How To Write A Bibliography For Primary Sources

General Guidelines | Examples

General Guidelines

By carefully documenting your sources, you acknowledge intellectual debts and provide readers with information about the materials you consulted during your research. Methods for citing primary sources (e.g., archival and manuscript collections) differ from those for published works. The discipline in which you are writing and class requirements will determine the citation system you should use.

Typical elements of a citation include: document title, document date, location information, collection title, collection number, and repository name.  For primary sources published online, a citation would include: the author, document title or a description, document date, title of the website, reference URL, and date accessed. Elements of a citation are usually listed from the most specific to the most general.  For examples of online primary source citations, please consult our Primary Sources on the Web citation page.

The following citation guidelines for primary sources are based on those in the Chicago Manual of Style, which you should consult for more detailed information.[1] Chicago distinguishes between citation systems for notes and bibliographies. In a footnote or endnote, the main element of a primary source citation is usually a specific item, which is cited first. If the specific item lacks a formal title, you may create one (e.g., photograph, interview, or minutes). Descriptive titles of this kind are not usually enclosed in quotation marks or italicized.

Include information about the specific location of an item in a collection by designating box and folder numbers. For example:

39. J.H. Campbell to James Groppi, Oct. 11, 1969, box 11, folder 1, James Groppi Papers, Milwaukee Mss EX, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Subsequent citations of the same item, or items from the same collection, may be shortened for the reader’s convenience. The writer announces the use of short forms in a parenthetical statement at the end of the first citation, as follows:

39. J.H. Campbell to James Groppi, Oct. 11, 1969, box 11, folder 1, James Groppi Papers, Milwaukee Mss EX, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department (hereafter cited as Groppi Papers).

40. Sermon, Aug. 10, 1969, box 15, folder 8, Groppi Papers.

In a bibliography, the main element is usually the title of the collection in which the specific item may be found, the author(s) of the items in the collection, or the repository of the collection. Specific items are not usually mentioned in a bibliography. We recommend using the collection title as the main element of the citation. If the collection title includes a personal name, we recommend placing the last name first for the reader’s convenience. For example:

Groppi, James, Papers. Milwaukee Mss EX. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Archives Department staff will gladly provide further guidance on citing primary sources in your research papers.

Examples of Citations for Items from the Archives Department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries

Note Forms

41. Diary, 1899, box 3, vol. 4, John Johnston Family Papers, Milwaukee Mss BL, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

42. Scrapbook, 1928-1935, box 31, Milwaukee Public Schools, Department of Municipal Recreation and Community Education Scrapbooks, UWM Mss 151, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

43. Minutes, Jan. 9, 1956, box 2, folder 1, Jewish Family and Children’s Service Records, Milwaukee Mss 87, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

44. Photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Simon Kander, undated, box 2, folder 1, Lizzie Black Kander Papers, Milwaukee Mss DN, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

45. Norman Adelman, interview by Michael A. Gordon, May 14, 2008, Oral History Interviews of the March on Milwaukee Oral History Project, UWM Mss Collection 281, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.[2]

46. Boycott of MacDowell School construction site, Dec. 8, 1965, Daily footage newsfilm, Milwaukee Journal Stations Records, Milwaukee Mss Collection 203, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

47. WTMJ-TV, news film clip of Martin Luther King speaking at UW-Milwaukee (2 of 2), Nov. 23, 1965, March On Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project, accessed June 8, 2010, http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/u?/march,941.

Bibliographic Entries

Jewish Family and Children’s Service Records. Milwaukee Mss 87. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Johnston, John, Family Papers. Milwaukee Mss BL. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Kander, Lizzie Black, Papers. Milwaukee Mss DN. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Milwaukee Journal Stations Records. Milwaukee Mss Collection 203. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Milwaukee Public Schools, Department of Municipal Recreation and Community Education Scrapbooks. UWM Mss 151. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

Oral History Interviews of the March on Milwaukee Oral History Project. UWM Mss Collection 281. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.

March On Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries. http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/digilib/march/ index.cfm.


Footnotes

1. Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 710-715. Examples also available here with campus subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style Online.

2. Note that Chicago provides specific guidelines for citing interviews and personal communications (705-707). Examples are available for both unpublished interviews and personal communications with campus subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style Online.

APA

Back to Using Primary Sources | Why Use Primary Sources | Citing Primary Sources | Copyright and Primary Sources
Finding Primary Sources | Teacher's Guides and Analysis Tool

Overview | Chicago | MLA | APA

APA

Entire Web Site

The Web site of the Library of Congress connects users to content areas created by the Library’s many experts. In some cases, content can be posted without a clear indication of author, title, publisher or copyright date. Look for available clues and give as much information as possible, including the URL and retrieval date for references when the content changes over time.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

“When citing an entire website of page, and not any document in particular on that website it is sufficient to give the address of the site in the text (no reference list entry is needed).

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Articles and Essays

Special presentations, articles, and essays include examples that illustrate collection themes. Many collections include specific items, such as timelines, family trees or scholarly essays, which are not primary source documents. Such content has been created to enhance understanding of the collection.

This timeline of the Wright Brothers can be found in The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Author’s last name, first initial, middle initial (if given).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of item (italicized) with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Description of format (in brackets) [timeline, collection, etc.].
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date) Title of work. [Format.] Retrieved by http://...

Example:
The Wilbur and Orville Wright timeline, 1867-1948 [Timeline]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/collections/wilbur-and-orville-wright-papers/articles-and-essays/the-wilbur-and-orville-wright-timeline-1846-to-1948/.

