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Norwich University Kreitzberg Library

Cite Primary Sources

Newspapers and Magazines

A historical newspaper, magazine, yearbook, or other traditionally published item can be a primary source because it tells you how the public reacted to an event or topic at the time that it was happening.

How to Cite: Use your style guide's format for a normal newspaper or magazine citation. If you found the source in an archives or on the website of a specific archives (as opposed to a database), be sure to include repository information in accordance with their preferred citation. These examples use the Chicago Manual of Style citation format.

Example Found Online: "Extract of a letter from Pittsburgh, Nov. 28," The Vermont Gazette, January 4, 1790, 3. America's Historical Newspapers.

  • Note that we follow the Chicago Manual's recommendation for citing a source from a commercial database. 

Example From an Archives: "Military Academy," The Essex Patriot, August 17, 1820, 4; Alden Partridge Records; Box 13; Norwich University Archives, Kreitzberg Library, Northfield, VT.

  • Here, we used the Chicago Manual's citation style to identify the item, then followed it with the preferred citation style to identify the collection, box number, and repository information.

Published Firsthand Accounts

Letters, diaries, and eyewitness reports are often published in books or pamphlets. This could be a modern anthology of letters or a diary that was published hundreds of years ago.

How to Cite: Use your style guide's format for citing the work in which the primary source is published, such as a book or pamphlet. Keep in mind that for very old works, information that you need such as author, publication date, and publisher may be missing or located in a different place than you're used to within the source. If accessed through an archives or special collections library, be sure to include repository information in accordance with their preferred citation.

Example (modern book): Letter from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning, 11 January 1845. The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1845-1846. Edited by Robert Browning and Elvan Kintner. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969.

  • Remember to follow your assigned citation style's recommendations with regard to citing ebooks or other electronic publications.
  • Note that we have begun the citation with a description of the document, rather than the author's name (Barrett, Elizabeth). This is in keeping with the Chicago Manual of Style recommendation regarding the citation of manuscript collections.

Example (historical pamphlet): Hamilton, Alexander. Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No. V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796,” In Which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted. Written by Himself. Philadelphia: Printed Pro Bono Publico, 1800. Accessed December 2, 2015. https://books.google.com/books?id=pDlEAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false. 

  • Note that access information is included. If this had been accessed through a specific archival repository, repository information would be required in lieu of the Google Books address.

Unpublished Manuscripts

These are what you may think of as traditional archival materials--original copies of letters, diaries, manuscript writings, and more that are unpublished and unique to the repository in which they are found.

How to Cite: These can be the trickiest to cite because every document is different. Focus on including as much of the key information about the source as possible, rather than filling in a formula. You will rely most heavily on a repository's preferred citation when citing these sources. In Chicago Manual of Style, refer to section 14.232 ("Manuscript Collections") and proceeding sections.

Example Found Online: Letter from Lydia Hubbard to her son, 24 December 1828, Elijah Kent Hubbard Papers, Norwich University Archives, Kreitzberg Library, Northfield, VT. Accessed December 2, 2015. http://archives.norwich.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p16663coll4/id/386. 

  • This is an item associated with a specific repository, so we've consulted the preferred citation information on their website, included repository information, and also included online access information in the form of the provided permalink, since it was found in their digital collections.

Example Found in an Archives: Speech Delivered at Batavia, N.Y., 1852, Box 7, Reel 6, Susan B. Anthony Papers, 1846-1934, MSS11049, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

  • Since we could not find preferred citation information for this document, we referred to the Chicago Manual of Style for general formatting principles, and simply included as much information as possible about the repository and the collection.

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