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Primary Sources in Archives & Special Collections: Citing Archival Sources

Identifying and locating primary sources in the Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.

Traditional Paper Sources: Booth Tarkington letter to George Ade

Citing Electronic Sources: Amelia Earhart telegram

How to cite a traditional paper primary source document

Citing a primary source document, from an archives, varies depending on the preference of your instructor, the publication you are submitting the article, or the discipline in which you are operating.  You may wish to consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) for further information. The particular style may be the American Psychological Assocaition (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Chicago Manual of Style, etc.

There are several elements to the citation which may be necessary to properly cite a document such as the Booth Tarkington letter to the left.

The document: The creator or author, specific item title, page, section, date.

Box and file number: The majority of materials found in archives, that are not books, are housed in some sort of container and within the container the various items are separated for various reasons in files.

Repository: This is the name of the archives.


The document shown on the left is found in the:

Collection: George Ade Papers, 1878-2007

Series: Series 2: Correspondence, ca. 1882-1947; n.d.

Box: Box 10: Correspondence, Sto-U, ca. 1894-1943

File: Folder 5: Tarkington, Booth, ca. 1905-1943

Archives: The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.  Purdue University Libraries.  West Lafayette, Indiana.


The Booth Tarkington letter shown here could be cited in the following ways:

American Psychological Association:

Tarkington, B. (1924, May 8). [Letter to George Ade].  George Ade Papers, 1878-2007, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center (Box 10, Folder 5), Purdue University Libraries, West Lafayette, IN.

Modern Language Association:

Tarkington, Booth.  Letter to George Ade. 8 May 1924.  George Ade Papers, 1878-2007.  The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries, West Lafayette.

Chicago Manual of Style:

Booth Tarkington to George Ade, 8 May 1924, Box 10, Folder 5, George Ade Papers 1878-2007, The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Purdue University Libraries.

How to cite an electronic primary source document

Citing a digital object:

The telegram, shown on the left, from the George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers, 1785-1948, is found in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives & Special Collections Research Center e-Archives.  It is both a paper document in the collection and a digital object in e-Archives.  The best way of citing this document as a digital object using one of the above formats, APA, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style is to add the Reference URL at the end of the citation.

Reference URL: http://earchives.lib.purdue.edu/u?/earhart,3422