Primary sources, generally speaking, are original materials on a subject; however, each discipline may have a slightly different definition for primary source. Historians consider primary sources to be material written by the subject (if a person) or material that was written about a subject by someone who was alive during the time period. The types of primary sources can also vary widely depending on the discipline.
Secondary sources are those in which the author gives a second-hand account of the information. For example, many books published about George Washington are secondary sources. The author may have studied original material, such as diaries, in creating an account of Washington's life, but if it is the author's account instead of the original diaries, documents, etc, then it is a secondary source. For most research papers, secondary sources will probably suffice; however, if the professor requires the use of primary sources, this guide can be used to identify them.
For more specific information, please consult the USC Upstate Library Primary & Secondary Sources LibGuide, linked as a PDF here.
The following video gives a good explanation of the differences between Primary and Secondary sources, using actual footage and sound recordings from the Civil Rights Era:
This video tutorial presents a few ways to determine whether a primary source is trustworthy or not, using video images from WWI:
Thank you for using the USC Upstate Library's South Carolina History subject guide. This LibGuide will assist you in the identification of valuable South Carolina history resources. Included are general reference materials available in the library, USC Upstate article databases, and high quality digital materials available online. These resources are separated into two tabs, Print Resources and Digital Resources. Please note that books from throughout the state of South Carolina can be quickly and easily requested and delivered to you in a matter of days via InterLibrary Loan (ILL) and PASCAL Delivers.