We’ve recently had a rush of readers finalising their coursework and dissertations, and one question we are often asked is how to cite archive documents in their work.
References are used to:
- Enable the reader to locate the sources you have used;
- Help support your arguments and provide your work with credibility;
- Show the scope and breadth of your research;
- Acknowledge the source of an argument or idea. Failure to do so could result in a charge of plagiarism.
Of course the way you reference is going to depend on the manual of style that is used by your specific course and you should always refer to your module handbooks for advice in the first instance.
The information required is fairly standard:
- descriptor of the item itself (photograph, letter, minute book, this can be taken from the title in the archive catalogue)
- date of the item
- creator of the item, if known
- identifier used by the archive (D/033/B/023)
- further identifying details, such as page numbers, box number, folder number, if available
- collection to which the item belongs (Personal Papers of Benjamin Fletcher)
- name of repository (De Montfort University Special Collections)
- location of repository (Leicester, UK)
In the Chicago style you will need: title/description of the specific archival record, followed by the date (day, month, year), identifier (box/folder/item number), name of collection, name and location of repository.
For example: City of Leicester Training College prospectus, 1951, D/039/05/006, Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers, De Montfort University Special Collections, Leicester, UK.
In the MLA style you will need: Author (last name, first name). Title/description of material. Date (day month year). Call number, identifier or box/folder/item number. Collection name. Name of repository, location.
City of Leicester Training College. Prospectus. 1951. D/039/05/006. Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers. De Montfort University Special Collections, Leicester, UK.
In the Harvard style you generally need: Author, Initials., Year. Title of document. [type of medium]. Collection, Document number. Geographical Town/Place: Name of Library/Archive/Repository.
City of Leicester Training College, 1951. Prospectus [brochure]. Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers, D/039/05/006. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.
Both MLA and Harvard use in-text citations. These need to provide enough information to allow readers to match the citation with the full source listed in the Works Cited page. You would usually give the author and year (Smith, 1998). For example:
Courses on the teaching of art, music and dance were all added to the curriculum in the academic year 1951-52 (Training College, 1951).
Not all of our archival material is yet catalogued with a reference code (the D/039/05/006 part in the examples above)! If you access material that is uncatalogued you can put ‘uncatalogued’ in place of the reference code. Or the material might have a temporary number on the box or wrapping. For example (using Harvard style):
Ski Club of Great Britain, 1903. Executive Committee Minute Book [manuscript volume]. Ski Club of Great Britain Archive, uncatalogued. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.
Hinson, Adrian Paul, 1922. Brienz in Spring [painting]. Ski Club of Great Britain Archive, Bundle 14. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.
The archives sector is currently running a project on citation practices, please do contribute:
Calling all academics, archivists, librarians and publishers! As part of a project to find out more about citation practices for archives or special collections, Jisc, The National Archives and Research Libraries UK have launched a survey. More details about the project and to complete the survey: https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=152223148675.
The following sources were used to prepare this blog entry: