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History Day Research @ the College of Southern Maryland Library: Step 2: Online Primary Sources

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

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!


Library Databases with Primary Sources

Newspapers: The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

The New York Times Historical Newspaper 1851-2013

Search The Nation, America's oldest weekly magazine.

The Nation 1865-present


Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Online Choose "Primary Sources" and search by topic.

Maryland-Related Online Sources

National and International Online Sources

  • Avalon Project (Yale Law School): Documents in Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government.
  • American Memory Project (Library of Congress): A source for primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.

  • Chronicling America (Library of Congress): A digital collection of historic American newspapers from 23 states, dating from 1860-1922.  
  • DocsTeach documents (National Archives): Documents from 1754 to the present, sorted by era and document type.  
  • Internet History Sourcebooks Project (Fordham University): Historical texts from around the world broken down by timeframe and region.  Sources range from Ancient Greek texts to modern American history.  
  • World Digital Library (Library of Congress): Significant primary materials from all countries and cultures including books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, journals, prints and photographs, sound recordings, and films between 8000 BCE and 2000 CE.