book for more information.


Writing the Process Paper

Every History Day category (including the Paper category) must include a process paper. This paper introduces your topic, explains how you developed your entry and documents your research process. It is important to do a good job on this part of your entry because it is the first thing the judges look at when evaluating your work. The process paper should be no more than 500 words and respond to the following questions:

  • How did you choose your topic and how does it relate to the annual theme?
  • How did you conduct your research?
  • How did you create your project?
  • What is your historical argument?
  • In what ways is your topic significant in history?

See page 19 of the Contest Rule Book for more information.


Digital Research Tips

This series from NHD shows how to effectively use different online resources to find credible sources.

Library Research Days

Join Ohio History Day as we travel across the state to help you take your research to new heights! We’ll be there to help you master the art of research, connect with experts and gain valuable History Day skills. Whether you’re researching or ready to build your final presentation, come work on your project with us!

What to expect:

  • Mini-Lessons: Build your skills by practicing how to write a thesis, how to find reputable primary and secondary sources, and how to organize your project.
  • Archive & Collection Exploration: Explore the stacks and collections to become a successful researcher. Learn how to use catalogs, search databases and more.
  • One-on-One Conferences: Get personalized project guidance from History Day mentors! Discuss where your project is currently and brainstorm your next steps.

To better help you with your research, registration is required for these free events. Find the location nearest you and sign up to attend!

Columbus Metropolitan Library

Date & Time: Saturday, December 9, 2023 from 9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Address: 96 S Grant Ave, Columbus, OH 43215

Registration Link: Registration Closes Friday, December 8, 2023.

Bossard Memorial Library

Date & Time: Sunday, January 14, 2024 from 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Address: 7 Spruce St, Gallipolis, OH 45631

Registration Link: Registration closes Friday, January 5, 2024.

National First Ladies Library & Museum

Date & Time: Saturday, January 20, 2024 from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

Address: 205 S. Market Ave. Canton, Ohio 44702

Registration Link: Registration closes Friday, January 12, 2024.

National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center

Date & Time: Saturday, December 16, 2023 from 9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Address: 1350 Brush Row Rd, Wilberforce, OH 45384

Registration Link: Registration Closes Wednesday, December 13, 2023.

BGSU's Center for Archival Collections

Date & Time: Saturday, January 20, 2024 from 10:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.

Address: Jerome Library, Bowling Green, OH 43403

Registration Link: Registration closes Friday, January 12, 2024.

Cincinnati History Library and Archives at Cincinnati Museum Center

Date & Time: Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Address: 1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203

Registration Link: Registration closes Friday, January 19, 2024.

Student Webinar Series

Check out the current and past webinars below designed to help support your project every step of the way from research to creation!

Building Standout History Day Projects

As History Day approaches, it's time to begin constructing your project. Ever wonder what you can do to make your project stand out in a crowd? Join us for this free student webinar to learn about some of the small things you can do that make a big difference in your project!

Date: January 10, 2023


Guest Speaker: Alaina McNaughton, Contest Manager, National History Day

Description:Join us for a conversation with National History Day Contest Manager (and former NHD student) Alaina McNaughton to discuss common student pitfalls in History Day projects and what you can do to make your project stand out in the crowd. Learn how to boost your student voice, why multiple perspectives matter and how to make the evaluation process work for you.

Researching American Indian History

Native peoples have made their homes in the land we now call Ohio for over 15,000 years. Join us for this free, two-part webinar series to introduce this history to students and share tips on how to research and develop History Day projects that incorporate American Indian peoples, cultures and histories. Don't forget to explore the Research Guidelines: American Indian History website, too!

Dates: October 12, 2022 & October 19, 2022

Watch Part 1:

Watch Part 2:

Guest Speakers: Dr. Stephen Warren, Professor of History, University of Iowa & Renée Gokey, Teacher Services Coordinator, Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian

Descriptions: Part 1: Introduction to American Indian History in Ohio- Hear from Dr. Stephen Warren (Professor of History, University of Iowa) about the rich histories, viewpoints and stories of American Indian peoples connected to this land. Get potential topics you can explore in your history day project, as well as where to start conducting some secondary and primary source research.

