Banner for National History Day <i>in Massachusetts</i>

National History Day in Massachusetts

Project Categories

Once you understand the rules and the theme for National History Day and have chosen your historical topic, it is time to choose how you want to present your work. But what are the categories? And how are they different?

Start by checking out the NEW NHD Contest Rule Book for an overview of each category and for specific details about requirements. The National History Day Massachusetts state contest is the qualifying contest for National History Day, so the rules are the same.  You can also check out examples of past winning projects in each category to get inspired.

Here are the five project categories:


The documentary category will help you to develop skills in working with photographs, film, video, audio, computers, and graphic presentations. Your presentation should include primary-source materials and also must be an original production. To produce a documentary, you must have access to equipment and be able to operate it.


An exhibit is a visual representation of your research and interpretation of your topic’s importance in history. Viewers should be able to follow your historical argument easily, and the analysis and interpretation of your topic must be clear. Labels and captions should be used creatively along with visual images, media, and objects to support the message of your exhibit.


A paper uses a traditional historical essay format to convey your research and historical argument. Creative writing (e.g., fictional diaries, poems, etc.) are allowed, but must conform to all general and category rules. Papers are the one category that must be individual and cannot be done as a group project.


A performance is a dramatic portrayal of your topic’s significance in history and must be an original production. It should be scripted based on research of your chosen topic and should have dramatic appeal, but the primary focus is historical information and research.  You can support your performance through costumes, props, and set materials.


Your historical website should be a collection of web pages, interconnected by hyperlinks, that presents both primary and secondary sources and your historical analysis. Viewers should be able to follow your historical argument clearly in your website.  To engage and inform viewers, your website can incorporate interactive multimedia, text, non-textual descriptions (e.g., photographs, maps, music, etc.), and interpretations of sources.