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Judging Policy 

National History Day in South Dakota Judging Policy for Students, Teachers and Parents

Every effort is made to ensure that judging of the National History Day in South Dakota competition is fair and accurate at all levels. We understand the time and hard work put into each project and while not placing can be disappointing, we do everything possible to fully prepare judges to provide a quality judging experience for students.

Please carefully read the information below to inform yourself about National History Day in South Dakota’s policy regarding judging. We also suggest that you familiarize yourself with the judging information found in the NHD Rulebook.

The NHD® Interview

REMEMBER: The interview is NOT an evaluated component of the NHD process, but it is required at all levels of competition.

  • The interview allows the judges to determine that the work is the students’ own. This includes design and content.
  • The interview allows the judges an opportunity to understand students’ choices.
  • For example, it may be clear to the student why they chose a particular source or why they organized their content the way they did, but this may not be immediately clear to the judges. Interview judging allows students to develop different levels of reasoning by having to explain their choices.
  • By interviewing, students are able to share what they have gained from the NHD experience with an audience outside of their school.
  • The interview is NOT a memorized and rehearsed presentation by the students to the judges.
  • REMEMBER: Students do not interview again if they advance to finals at any level, so their work must stand on its own. NHD judges need to be able to understand the project’s argument, source choices, thesis, conclusion and relation to the theme without the students’ presence.

Helping Students Prepare for the NHD Interview

  • Use the suggested judging questions provided on the Official NHD website.
  • NOTE: These suggested questions are available to judges and can help students prepare for the interview, BUT judges are not required to ask the recommended questions and may ask their own questions based on the topic, project type, and the students’ answers.
  • Consider mock judging at your school, either as part of a school contest or as a classroom activity.
  • Interviews at contests are roughly 5-10 minutes in length.

Notifying NHD in SD Staff During a Contest

Below are situations that you should notify NHD staff about during a contest. Staff will determine the best course of action regarding the situation.

Immediately Notify NHD in SD Staff If:

  • A judge does the following:
  • Asks a personal question of a student (i.e. Where are you from? What school do you go to?).
  • Bans spectators from the performance or documentary rooms during project showings. Spectators are allowed to watch the performance but must leave the room as soon as judging begins.
  • Indicates that they know the student in any way (i.e. they know their parents, are a relative, a former teacher, etc.).
  • Expresses a value statement about a project during the interview process (For example: This is a terrible topic and you should never have done it. Alternatively, I think this project is going to win at nationals).
  • Equipment problems occur during judging.
  • To limit such issues students should test their project on a variety of computers and formats. Our goal is to give every student entry a fair hearing.
  • If the issue is not resolved within five minutes then a tech specialist will be contacted. This will not affect the project’s evaluation.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved and the project is unable to be viewed during the contest, then the project is ineligible for advancement.

Reporting Comments and Concerns After a Contest

No National History Day in South Dakota Staff, including the NHD in South Dakota state coordinator, nor any official of the NHD national office, has the authority to overrule, set aside, or otherwise undermine a judge's decision, and under no circumstances will a judge's decision be changed after a contest. 

All judging is final.

  • If you have specific concerns about the process as you observed it please follow the below procedure:
  • Submit concerns in writing to:
  • National History Day in South Dakota, 977 11th St. Brookings, SD 57007
  • Or, to the NHD in SD Staff at, at
  • Please allow 3-5 working days following a contest for NHD in SD staff to respond. We are working hard to finish post-contest details and will address any concerns in due time.
  • Any grievance MUST be made in writing. The staff will not be able to properly address any grievance made by telephone or in person. Once submitted, the State Coordinator will contact you to address any issues.
  • Comments and concerns will be taken into account for the next competition cycle and used to improve the judging experience where necessary.

Spectator Basics

The below information is useful for those new or unfamiliar with the NHD judging process.

What you should know about the judges:

  • Judges receive the same instructions at all levels of competition.
  • State contest judges receive in person training prior to the state contest in addition to judging instruction documents.
  • Judges have suggested questions to ask students, but may ask questions not on that list. They may also ask different questions for each project.
  • Judges have absolute authority to remove disruptive individuals from the judging room and to bar spectators entirely, if they deem it necessary to protect the integrity of the judging process.

What you should know about spectating:

  • The public is only allowed to observe the presentation/performance of documentary and performance projects. Spectators must leave the room as soon as judging begins.
  • Spectators are to enter the room before the project is presented, never during.
  • TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES while viewing any student projects.
  • Refrain from cheering during documentaries and performances. Brief applause at the end is acceptable.
  • Please remember to keep voices down while in the judging areas, including hallways.