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Making Bibliographic Sense of Primary Sources: Citing Electronic Primary Sources

Introduction: Citing Primary Sources

Now that you know the difference between a digital primary document and the original, and know how to evaluate websites that offer digital primary sources, we need to look at how to cite these sources. Here, we'll offer several examples that show the proper citation of primary sources at several levels of reproduction.

Citing Primary Sources: Archival Documents

The first primary source we are going to cite was written by P. Derrick Bowring about his experience on a Newfoundland seal hunt in 1937. This primary source is held by the Archives and Special Collections at Queen Elizabeth II Library located at Memorial University, in the Michael Harrington Collection (COLL-307)

How to Cite the Primary Source:

To cite an unpublished primary source located in an archive, you need some essential information, including:

·     the title of the item   

·     the date the item was created

·     the series title (if applicable - a series is a sub category of a collection)

·     the name of the collection

·     the name of the institution that holds the material.

For example, if we take the archived journal of P. Derrick Bowring the footnote would look like this:

Trip to the Newfoundland Seal Hunt 1937 by P. Derrick Bowring, 1937, File 2.02.006, Michael Harrington Collection (Coll-307), Archives and Special Collections, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

How to Cite the Published Primary Document:

When a historian takes a part of this archival source and publishes it, we need to adjust our citing style so that we acknowledge which version was used in our analysis. We also need to acknowledge the original form of the document. Our citation would therefore look like this:

Trip to the Newfoundland Seal Hunt 1937 by P. Derrick Bowring, 1937, File 2.02.006, Michael Harrington Collection (Coll-307), Archives and Special Collections, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Linda White, "Trip to the Newfoundland seal hunt: Archives and Special Collections [re Bowring scrapbook of 1937 seal hunt]" Newfoundland Quarterly, 104, 4 (2012), 3-6.

How to Cite the Digital Primary Document as found online:

If we found the document online we need to include information about the online repository for the source, the URL that links to the source, and the date we accessed it. Our citation would look like this:

Trip to the Newfoundland Seal Hunt 1937 by P. Derrick Bowring, 1937, File 2.02.006, Michael Harrington Collection (Coll-307), Archives and Special Collections, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Digital Archives Initiative (DAI), Available at: http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/archives/JournalDerrickBowring.pdf. Accessed on 29 February 2012. 

Considerations:

Remember, if you find a primary source online but it doesn’t provide any information about where it was found and its current location, or any other necessary citation information such as who created it and when it was created, it is important to question the provider of the primary document.   

Digitized primary sources should tell you where they come from, like this document from the Digital Archives Initiative (DAI) at Memorial

References:

Memorial University of Newfoundland Queen Elizabeth II Library Archives and Special Collections

The Chicago manual of style.15th ed.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

 

Citing Primary Sources: Newspapers

Citing a newspaper, or an artifact published in a newspaper (i.e. a poster or advertisement), follows the same format. Let's examine how this is done by looking at a recruiting notice issued in 1813 by General George McClure in the Buffalo Gazette newspaper. The source we are using has been digitized and is available at the website for the McCord Museum in Montreal, Quebec.

How to Cite the Primary Document:

To properly cite a newspaper source you need to provide essential information about it, and put it in an order that makes sense, like this:

·     the author of the article

·     the headline or column heading of the article

·     the name of the paper the in which the article is published

·     the issue date, month, and year

·    the edition of the newspaper if applicable (i.e. 'final edition' or 'weekend edition'), and the section, if available                                        

Newspapers as primary sources are a little different, since they can be accessed without necessarily using an archives. If we take the recruitment notice as it was placed in the Buffalo Gazette by General George McClure our citation would look like this:

George McClure, "To The Patriots of The Western District," Buffalo Gazette, October 2, 1813, Saturday Evening edition.

How to Cite the Published Primary Document:

If we wanted to cite the same primary source, but we had viewed the document in a published document, we need to acknowledge the primary source and the published document. Therefore, the citation would look like this:

George McClure, "To The Patriots of The Western District," Buffalo Gazette, October 2, 1813, Saturday Evening edition. Published in Victor Suthren, The War of 1812 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc, 1999), 132.

How to Cite the Digital Primary Document:

For the digital version of the primary document, we include information about where we found the online source, the website URL that links to it, and the date we accessed it. Our citation would look like this:

George McClure, "To The Patriots of The Western District," Buffalo Gazette, October 2, 1813, Saturday Evening edition. McCord Museum Archives, Available at http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/scripts/large.php?accessnumber=M14333&zoomify=true&Lang=1&imageID=193330, Accessed on (mm/dd/yy).

Considerations:

Digitized primary sources should tell you where they come from, such as this example from the Mccord Museum

References:

McCord Museum Archives

The Chicago manual of style.15th ed.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Citing Primary Sources: Translated Documents

Translation is an important consideration for primary documents. The process of translation could shift the content and tone of the document, so care in the citation needs to be exercised. 