Part 2: Tips for Meaningfully Researching American Indian History- Join Renée Gokey (Teacher Services Coordinator, Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian) as she shares best practices for researching American Indian voices and who, how and where to reach out to for assistance. Learn about the importance of oral histories, storytelling, and material culture for many tribes. Discuss how to incorporate these primary sources into your research and respectfully portray American Indian history throughout your project.



How many words can I use in my project? (and other rule-related questions)

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Please read the NHD Contest Rule Book (en Español). The NHD rulebook contains general rules for everyone and then specific rules for each category.

  • Papers must be 1500-2500 words.
  • Exhibits can have up to 500 student-composed words.
  • Websites can be up to 1200 student-composed words.
  • For exhibits and websites, the word limits are for anything you write yourself: titles, headings, thesis statements, paraphrases, etc. Direct quotes and primary sources do not count. Please read the rule book carefully regarding word count for more information.

Can I pick any topic in History?

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Topics can come from any time period and any place in history. Projects can be about war, music, art, sports, etc. Topics must fit within the theme for the year. The connection to the theme should be evident in the project and the connection should not be forced. See the NHD Theme Narrative, and the Ohio Theme Sheet, and Topic List for more information on this year's theme and topic ideas.

When is my registration due?

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Check the Contest Information page to find the date of your contest and when registration materials are due.

Why are websites locked down before judging?

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The websites are locked down before the contest so that the judges can take their time to evaluate the project before the contest. The judges will then interview you about your project on the day of the contest.

How will my project be judged?

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When your project is judged the judges are evaluating your project using two different levels of criteria.

Historical Quality

The Historical Quality of your project is worth 80% when it comes to the judges' final decision. Historical quality focuses on the strength of the historical argument, relation to the theme, accuracy of facts, an understanding of historical context, a wide array of research represented in the annotated bibliography, a balanced presentation of your materials (unbiased) the use of available primary sources, and the presence of student's voice.

Clarity of your Presentation

This criterion is also worth 20% in your final evaluation. Clarity of presentation focus on whether the entry is presented in an effective, original and creative manner. The judges will also consider an entry in compliance with the rules in the final consideration. Failure to follow the rules will count against an entry in the final decisions by the judges.

At every level of competition, ALL JUDGES DECISIONS ARE FINAL!

You can view the rules here.

These are the evaluation sheets used by the judges.

Should I prepare a formal presentation for the judges?

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No, you are not allowed to prepare an official presentation for the judges. They will read your paperwork and view your project.

What types of questions will I be asked in the interview?

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Interview questions can vary depending on the judges. Most likely you will be asked content questions about your topic and then questions about your research and how you put together your projects. Here are some sample questions you might be asked:

  • Why did you choose this topic?
  • What was your most valuable source and why?
  • How do you think your topic impacted history?
  • What was the most interesting thing you learned?
  • How did you divide up the work? (for groups)
  • What was the most challenging thing about your project?
  • Why did you choose to create a (paper, documentary, exhibit, website, performance)?

How many projects move on to the state contest?

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The advancement number is based on the number of projects in each category at the regional contest. The general rule is that three from each category move on but sometimes if there are a lot of projects, the regions can send more. The number is a maximum for judges and they do not have to send on the maximum number.

When is the state contest?

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Ohio History Day will be held in-person on Saturday, April 20, 2024. More information will be shared with participants in Fall. Remember to frequently check the Contest Information page to learn more.

How many projects move on to the national contest?

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The top two projects in each category advance to the national contest. The third-place finisher will be the national alternate in case the second-place finisher is not available to attend nationals.

Are you an Ohio History Day alum? Here are some fabulous opportunities for you!



The Ohio History Day office and National History Day office are always looking for interns. We can work with you to craft an internship that will serve you in your career goals and help us make history day amazing. This can include but is not limited to student outreach, event planning, and program management. In addition, the Ohio History Day office is often able to offer a modest stipend for your work.

Presentation Experience

Want to get a conference presentation under your belt or visit a local school to talk about your experience? We can help you. Nothing sells the history day experience like hearing about it from students who have participated in the program.


We often feature alumni in our email blasts read by legislators and donors. Your stories and experiences help keep history day in the spotlight.

Please contact us by visiting our Contact Us page and selecting "History Day" from the drop-down menu.