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Primary Sources: Citing and Copyright for Primary Sources

A guide to finding and using Primary source materials

The Basics of Citing Digitized Primary Source Material

Just as with all scholarly research and writing, citing all sources used is extremely important.  Not only is it ethically the right thing to give full credit to the creator, author, or publisher of record, it also enhances the ability of future scholars to quickly find the source material used in your research.

There are many citation styles used in scholarly writing, and often they vary by discipline.  Additionally, the increasing availability of digitized primary source materials brings additional challenges to citing correctly.     

The Basics of Citing Physical (print) Primary Source Material

The USC Upstate Library has created the Citation Styles LibGuide to provide detailed information on how to cite many different types of information, including primary sources.    

Copyright and Primary Sources

The following brief explanations are provided by the Library of Congress regarding copyright and fair use:

Copyright refers to the author's (creators of all sorts such as writers, photographers, artists, film producers, composers, and programmers) exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, and publicly perform and display their works. These rights may be transferred or assigned in whole or in part in writing by the author.

Fair use is an exception to the exclusive protection of copyright under American law. It permits certain limited uses without permission from the author or owner. Depending on the circumstances, copying may be considered "fair" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research.

For more detailed explanations and examples of fair use, please use the following link.


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Ann Merryman
Coord. Archives and Special Collections
Office: LIB 113