When you are working on a research paper or a longer-term research project, you may need to use not only traditional text and reference books, but also other types of material such as newspaper clippings, film and video recordings and even letters to the editor in various periodicals and publications. Such resource materials are valuable when you are trying to determine the mindset and atmosphere of a particular period in time, and can be immensely helpful in establishing how certain events were viewed through the eyes of the people who lived during the era. Furthermore, many professors consider letters to the editor to be primary source material, which means that you do not have to factor in the bias of a third-party reporter or author. As with all other reference materials, these letters must be cited, so a reader can retrace your research steps should he wish to do so.
Start with the name of the author. If the letter does not give a name, skip this step and move on. The author's name should be listed last name, first name, middle initial and be followed by a period. For example, if the author's name is Jonathan Kiddle, your reference should begin:Kiddle, Jonathan.
List the title of the letter. Most editors will title a letter even if the writer does not, in order to give readers an idea of what the letter is about. The title should be enclosed in quotation marks and followed by a period. For example, if the letter is titled "Why I Love My Compost Pile," your citation should now read:Kiddle, Jonathan. "Why I Love My Compost Pile."
Follow with the name of the periodical and the date of publication. The name of the journal should be italicized, but if your word processor will not support this type of formatting, use an underscore to indicate where the underline should begin and end. The date of publication should be written "day month year," and you can use three-letter abbreviations without a period for the month. Follow the date with a colon. If your paper is called "The Green Thumb Daily" and the letter was published on August 12, 2005, your citation should now read:Kiddle, Jonathan. "Why I Love My Compost Pile." The Green Thumb Daily 12 Aug 2005:
Finish with the number of the page on which the letter is located, and a final period. If the letter was printed on page D14, then your finished citation will read:Kiddle, Jonathan. "Why I Love My Compost Pile." The Green Thumb Daily 12 Aug 2005: D14.
Be sure to cite all sources of information that you used, even if you do not quote them directly.