Fact Finding Friday: How to cite digitized primary sources

Phelps Morand to Byrnes 1945 Letter

Dear people who sometimes help students or just need to know how to cite things,

I took a reference call from a graduate student who needed to cite primary sources that were found online. This is something students have to do all the time now that much of the primary material they are referencing has been digitized. So how do you cite these things?

Library of Congress to the rescue!

The Library of Congress website has a handy-dandy guide to citing digitized primary sources. It provides information about citing any type of item you might find in their digital libraries: letters and documents, maps, newspapers, cartoons, photos, sound recordings, films, or the entire website in general.

Of course, all their examples use items from their online collections. (I do love citation style instructions with examples. Like sample problems after the equations in math textbooks.)

Both MLA and Chicago styles are included in the LoC's guide. Chicago footnote style, however, is not. Our inquisitive grad student needed to footnote it. So I Googled "citing digitized primary sources chicago footnotes" and found this (reputability UNKNOWN). Looks good enough. (The grad student's paper was due in, like, negative 5 minutes.) Sometimes...you just gotta Google and hope for the best!

I hope this edition of Fact Finding Friday (which was just invented right now) is helpful to you at some point in the future. Cite on, friends!

Dani "Citation Ninja" Wellemeyer