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Cartoons and Illustrations

Cartoons and illustrations included in newspapers, magazines or other periodicals often represent the historical perspectives and opinions of the time of publication. This illustration, Join or Die from the May 9, 1754 Pennsylvania Gazette, was published by Benjamin Franklin and expresses his views about the need for the colonies to join forces to confront their mutual concerns with England.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Author’s or creator’s last name, first initial, middle initial (if given).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of document italicized if it is a stand-alone document no italics or quotations if it is part of a larger work, with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Description of form (in brackets) [cartoon or illustration].
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial Middle initial. Title of work. [Description of format]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Franklin, B. (1754, May 9). Join or die [Illustration]. Retrieved from http://loc.gov/pictures/item/2002695523/.

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Films

Black-and-white actuality film collections from the turn of the century are included in the Library of Congress online collections.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Creator’s last name, first name, middle initial (or filmographer’s name if no director is specified, but indicate role).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of film (in italics)
  4. Description of form (in brackets) [film, filmstrip, 35mm film].
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date). Title of work [Format]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Armitage, F. S., photographer. (1905). Bargain day, 14th Street, New York [35 mm film]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/00694373.

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Government Publications

Many government publications originate through executive departments, federal agencies, and the United States Congress. Many of the documents are chronicled records of government proceedings, which become part of the Congressional Record. These documents are often posted without a clear indication of author, title, publisher or copyright date. Look for available clues and give as much information as possible.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Author’s last name, first name, middle initial (if given).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of document without italics or quotations.
  4. Description of format (in brackets).
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date). Title of work [Format]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Proceedings [Government publication]. (1792, December 17). Retrieved from http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ ampage?collId=llac&fileName=llac003.db&recNum=370.

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Manuscripts

The Library of Congress online collections include letters, diaries, recollections, and other written material. One example is this letter from Helen Keller to Mr. John Hitz. Helen describes her trip to Chicago to visit the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Author’s last name, first name, middle initial (if given).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of document italicized if it is a stand-alone document no italics if it is part of a larger work, with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Description of form (in brackets).
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial Middle initial. (Date) Title of work [Format]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Keller, H. (1893, 29 August). Helen Keller to John Hitz, August 29, 1893 [Letter.] Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/magbellbib004020.

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Maps and Charts

Maps are far more than just maps of cities and towns. They document historical places, events, and populations, as well as growth and changes over time. This map is from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed. section 7.07.53)

Structure:

  1. Creator’s last name, first initial, middle initial. (if given)
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of map italicized if it is a stand-alone document, no italics or quotations if it is part of a larger work, with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Format of document (in brackets).
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date). Title of work. [Format]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Ashmun, J. (1830). Map of the west coast of Africa from Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas, including the Colony of Liberia [Map]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/96680499.

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Newspapers

Historic newspapers provide a glimpse of historic time periods. The articles, as well as the advertising, are an appealing way to get a look at the regions of the country or the world and the issues of the day.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed., sections 7.01.9-10)

Structure:

  1. Author’s last name, first initial, middle initial (if given; if no author is given, use title of article here instead with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized and without italics or quotation marks).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of article (if not used above) with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Title of newspaper in italics.
  5. Page number(s) preceded by p. or pp.
  6. URL (use bibliographic record URL).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Year, Month Day). Title of article (if not used earlier). Title of Newspaper. Page number. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Free Education While You Wait For Orders Home. (1918, December 6). The Stars and Stripes. p. 1. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/sn88075768/1918-12-06/ed-1/.

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Oral History Interviews

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Interviewee last name, first initial, middle initial.
  2. Date of interview (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of the interview (if any) with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Format of item (in brackets) [video, transcript, etc.].
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date). “Title of interview” [Video]. Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Patton, G. M. (2011, June 1). Gwendolyn M. Patton oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Montgomery, Alabama [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/afc2010039_crhp0020/.

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Photographs

Photographs and drawings appear in many of the Library of Congress digitized historical collections. This photograph from the Library's online collections shows casualties of war on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Photographer’s last name, first initial, middle initial (if given).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. title of photograph italicized if it is a stand-alone document, no italics or quotations if it is part of a larger work, with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  4. Description of format (in brackets).
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. Title of work (include brackets if the title does so) [Format description]. Retrieved from http://....

Example:
O’Sullivan, T. (1863, July). [Incidents of the war. A harvest of death, Gettysburg, July 1863] [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003001110/PP.

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Sound Recordings

This recording of Mrs. Ben Scott and Myrtle B. Wilkinson performing Haste to the Wedding is an example of Anglo-American dance music on the fiddle and tenor banjo recorded on October 31, 1939.

APA Citation Format
(APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources, 6th ed.)

Structure:

  1. Creator’s or performer’s last name, first initial, middle initial (if given) (include composer, performer, lyricist, etc.).
  2. Date (in parentheses). (Year) or (Year, Month Day). Use n.d. for no date.
  3. Title of album (in italics) Title of a song is neither italicized nor uses quotations. Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns.
  4. Description of format (in brackets) [sound recording].
  5. URL (use bibliographic record URL or shorter digital id if available at bottom of bib record).

Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Date). Title of work. [Format.] Retrieved from http://...

Example:
Scott, Mrs. B. and M. B. Wilkinson, performers. (31 October 1939). Haste to the wedding [Sound recording]. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/item/afccc.a4227b4.

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