Citing primary sources properly is ethically imperative. A proper citation should lead your reader unambiguously back to the exact source consulted and referenced. The particular form of your citation will depend upon the citation style you adhere to (e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, etc.). In general, citations progress from narrow to broad in presentation.
The basic elements that should appear in your citation are:
Ex: Special Collections Research Center, Gelman Library, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Ex: MS2007 Grace Cavalieri Papers
Ex: Series II: Correspondence
Ex: Box 3 Folder 15 "Submissions, 1972-1973"
Ex: Letter to Mary Ellen Hombs from Mitch Snyder, January 12, 1975.
When you are in the reading room working with materials, it is good practice to take thorough notes about the document and its location. You may need to consult the finding aid and the labels on the folder and box - even if not all the information is required in the citation itself. Citing primary sources can be tricky. The best approach is to capture as much information as possible. It's always better to over cite than under cite.
Information about citing sources is available at a number of websites including:
There are numerous style manuals in the library that provide information about citation format:
The deeper that you get into your research, the more difficult it can be to organize and manage your citations. Luckily, we offer the following citation management tools:
These are all extremely useful tools that can help you manage your citations and build your bibliographies.
For more information, see our Citation Tools guide, or ask a librarian!