Greater Denver Metro NHD



Every National History Day project requires additional supplements: a process paper and an annotated bibliography. The process paper is simply an opportunity for the judges to learn a bit more about the student(s) decision-making process with regard to the project. It helps the judges understand how the student created the final project. It is also an opportunity for the student(s) to tell the judges anything they would like them to know about the process of completing the project.


In addition, every National History Project must have an annotated bibliography. The bibliography is an account of the research sources used on a project. This document shows the judges how deeply the student researched. It also demonstrates how balanced the research was. The annotations allow the student to communicate with the judges about their sources.



Share a process paper with your students. Because students have varied writing styles, point out that there is not a right or wrong way to complete the process paper as long as they include the required elements in their writing. Some will wish to be a bit more creative with their writing. This is acceptable if they do not go too far from the format. Others will wish to write a simple essay. That is also acceptable. The process paper cannot be longer than 500 words.


There are examples of process papers available on this website. They are linked below for your convenience, but students can access them on the "Student Help" page. The "Writing a Process Paper" document linked here provides a good summary.


Show the students the break-down of what needs to be included in their process paper.

Title Page: The title page should be on plain white printer paper. It should include

the title, student(s) name, category and division (i.e., senior individual

documentary). It may NOT include the school name or images. It should be

stapled in the corner. It should NOT be in a report cover or binder.

The first section should explain how the topic was chosen.

Did the student look at other ideas first? Did something else lead them to

the choice they made? Is there a personal connection?
The second section
should explain how the student(s) conducted their research.

Did they do any special interviews? Did they take a research trip? What was

there a source that was particularly helpful?
The third section
should explain how the format was selected the project and

how the project was created. Why did they choose a documentary and not

a paper? Did they have any particular difficulty in the creation of the   


The fourth section should explain how your project relates to the NHD theme.

           This is an opportunity for the student to “make their case” to the judges

           that their project is appropriate for the theme.

Now, share an annotated bibliography with them. You showed them one at the beginning of their research, so hopefully they have been keeping track of their sources. Remind them about these points:


·        The bibliography should be divided into primary and secondary sections. The judges want to see that they know the difference. Each

      section should be labeled.

·        The bibliography should be alphabetized in each section.

·        The student should include a one or two sentence annotation with each entry. This is just a short statement about how they used the source.

·        If the student has a source that could be either primary or secondary, they should choose a category and be ready to defend their choice. The annotation is a good place to do this.

·        Judges are not looking for the most sources. They are looking for the best use of sources. Remind students that they should not pad their bibliography with sources that were not actually used in the project.

·        Neatness, organization and clarity are very important in the bibliography. The judges only have a minute or two to look at it. If it is difficult to read, the judges will not be able to spend time deciphering.


Have a discussion with your students about web-based bibliography services such as “BibMe” or “EasyBib”. There are pros and cons to using such a service…



Easy to use

Some do not capitalize titles properly


Some leave errant symbols within the entry

If a student no longer has access to a source, they can find the publishing information

Primary sources are often not available in the search features. Students must manually enter primary source information

Many students will already be familiar with their use

Services often do not distinguish between primary and secondary sources

Some allow for annotations to be added

The “final product” is not always neat.


Ultimately, you must decide whether you will allow your students to use a web-based bibliography service. If they are allowed to do so, they MUST proofread and clean up the bibliography for it to be ready for the NHD competition. They also must be sure that primary and secondary sources have been sorted into their own labeled categories and that appropriate annotations have been added.

Linked below, you will find sample bibliographies and a resource for how to notate different types of sources.


The requirements for each type of project vary slightly:

Papers: require an annotated bibliography, but do not require a process paper. Students will bring this to the judges' interview for the judges to look at. They will leave a copy for the judges.

Websites: the process paper and annotated bibliography MUST be incorporated into the website. Students should create a separate tab on the website for these documents. Students will not bring actual copies to the judges’ interview.

Documentaries, Exhibits and Performances: require an annotated bibliography and a process paper. Students will bring printed copies to the judges' interview for the judges to look at. They will leave a copy for the judges.

The number of copies needed for the contest varies. Be sure to check with the contest director to determine how many to bring. In general, copying facilities are not available to students at the contest.


Work Time:

Now, give students time to work on their process paper and annotated bibliography. If they are working as a group, the entire group will submit only one process paper, but you might wish to require each student to write their own. After the papers are written, they should be proofread before they are brought to the competition. The judges expect the written portion of the project, whether it be on an exhibit board, in the text of a website, or as part of the process paper, to be free of spelling and grammar mistakes. The projects and accompanying papers represent your class and school. It is worth the time to proofread and require revisions.

Other documents:

Process paper style one

Process paper style two

Junior level annotated bibliography

Senior level annotated bibliography

Guide for notating different types of sources




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