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Operation Footlocker

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NHD: Create an Entry, Select a Topic, and Judging Criteria

Creating an Entry

This takes students through the step-by-step process of creating a project.

1. Read about the contest theme.

2. Determine if you want to do an individual or group project.

3. Select a topic.

4. Select the type of entry: documentary, exhibit, paper, or performance. Read the Contest Rule Book.

5. Research a topic:
- Research Roadmap
- Types of source material
- Finding basic primary source material
- Using the Internet as a research tool

6. Design the entry:
- Documentary
- Exhibit
- Paper
- Performance
- Web Site 

7. Self-evaluate your entry: 
- Evaluation forms for judging entries

8. Contact your state coordinator to find out how to enter the contest.

9. What is an annotated bibliography?

10. Citing sources for an annotated bibliography? This list of links provides examples.


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Selecting a Topic

Narrowing Down an Area of Interest

Selecting a History Day topic is a process of gradually narrowing down the area of history in which students are interested and focusing on a manageable subject. To start out, students should think about what historical events or periods most interest them. They can then look at the annual theme to see if there are subject areas that fit their ideas. For example, if they are interested in Native Americans and the theme is Rights in History, a natural topic would be treaty rights. At this point they may realize that it is impossible to look at the thousands of treaties between Native American tribes and the United States. This means that they have to take another step in the narrowing process and select a specific issue within the topic. Keeping in mind the available resources, they could then select a treaty involving Native Americans in New York State.

For instance, between 1784 and 1838 many treaties were made between the United States Government and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. These treaties often resulted in the loss of Iroquois lands. In the 1788 Fort Schuyler Treaty, the Onondagas lost all their lands in New York except a 100-square-mile tract of land in Onondaga County, which includes the land on which the city of Syracuse now stands. In 1793, 1795, 1817, and 1822, the Onondagas lost sections of the 100 square miles until only 6,100 acres of land remained to them. If the theme were Rights in History, the issue of the loss of Native American lands in New York State would be an appropriate topic.

The following summarizes an example of the topic selection process.

Interest: Native Americans
Theme: Rights in History
Topic: Treaty Rights
Issue: 1788 Fort Schuyler Treaty

Choosing a Title

The topic and issue selected will also be reflected in the title of an entry. Titles do two things for an audience. First, they explain immediately what the topic is, and second, they can give a clue about the student's point of view on this topic. For example, the title for the above topic could be Your Gain is Our Loss: The 1788 Fort Schuyler Treaty with the Onondaga Nation. This title not only explains the topic and issue, but also gives a sense of the impact of this treaty on the Onondaga Nation.

Tips on Topic Selection

  • The topic should be of interest to the student.
  • The topic should clearly fit the year's theme.
  • The topic should be in-depth and narrow in scope. It is better to focus on one issue in detail than to cover many issues superficially.
  • The topic should reflect the availability of primary and secondary resources. A local topic is often a good choice, since primary documents are more likely to be available in the community in which an event occurred or in which a person lived.


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How an Entry Is Judged

Regardless of which category a student enters, the following principles of evaluation will be used in the judging of NHD entries.

Historical Quality

The most important aspect of an entry is its historical quality, which determines 60% of the total evaluation. The judges' evaluation will rest on the students' success at conducting historical research, interpreting their research, and drawing conclusions. A superior rating generally reflects positive responses to the following questions:

  • Is the entry historically accurate?
  • Does the entry provide analysis and interpretation of the historical data in addition to an accurate description? The entry should not simply recount facts but interpret them.
  • Does the entry demonstrate an understanding of the historical context – the intellectual, physical, social, and cultural setting?
  • Does the entry reflect historical perspective – the causes and consequences of an event, for example, or the relationship of a local topic to larger events?
  • Does the annotated bibliography demonstrate solid research?
  • Does the entry demonstrate a balanced presentation of materials?
  • Does the entry use a variety of viewpoints (e.g., those who suffered as well as those who benefited, males, females, people from different racial or ethnic socioeconomic groups, as appropriate to the topic)?
  • Does the entry demonstrate the use of available primary sources and secondary sources?

Clarity of Presentation

Although historical quality is most important, entries must be presented in an effective manner. This section is worth 20% of the total evaluation. Do not be carried away by glitz; simpler is often, but not always, better. The following questions will be considered by judges when looking at clarity of presentation:

  • Is the entry original, creative, well organized, and imaginative in subject and presentation?
  • Is the entry effective in communicating the significance of the topic?
  • Is the written material clear, grammatically correct, and correctly spelled?
  • In exhibits, are the title, sectional divisions, and main points easy to discern?
  • Are photographs and images appropriate in terms of content and location?
  • Is the overall project pleasing to the eye?
  • In a documentary or performance, is the script clear?
  • In a performance, do the students display stage presence?
  • Is the visual material clear and appropriate for the type of entry?
  • Do the students display adequate familiarity with their equipment?

Adherence to Theme

The entry must clearly explain the relation of the topic to the annual NHD theme. This section is worth 20% of the total evaluation. The topic should be placed in historical context, and the entry must demonstrate the student's understanding of the significance of the topic in history. The entry should not confuse fame with significance. In other words, the entry should answer the questions, "So what? Why was this important?" It should not be just descriptive. The relationship of the entry's topic to the yearly theme should be explicit and should be integrated into the entry itself.

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