WASHINGTON, D.C— Middle and high school students are delving into historical research with the 45th annual National History Day Contest. This project-based contest provides students an opportunity to develop critical thinking and source analysis skills while gaining historical perspective. Participants spend months researching a topic of their choice before presenting their work in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, and website.

Guided by an annual theme, students are encouraged to choose a topic that matches their personal interests. The 2019 theme is Triumph & Tragedy in History. Students enter their projects in local level contests, with top entries advancing to regional and state/affiliate contests. Along the way, students receive honors, awards, and scholarships. The top two entries from every category will be invited to the National Contest held June 2019 at the University of Maryland at College Park.

“The National History Day Contest inspires students to challenge themselves. The projects require extensive research and helps students develop critical thinking and writing skills as well as the confidence needed to present their research,” said NHD Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Students become deeply invested in their projects and spend countless hours researching, creating, and revising. The work they produce is often astounding and the skills they gain will benefit them far into the future.”

An independent study on the impact of the National History Day Contest found that students who participate outperform their counterparts in all levels of academia, including standardized tests. Participants also expressed greater confidence with research, communication, and analytical skills. More information on this study is available at nhd.org/why-nhd-works.

There is no cost to implement the National History Day Contest into any classroom. There are some fees to enter into a regional, state, or national contest. But, using the project-based framework is free to all educators. Additionally, National History Day® offers free resources to assist in participating in the contest.

  • Triumph & Tragedy in History: Contest Theme Book 2019
    This booklet explains the National History Day Contest theme and offers instructional insight for teachers on how to best incorporate the contest theme in classroom materials as well as sample topics for students.
  • How to Create a Project
    The first step for any student is creating a project. This page guides students through the steps to create a National History Day Contest entry.
  • Annotated Bibliography
    Each project must include an annotated bibliography. This resource is provided to assist with correct citation and bibliographical practice in a format designed to be accessible to middle and high school students.
  • Categories
    This resource helps students learn about each of the five categories and includes examples from previous contest winners.
  • Project Examples
    Students who win an award at the National Contest are invited to share their projects as examples for other students. This page includes projects from 2014-2018.

More than half a million students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia will create projects for the National History Day Contest. Many of the local and state/affiliate contests have public viewing of the projects and students are often eager to talk about their research and findings. A full list of National History Day® affiliates can be found here: nhd.org/affiliates.

About National History Day®: NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and Southwest Airlines. For more information, visit nhd.org.


Lynne O'Hara
Director of Programs
Phone: 484-919-2595