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How to Reference Historical Documents in APA Style


The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) is a complete guide to academic writing. Many scholarly disciplines require students and professors to use APA style writing; it is not limited to psychology. The goal of documenting anything in APA style is pointing the reader to your source. Historical documents often present a particular citation challenge because you may not have all the publication information you would normally use, but the APA style manual has guidelines for that, too.

Cite archived historical documents like this:

Author, A. A. (Year, Month, Day). Title of material. [Description of Material]. Name of Collection. (Call number, Box

  number, File name or number, etc). Name of Repository. Location. (APA Style Manual, p. 212).

For Example:

Johnson, H. G. (1907, March 4). Papers of Harvey Johnson. [Papers on Colorado water resources]. Water Resources

  Archive. (Call number WHGJ). Colorado State University Library. Fort Collins, CO.

Cite letters like archived documents but include the author and recipient in the [Description of material] section (APA Style Manual, p. 212). For example:

Mann, T., (1936, June 15). Letter. [Thomas Mann writing to Alfred Knopf in Zurich]. Archival Material. (Call number

   PT2625.A44Z5375 1936). Colorado State University Library. Fort Collins, CO.

Cite archived documents in-text like this:

(Johnson, 1907)

Cite letters in-text like this:

(Thomas Mann to Alfred Knopf, 1936) (APA Style Manual, p. 212)

Cite interviews and oral histories using the interviewee or speaker as the author, and put the interviewer in the description (APA Style Manual, p. 213). For example:

Werth, J. (1996). The church and the Russian-Germans in the Siberian homeland today: A personal interview with His

    Excellency, the Most Rev. Joseph Werth, Bishop of Siberia. [Eric J. Schmaltz interviews Joseph Werth]. Germans

    from Russia Heritage Collection. (Call number BX4705.W4634 A5 1996). North Dakota State University Libraries.

    Fargo, N.D.

Use Anonymous as the author only for documents that specifically say Anonymous. If the author is unknown, begin your citation with the title of the work (APA Style Manual, p. 177). For example:

Records of the Iliff and Platte Valley Ditch Company. (1884-1997). [Financial and Business records]. Water Resources

   Archive. (Call number WIPV). Colorado State University Library. Fort Collins, CO.

In-text citation should use the first few words of the title. For example:

(Records of the Iliff, 1884)

Cite ancient Greek and Roman works in-text, but you don't need a citation in the reference list. Just make sure you put the translation you use (APA Style Manual, p. 177). For example:

(Aristotle, trans. 1931)

Tip
  • If you're unsure about an author or date you can put a question mark after it in the citation to show that (Knopf?). You should also use the abbreviation for circa (ca.) if the dates of the document are estimates.
Warnings
  • If you use documents from a private collection you must get permission from the collector and put that at the end of your citation in the reference list (APA Style Manual, p. 213). For example:
  • Mann, T., (1936, June 15). Letter. [Thomas Mann writing to Alfred Knopf in Zurich]. Archival Material. (Call number
  • PT2625.A44Z5375 1936). Permission to use granted by John Doe. Anywhere, USA
About the Author

Leslie Howerton began writing in 2008, and has been published in the "Kaleidoscope" newspaper. She received five Student Medallion awards for writing from the Public Relations Council of Alabama in 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alabama in public relations.

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