Skip to main content

Information For Students

How do I cite primary source materials?

The purpose of a citation is to tell someone else where you found a certain piece of information. Archival materials are unique and the original can only be found in one place. Even published materials in special collections can be hard to find in more than one repository, so a good citation to the copy you used is important. Citations for archival materials and rare or unusual published materials should make it clear not only what the source is, but also where, exactly, it can be found.

Primary source citation depends on the type of primary source you are using (i.e. a law document, newspaper, etc...) and the style of citation required (i.e. MLA, APA, etc...). After you have determined these two factors, you may want to locate a particular citation guide in the reference section of the library. These guides are non-circulating and are for library use only. One of the most widely used citation guides may be found through this link:

In addition, the National Archives website has an extensive guide to citing primary sources. Follow the link below for a complete set of guidelines for citing primary sources from the National Archives and Records Administration:

Citing Primary Records in the National Archives