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Proper Historical Citation


An historical research paper or essay requires the proper citation. Why? What is the purpose of citing information? Citations tell your reader that you have researched and your information can be referenced. Citations are important and need to be done the right way. History papers should always be cited and cited properly.

The truth is that overall you should never assume that any one particular citation method is the only acceptable one. There are various kinds including MLA, APA, and Chicago Style. Generally, each academic area has their particular type of citation methods that they prefer. History usually uses the Chicago or Turabian styles for reference. It is this type of citations that you will find in most history books and textbooks. It is not the type that all colleges use. Some stipulate other citation methods such as MLA or APA which are parenthetical citations – (Smith, 2010). Because of this, always check with your school and your professor as to what citation method is preferred. Further discussions in this article will be referencing the Chicago Manual of Style or Turabian citation method.

The proper historical citation is always sound. This means that the book, article, website, or other media source should exist for the reader to further investigate. When citations are given, the author is giving appropriate acknowledgement to the original creator of the sentence, idea, or other creation.

Endnotes or footnotes are typically used where the name of the author(s), translators or editors if there are any, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and page numbers. For example:


John Smith, How to Write a History Paper (New York: Publisher, 2010), 35-37.


In this example, all the information is given for the reader of the paper to access the writer’s source. The cited information might be intriguing for the reader. They might want to read more from this source. This citation gives them that information. This citation also changes slightly based on the media source. See The Chicago Manual of Style for further information on how to document other types of sources.

Many times, a writer will pull information and quotes from the same source and will need to cite it multiple times. When that happens, you do not need to rewrite the entire endnote/footnote entry. Using the example above, let us say that you cited this work on page three of your paper and need to cite it again on page six. In that case, you endnote/footnote entry would look like this:


Smith, 42-43.


Only the last name and page numbers are needed for the subsequent citations. The process can be even easier if the citation is immediately after the initial endnote/footnote. In that case, it could look like this:


Ibid, 42-43.


There does some to be a bit of variance in this method of citation. Some scholars are recommending not using the “Ibid” as there is a lot of cut and paste in word processing programs that the “Ibid” might be moved to follow an incorrect citation. In that case, it has been noted that the last name method should be used instead of “Ibid”. This should always be confirmed by your professor as to their preferences.

A bibliography, or works cited, page should also be included for all historical research papers. This is a summary of all resources that were used to compile the paper and support the author’s thesis. Endnotes and footnotes are very specific per idea or quote. Each bit of information is referenced and documented. The bibliography gives one list of resources without the redundancies that can appear in endnotes and footnotes. Since it is a summary, the standard way to write an entry is as follows:


Smith, John. How to Write a History Paper. New York: Publisher, 2010.


As the bibliography is a summary, the author’s last name is first and the list is alphabetized. There is no need for page numbers as this is just a list of sources and not a direct citation of a place in the resource. Each source is listed only once. You will find that many of your readers will use this page(s).

When you cite your papers correctly, you are giving more credibility to your work and you are giving your readers more resources for their own studies and research. You are also giving respectful acknowledgment to the original creators of the works you are citing. In truth, any paper that is not properly documented should not be relied upon. Citations avoid plagiarism and give all works good foundations.

Make sure your historical works are properly documented. Proper documentation means acceptable methods and all borrowed material noted. Never skip over your citations. Historical pieces need proper citation.


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Content copyright © 2014 by Rebecca Graf. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rebecca Graf. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rebecca Graf for details.

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