Writting a Narration
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Writing & Recording Narration


The recorded narration is very important. It serves a variety of purposes.


  • Narrative thread. It tells the story: beginning, middle, and end.
  • Interprets what the judges are seeing. The images, themselves, are not the interpretation. Your own words give meaning to the documentary.
  • States the thesis and the conclusion. If you leave it to the judges to draw the conclusion from the images alone, the only conclusion they will draw is that you do not have a conclusion and thus you did not prove your thesis statement.


Judges do not want to "read" the narrative, they want to "hear" the narrative.  Do not type text onto your slides…except for your title at the front end and “produced by ……” and “National History Day 2004” at the end. You also may use text to label or identify some things in your documentary.


Your central idea is very important. I can’t stress enough the idea of "proving" or "arguing" the main point. Effective documentaries work the theme words directly into the script a number of times, especially in the introduction and in the conclusion. Work the key theme words (The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies) into your thesis statement.


In the first 30 seconds, you should create an introduction to your documentary.  This is where you will capture the judge’s attention. At the end of the intro, state your thesis.  This is your main point—what your documentary will show and prove. 


After the intro and thesis, display your complete title, then tell your story.


When writing your narration, remember,

  • The script comes first – audio shapes the selection of visual images
  • Use your narration and visual images to illustrate the intellectual, physical, social, and cultural setting of your topic.  Put your topic into a historical setting.  History doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  What caused these events (your story) to take place?  Give a little background.
  • Be sure your script allows for an explanation of the causes and consequences of your topic; ie, why did it happen, and what happened because of it?
  • Always keep in mind the question “Why is this important?”
  • Do more than describe the obvious; if you can see it, why say it?
  • Keep your narration fairly simple.   You’re not writing a book, your narration should be the thread that holds all of your pictures, movies, and sounds together.  Remember your time constraints; you will have to move it along to finish the documentary in under 10 minutes.
  • Write your narration in the form of an outline, with the Roman Numerals as the rough equivalent to your slides/ideas.
  • When you have finished the narration, use your storyboard to plan the relationship between audio and visual.
  • Good sound quality is essential when recording your narration– the viewer must be able to hear and understand you loud and clear.  Use microphones for interviews and recording your narration to get the best sound quality.  Do all of your recording at the same time to ensure a level sound quality. 
  • The narration must be your voice or someone within your group


  • Your narration must follow this outline:
    • I.       Introduction – “the hook”
    • II.      State the Thesis
    • III.     Setting – establish the historical setting
    • IV.      Causes – what happened before to make your story possible
    • V.       Story – the meat of your documentary
    • VI.      Consequences – why is your story a big deal
    • VII.    Synthesis and Analysis – put a lot of work into this
    • VIII.   State the Thesis - again


  • Remember:  this is not imaginative writing, it’s narrative; so you must:
    • Explain
    • Illustrate
    • Examine
    • Discuss
    • Define

And most importantly,

         Take the information, apply an analysis to gain a new understanding

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Griswold High School
Government, American Studies, World Cultures, PE.

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