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Getting Started for Judges

Your role as a judge is critical to the success of History Day L.A.!  Obviously we cannot conduct a competition without judges.  But we also know that having competent, caring judges is key to creating a fabulous experience for students, their teachers and families. How you approach your task and how you communicate your feedback to students will be important in creating an experience that is educational, valuable, and also fun for students and for you too.

There is no need to prepare before the day of competition but we encourage you to learn what you can about History Day – what it is, how it works, and what your role is ahead of time.  We will provide an orientation the day of the event before the competition begins but you may find it useful to familiarize yourself with the program in advance, particularly if you have never been a judge before.

A little background on History Day

History Day L.A. is connected to National History Day (NHD), a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the History Day contest across the nation.  History Day L.A. invites students to participate from all over Los Angeles County.  Winners progress to compete at California History Day State competition; state winners proceed to the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, History Day also helps students develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • research and reading skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

History Day Themes

Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.


This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History. The intentional selection of the theme is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.  You can learn more about this year’s theme by examining the Theme Sheet that can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.


What is the judging procedure?

Once you arrive at the History Day L.A. location, you will attend a brief orientation that will describe the details, instructions, do’s and don't’s, and recommendations for judging projects and creating a positive experience for students. You will work with a team of 3-4 judges and have a History Day Coordinator with you throughout the day to provide guidance and answer any questions you may have. 


The History Day rule book, orientation powerpoint and sample score sheets found at the bottom of this page offer a number of helpful guidelines for you to review in advance. 


We truly appreciate your time and expertise volunteered to help with this exciting event!  Please enjoy the morning refreshments and lunch we provide.  We hope the experience is as enjoyable for you as it is for the hundreds of students who dedicate several months to learning deeply about history and are proud to show you what they have learned.  For them, history comes alive and we hope it will for you as well.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact:

James Keipp

History Day L.A. Coordinator

(323) 383-4989

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