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Citing Primary Sources


Your citations for archival material you find in digital collections will look a lot like citations for material seen in-person. You won’t be including a physical location, such as a box number, and you’ll include a URL at the end of your citation. The other core elements all remain the same:

  • Item creator and description
  • Item date
  • Collection name
  • Holding library
  • URL

Take a look at the section on Citing Archival Sources for more detailed descriptions of those elements. The good news is citing digitized sources can often be easier because our digital collections, and many others, include most of the information you need right alongside the digitized item.


See CMOS 14.6 for more on citing sources consulted online (Duke NetID required).


For the URL, check to see if you can find a permalink for the item, which is a URL that is intended to remain unchanged for many years into the future. We include one of these for every item in our digital collections. You can find it at the bottom of our item information. If you’re looking at something that doesn’t have one, you can use the URL in your browser’s address bar.

See CMOS 14.9 for more on permalinks (Duke NetID required).




Access Dates

Some style guides want you to include the date you consulted an online source. The Chicago Manual of Style no longer requires an access date, but your instructor or publisher may still want you to include it.

See CMOS 14.12 for more on access dates (Duke NetID required).

Digitized Materials in Collection Guides

Some of our digitized collections can be found both in our collection guides and our Digital Collections platform. If you found digital content in one of our collection guides and you want to cite it, click the “View Item Page / More Info / Download” link below the image to see it on our Digital Collections site. There you’ll be able to see all the information you need to cite it, including a permalink.