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History Day Research @ the College of Southern Maryland Library: Step 1: Get Started

A guide to assist in your research for National History Day.

Getting Started Links

Useful Terms

Primary Source - Materials from the time of the person or event being researched.  (Letters, diaries artifacts, photographs, and other types of first-hand accounts and records, as well as reminiscences and oral histories. Stories from newspapers of the time may also be primary sources.)

Secondary Source - Materials that were created at a later time.  They analyze and interpret primary sources; footnotes or bibliographies can lead to primary sources.

Still confused about Primary vs. Secondary Sources?  Check out a short video tutorial!


Pick a Topic

Remember this year's theme--"Conflict and Compromise"--when selecting your topic. More information on the theme is available on the National History Day website and the 2018 Theme Book.

Get a copy of the Theme Narrative, and the Context, Conflict, Compromise and Change in the 4 C's Graphic Organizer, below.

Find Secondary Sources

Secondary sources will help you understand the background and context of your topic.  They can also have footnotes and bibliographies that can lead you to primary sources.  

How to find secondary sources:

  • Go to your library and ask the friendly librarian to help you find books and articles in their library. Search the CSM catalog of books.
  • Search in WorldCat--an online catalog of books in libraries around the world.
  • If you find something interesting in WorldCat that your local library does not own, ask your librarian if they can borrow it for you through Interlibrary Loan.

  • Search in databases of journal and magazine articles.  Maryland students can use the Collection of Southern Maryland's Online Services (COSMOS) from your public library for free.   

Gather Background Information

Be sure to find out the basic background about your topic before you start looking for primary sources.  Helpful things to know are:

  • Who?:  Names of people or organizations
  • What?: Events
  • When?: Dates
  • Where?: Important Locations 

CSM Library


CSM Library Location and Hours
La Plata Campus
Building LR
8730 Mitchell Road
La Plata, MD 20646

Library Hours to December 18, 2017:
Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunday: Closed

Between Hours December 19, 2017 to
January 28, 2018:

Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed Saturday and Sunday
Closed December 21, 2017 at 3:00.p.m. through January 1, 2018
Closed January 15, 2018

Contact Us:


 Email Us

 Visit the Library Website

Where is the Library?

Printable La Plata Campus Map

Find the Library in the LR Building - we're on the top floor.

Parking is free at the College of Southern Maryland!