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Social Studies and World Languages Education

Links to databases and resources for social studies and world language education, with a focus on PreK-12. Also helpful for elementary and secondary teachers of civics, economics, "foreign" languages, history, geography, and related topics.

Introduction

National History Day (NHD) is an annual, history-themed research competition for students in grades 6-12. This page is a starting point for Penn State faculty, staff, and students who are supporting NHD, and for others who are curious about the historical resources that Penn State offers. 

Before visiting any Penn State library, contact staff ahead of time to confirm building hours, availability of computers, and other details. Teachers wanting to bring student groups to the library should make prior arrangements with University Park library staff or their nearest Penn State campus library.

Please note that many of the databases listed below are subscription-based. Current Penn State faculty, staff, and students can access them remotely, but community residents must visit a Penn State library in-person, obtain one-day short-term access (STAAR) accounts, and use the databases on-site. They must also abide by the library's policies for safety and well-being of childrenuse of computer softwareuse of public access workstations, and other policies.

Beginning Your Historical Research / Gathering Basic Facts

Researching historical figures and events is a multistep process: 1). getting basic facts, 2). getting secondary sources (recently-published books and articles), and 3). getting primary sources. It's especially important to note any clues relating to names, organizations, places, and other details that could lead to additional information. Here are some places to start, especially for biographical topics:

Gathering Secondary Sources: Articles and Books

Below are first-stops for finding articles and books at Penn State. Whenever you can, it's helpful to read newer scholarly materials first, because (hopefully) they will correct some of the inaccuracies and biases that could appear in earlier sources.

Primary Sources: Pennsylvania-Specific Resources

Although abundant historical material is available on the Internet, finding complete and faithful versions​ is a challenge. Many amateur historians have transcribed and posted things online, but in too many cases, the original sources aren't cited or the copies are incomplete or altered. Here are some reputable resources for primary sources:

Primary Sources: More Newspapers, Photographs, and Documents

Beyond Penn State, there are additional resources that could be pursued at local libraries and historical societies, and at organizations related to the topic of your search. Ask a librarian for help in identifying the best contacts.