The following guidelines are loosely based on The Chicago Manual of Style, now in its 17th edition. Any student thinking of going to graduate school in history or any other learned discipline should acquire and use the most recent version of this basic reference work.
A. Citing Sources in Footnotes
Footnote or endnote?
Word processing programs nowadays let you choose footnotes (which appear at the bottom of each page of text) or endnotes (which appear at the end of the paper, after the text). In this guide we will speak of footnotes, but endnotes are equally acceptable.
When to footnote?
A reference showing the source of your information must accompany each important statement of fact, each quotation, each citation of statistics, and every conclusion borrowed from another writer — unless the fact or quotation is so well known as to be universally recognized or accepted. Thus you need not footnote a statement that the American Civil War began in 1861 or that the headwaters of the Mississippi River lie in Minnesota; and while you may wish to quote the exact wording of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, you need not footnote the source as long as you mention that phrase “Fourteenth Amendment” in your text.
When the matter in any paragraph comes from several sources, one footnote may contain all these references. To reduce clutter, it is usually a good idea to collect all the references for the statements in a paragraph into a single footnote at the end of a paragraph.
Why do we use footnotes?
Basically, historians footnote their sources for two reasons. First, footnotes are a way to acknowledge the help we have received from others who have worked on this subject before we began on it. No historian ever works in isolation; scholarly inquiry is an endeavor carried on within a community of historians. This community extends through time — we often learn from the works of writers long dead.
Second, we footnote our sources as a courtesy to our readers. A reader may become interested in an idea you are presenting or in some information you discuss. The reader may wish to learn more about this matter, and your footnotes get him or her started on the investigation.
The proper way to cite books and articles
Single-space your footnotes and number them consecutively; start over with number 1 in a new chapter. Footnotes may appear at the bottom of the page or at the end of your essay on a separate page or pages. A good word processing program such as Microsoft Word can easily format your manuscript either way.
Note the form of the following footnote reference:
1 Clifford E. Clark, Jr., The American Family Home, 1800-1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 261.
The first footnote citation of a work should supply the full name of the author with given name appearing before surname, the exact title as found on the title page (unless it is excessively long), the edition (if later than the first), the city of publication (the name of the publisher is optional), the date of publication, and the pertinent page reference. The title should be underlined or italicized. The citation is a single expression that ends with a period.
Subsequent citations of the same work should be shortened so as to give merely the author’s surname and the key word (or words) of the title:
2 Clark, American Family Home, 206-08.
The use of ibid. (“in the same place”), op. cit. (“in the work cited”), and other Latin terms is falling out of favor and we no longer recommend their use.
Articles in Journals
Note the form of the following reference:
3 Diethelm Prowe, “Economic Democracy in Post-World War II Germany: Corporatist Crisis Response, 1945-1948,” Journal of Modern History 57 (September 1985): 451-82.
This citation follows the same general pattern as the earlier citation for a book: author’s full name, title of the article (and note that article titles are placed in quotation marks), title of the journal (underlined or italicized, as with a book title), the volume number, year (month or season is optional), and pages. Again, the entire citation is a single expression that ends with a period.
A subsequent citation:
4 Prowe, “Economic Democracy”: 454.
Here the form is a hybrid of the last two:
5 Jamie Monson, “Canoe-Building under Colonialism: Forestry Policy in the Inner Kilombero Valley of Tanzania, 1920-1940,” in Ecological Change and History in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Tanzania, ed. James Giblin and Gregory Maddox (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1994), 35-56.
A subsequent citation:
6 Monson, “Canoe-Building,” 38-40.
Two or more references in a single footnote
In a footnote mentioning two or more authorities, the various items should be connected by semicolons:
7 Clifford E. Clark, Jr., “Ranch House Suburbia: Dreams and Realities,” in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War, ed. Lary May (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 84-100; Susannah Ottaway and Samantha Williams, “Reconstructing the Life-Cycle Experience of Poverty in the Time of the Old Poor Law,” in Archives: The Journal of The British Records Association, Vol. XXIII, No. 98, (April 1998): 19-29.
Wherever possible, give exact page citations. Occasionally, however, you may wish to indicate generally that your material comes from a particular page and the pages following. Here the abbreviation ff. (not underlined or italicized) should be employed:
8 Clark, American Family Home, 32 ff.
If you wish to indicate that the material is derived from scattered parts of a work, the Latin expression passim (“here and there”) is convenient though not widely used any longer:
9 Clark, American Family Home, chapters 4-6, passim.
Note: The conventions discussed above are generally employed in history books and journals. The department strongly recommends that you follow these conventions for research papers including comps papers. Historians occasionally follow the conventions of other disciplines in citing sources; if an instructor in a particular history course asks you to use a different set of rules, you should follow his or her instructions.
When to Quote?
Don’t over quote: if you rely too heavily on quotations, it gives the impression that you are too lazy to formulate the idea in your own words. There are really just two situations when a quotation is appropriate: when you intend to discuss the actual wording of a passage (for example, a section of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address), or when the original writer states an idea much more memorably than you ever could. But there is no need to quote extensively from books and articles by historians. Instead, paraphrase — put the idea in your own words, footnoting the source.
