Skip to main content

Citing Primary Sources

Introduction

Citing sources you find in archives and special collections is a little different than citing published sources. With many different types of material, some buried deep within large collections, it's not just a matter of saying "see this page in this book." Even published books held by rare book libraries often have unique features that distinguish them from other copies of the same title or edition.

This guide will help you properly cite primary sources, showing that you've done your research and making it possible for other scholars to find the same material you used. We focus on material held at the Rubenstein Library or in our Digital Collections and use The Chicago Manual of Style in this guide, but the same principles will apply, no matter where you found your primary source or which style guide you're using.

Citing primary sources can be challenging because there’s not always one agreed upon correct way to cite an item. When in doubt, do your best to follow your style guide, think about what a future researcher would need to know, and be consistent within your notes or bibliography.

Have a particularly thorny citation you’re not sure about? Ask us, we’re happy to help!    

 

Track Your Sources!

Creating your citations will be a lot easier if you keep track of your sources as you go along, rather than trying to find them all again at the end when you need to cite them. You may want to use something like this spreadsheet where you can record information about important sources you find while doing research, or use Zotero. Learn more about using Zotero for archival research.