Primary Document, in French: 

   Hugues Sureau du Rosier, Confession et recognoissance, touchant sa cheute en la papaute et les horribles scandales par luy commis. (Par Ian Mayer: Heidelburg, 1573), 6-7.

Published Primary Document:

 Barbara Diefendorf selected this document for inclusion in her editted and translated collection on the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

The Chicago/Turabian citation guides provides a basic minimum for this translated source:

   Huges Sureau Du Rosier, "Confession on His Descent into Popery, 1574," in The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin's: New York, 2009), 130-131.

Unfortunately, this leaves out some very important information - this primary document was translated, which involves a degree of interpretation by the translator. This can affect the content of the source. We need to cite the source in a way that acknowledges variations of the primary source. 

We should include both the translator, to tell the reader that this document was not originally in English, as well as the original version Diefendorf translated. Upon closer inspection, we find the Diefendorf version includes this reference for the primary source: 

   Hugues Sureau du Rosier, Confession et recognoissance, touchant sa cheute en la papaute et les horribles scandales par luy commis, (Basel, 1574), 6-7.

Therefore, a full citation for this translated published document should read: 

   Huges Sureau Du Rosier, "Confession on His Descent into Popery, 1574," translated by Barbara Diefendorf, in The Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents, (Bedford/St. Martin's: New York, 2009), 130-131. From Hugues Sureau du Rosier, Confession et recognoissance, touchant sa cheute en la papaute et les horribles scandales par luy commis, (Basel, 1574), 6-7. 

Online Primary Document:

The original text can also be found in Google Books. To cite the original version, you should follow this method: 

   Hugues Sureau du Rosier, Confession et recognoissance, touchant sa cheute en la papaute et les horribles scandales par luy commis (Par Ian Mayer: Heidelburg, 1573), 6-7.Available at: http://play.google.com/books/reader?id=SuNDAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en

Citing Primary Sources: Official Documents (Crew Agreements)

Primary Sources: Government Documents

In the Maritime History Archive on Memorial University’s campus students and faculty can consult a collection of documents that was created by the nineteenth and twentieth century state. In this case the creating authority had a long reach. It was the British Board of Trade, an imperial authority that even in post-confederation Canada regulated shipping and merchant seafarers’ employment. The documents it produced in respect of the latter – seafarers’ work contracts -- now sit in boxes that occupy fifteen kilometers in the Henrietta Harvey Building.

(Student in the Maritime History Archive consulting a Crew Agreement).

You are welcome to go to the Archive and request a document. If you do and cite it in an essay you would reference it with the following:

   the Maritime History Archive [MHA] as the place in which it is now found;

   the Board of Trade [BT] as the creating agency that is now used to identify the collection;

and then you would give the information that would allow the person reading your paper to request the individual document itself:

   Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, Board of Trade, JUNO 48477, 1871.

(Juno is the vessel’s name, 48477 the official number, and 1871 the year that the voyage finished and the contract or Agreement was received and filed at the Board of Trade.)

Once you had provided those details to an archivist, the document produced would look like this.

 

(Front page of Juno Agreement)

 

But what we show you here is not the original: it is the digitized version. It was digitized just a couple of years ago. This is the form in which reproductions of these documents are now sent out to people who are interested in them all over the world. Each goes with its proper citation. A research team electronically reproduced this one to put it on a website. You can see it on the “More than a List of Crew” website, but before you go to the site, be warned the document you see there is going to look a little different.

On opening the paper document you would be witnessing a double page-spread of men’s names with columns containing further information about them. That is what you also see in the images of these two pages reproduced below. On the website “More than a List of Crew” however they are marked up and navigable. If you are thinking of a Google map you are on the right track. The team made use of this electronic document and the opportunity to modify it. In this case our aims were to make it more readable by magnification and to insert pop-ups explaining each of its parts.

 

 

(Pages 2 & 3 of Juno Agreement followed by the front page of the Agreement from the web. Found at http://www.mun.ca/mha/mlc/toolkit/agreements/foreign-going/index.php)

 

Information buttons cover such details as the seafarer’s name (see the example below). We wanted to help students and other researchers understand what information was being collected in the various columns of an Agreement:

           

(Button open to show “name” information: URL http://www.mun.ca/mha/mlc/toolkit/agreements/foreign-going/index.php?map=2-3)

 

“More than a List of Crew” is online at http://www.mun.ca/mha/mlc/index.php

You should now realize why you would have to identify the website as the place you accessed it rather than the original produced in the Archive.

So, the final question is how would you do that? And the answer is with the following form of citation:

Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, Board of Trade, JUNO 48477, 1871. Available at  “More than a List of Crew” http://www.mun.ca/mha/mlc/index.php . Accessed on 29 February 2012.