General Guidelines

The guidelines for the Junior Historian writing contests are nearly identical to those of the National History Day (NHD) historical paper category except:

  • The contest is open topic, which means there is no theme that the topic must relate to. Topics on Texas and local history are preferred though not mandatory. Special Awards do require the writer to address specific areas of history through their chosen topic.
  • Both internal documentation, footnotes, and endnotes are allowed, though ENDNOTES ARE PREFERRED. Please consult with your sponsors and teachers to ensure you use the formats properly.
  • You must be a member of a current Junior Historian chapter or a Member-at-Large to enter the contest. For a list of schools with chapters or instructions for becoming a member-at-large click on the appropriate link in the previous sentence.
  • A paper may compete for any combination of awards.
  • Awards are given at the Junior Historian Annual Meeting. You do NOT have to be present to win, though participation is strongly encouraged.

Elementary Division Guidelines

Elementary division members are eligible to participate in the Photographic Essay Contest designed to encourage young people to research and photograph places of historic significance. This contest is an extension of the Buildings in Time activity found in the Save Our History Educators Manual. Members research and photograph a building or location in their community, write a no more than 500 word description of the location based on the questions found on pages 15-17 in the Save Our History Educators Manual, and include a collection of photographs that adequately show the building. A completed entry must include four copies of the following:

  • A title page with only the name of the building, its address, and the student’s name.
  • The no more than 500 essay, using endnotes.
  • An annotated bibliography with sources separated between primary and secondary.
  • The collection of photographs of the building with captions.
  • All entries should be typed on 8 by 11 inch white paper with 1 inch margins on all sides and stapled in the upper left hand corner.
  • Photos should be printed on photographic paper from either a standard 35 mm camera or be high resolution (300 dpi or greater) digital images.

Junior & Senior Division Guidelines

Development Requirements

Papers submitted for competition must be researched and developed during the current contest year that begins following the Annual Meeting each Spring.

Revising or reusing an entry from a previous year—whether your own or another student’s—is unacceptable and will result in disqualification. 

Production of Entry

You are responsible for the research, design, and creation of your entry. You may receive help and advice from teachers and parents on the mechanical aspects of creating your entry:

  1. You may have help typing your paper and other written materials.
  2. You may seek guidance from your teachers as you research and analyze your material, but your conclusions must be your own. 

Required Materials

Entries must include four copies of the following written materials in the following order:

  1. A title page as described below.
  2. A properly documented paper as described below.
  3. An annotated bibliography as described below.

Materials must be typed, computer printed, or legibly handwritten in ink on plain, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper with 1-inch margins on all sides. Pages must be numbered consecutively and double-spaced with writing on one side and with no more than 12 characters per inch or no less than 10-point type. Materials must be stapled in the top left corner and should not be enclosed in any cover or binder. 

Title Page

A title page is required as the first page of written material in every category. Your title page must include only the title of your entry, your name(s) and the contest division and category in which you are entered. The title page should have no illustrations. 

Paper Length Requirements

The text of historical papers must be no less than 1,500 and no more than 2,500 words in length. Each word or number in the text of the paper counts as one word.

The paper category 2,500 word limit does not apply to: notes, annotated bibliography, illustration captions, and supplemental/appendix material. Appendix material must be directly referred to in the text of the paper. Extensive supplemental materials are inappropriate. Use of appendices should be very limited and may include photographs, maps, charts, graphs, but we strongly suggest no other supplemental materials. 

Paper Citations

Citations—endnotes or internal documentation—are required. Citations are used to credit the sources of specific ideas as well as direct quotations. Refer to the section below for citation styles. Please note that an extensively annotated footnote should not be used to get around the word limit. 

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is required for all categories. It should contain all sources that provided usable information or new perspectives in preparing your entry. You will look at many more sources than you actually use. You should list only those sources that contributed to the development of your entry. Sources of visual materials and oral interviews must be included. The annotations for each source must explain how the source was used and how it helped you understand your topic.

For example:
Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. New York: David McKay Co. Inc., 1962.

Daisy Bates was the president of the Arkansas NAACP and the one who met and listened to the students each day. This first hand account was very important to my paper because it made me more aware of the feelings of the people involved. 

The Separation of Primary and Secondary Sources

You are required to separate your annotated bibliography into primary and secondary sources.

Style Guides

Style for citations and bibliographic references must follow the principles in one of the following style guides:

  1. Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and DissertationsA Guide to Turabian’s Manual for Writers
  2. Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th Edition – A Guide to MLA Documentation

Regardless of which manual you use, the style must be consistent throughout the paper. 


You must acknowledge in your paper and annotated bibliography all sources used in your entry. Failure to credit sources is plagiarism and will result in disqualification.

Entry Submission

Four copies of the required materials must be submitted with the appropriate entry form by February 6, 2020 deadline established for the contest. Entry materials will be sent to chapter sponsors and members-at-large in January. Members-at-large who join later but before February 6th will have entry materials sent to them upon joining.

Winning papers are often published by contest officials in the Texas Historian; you must be prepared to give permission for such publication. Photographs, maps and illustrations are encouraged with each paper. It is often difficult for the Texas Historian staff to locate photographs to illustrate an article on local history being considered for publication. The lack of suitable photographs has prevented publication of some excellent manuscripts. Black and white glossy prints are preferred. Color prints of good quality are acceptable. Student authors should never submit copies of illustrations from books or pamphlets unless written permission from the publisher has been granted. Scanned copies of illustrations are acceptable, providing the originals are available to the Texas Historian, if the manuscript is chosen for publication.