When you quote, remember that all quotations should be plainly so indicated and should be made with scrupulous accuracy. There are two ways to tell your reader that you are quoting another writer. The first is to put the statement inside quotation marks; the second is to format the quoted material as a block quotation:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be here dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these honored dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A block quotation is appropriate only when the quoted material exceeds about sixty words (say five lines). You don’t use quotation marks; instead, you signal that you are quoting by indenting the passage on both right and left sides and by single-spacing it. (In books and journals you will generally find that block quotations are printed in a smaller typeface too.) Of course you should footnote the quotation.
You may omit words and phrases within a quoted passage provided you don’t distort the sense of the passage. Indicate omissions by three periods or omission marks, separated by spaces, thus . . . ; when the final words of a sentence are omitted, four omission marks are used instead of three. Editorial comment within a quotation should be enclosed in brackets, not parentheses. For example: “For each said district there shall be appointed by the President [of the United States] a provost-marshal, . . . who shall be under the direction and subject of the orders of a provost-marshal-general, . . . whose office shall be at the seat of government. . . .”
In the case of quotations, you should always cite the actual work you consulted. If a passage is copied not from the original source but as quoted by some other person, the footnote should follow this form:
10 Letter from Francis Lieber, Columbia, S.C., to Dorothea L. Dix, 5 November 1846, quoted by Francis Tiffany, Life of Dorothea Lynde Dix (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1890), 149.
C. Bibliographic Entries
A formal bibliography of all the essential materials you have used comes at the very end of the paper. List works in alphabetical order by author’s last name. If you have quite a number of works (ten or more, perhaps), list them in separate sections for “Primary Sources” and “Secondary Works.” If the number of titles is quite large, you might wish to subdivide the citations further under these main headings: “Manuscripts,” “Pamphlets,” “Public Documents,” “Newspapers and Periodicals,” “Interviews,” etc. Under each subheading, arrange the items alphabetically by author’s last name. Note the form of citation in the following:
Clark, Clifford E., Jr. The American Family Home, 1800-1960 . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
Clark, Clifford E., Jr. “Ranch House Suburbia: Dreams and Realities.” In Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War, ed. Lary May, 84-100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Monson, Jamie. “Canoe-Building under Colonialism: Forestry Policy in the Inner Kilombero Valley of Tanzania, 1920-1940.” In Ecological Change and History in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Tanzania, ed. James Giblin and Gregory Maddox, 35-56. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1994.
Ottaway, Susannah and Samantha Williams. “Reconstructing the Life-Cycle Experience of Poverty in the Time of the Old Poor Law,” in Archives: The Journal of The British Records Association, Vol. XXIII, No. 98, (April 1998): 19-29.
Prowe, Diethelm. “Economic Democracy in Post-World War II Germany: Corporatist Crisis Response, 1945-1948.” Journal of Modern History 57 (September 1985): 451-82.
Unlike the practice in footnotes, last names should appear first. (If the work is anonymous, the first important word of the title determines its place in the alphabetical list.) A bibliographical reference is not a single expression like a footnote; instead, periods or full stops separate author’s name from title and title from publishing information.
The New York Herald, 1868-1878.
The Ohio State Journal (Columbus, Ohio) April 1-20, 1900.
“Certain Illegal Tonnage Duties.” House Report, 48 Cong., 2 Sess., no. 457 (March 10, 1880), 1-16.
Malloy, William M. (comp.). Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols and Agreements Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776-1909. 2 vols.: Washington: U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 1910-1938.
[In the above citation, “comp.” stands for “compiler.”]
References to unprinted material obviously can follow no rigid form, but in every case should include the name of the author (when ascertainable), the number of volumes if more than one, the inclusive dates, and the place of deposit. Do not underline the titles of manuscripts and manuscript collections. Example:
Boston Committee of Correspondence. Minutes of the Committee of Correspondence, November, 1772-December, 1774. 13 vols. mostly in the handwriting of William Cooper. George Bancroft Collection, New York Public Library.
Furman, Seymour. Telephone interview with author, January 12, 1992.
Jackson, Henry M. Interview, February 5, 1968. Oral History Collection, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.
Zoll, Paul M. Interview with author, February 5, 1990, Boston, Mass.
E. How to Cite Internet Sources
To cite online works, give the author’s name, last name first (if known); the full title of the work, in quotation marks; the title of the complete work (if applicable), in italics; any version or file numbers; and the date of the document or last revision (if available). Next, list the protocol (e.g., “http”) and the full URL, followed by the date of access in parentheses.
Amy Hollywood, “Spiritual but Not Religious: The Vital Interplay between Submission and Freedom,” Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Winter/Spring 2010, https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/winterspring2010/spiritual-not-religious. (Accessed April 10, 2019)
F. Writing for the Web
Carleton’s Web Services Group offers tips on writing for online readers.