Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Documentation in History

by Dr. Anita Gaul

Carefully citing all sources is critical in the field of history. Failure to cite a source can have dire repercussions and can ruin an historian’s career. Since historical research builds on the research done by other scholars, it is essential for you to identify and cite the scholarship and sources you used. That way you can both give credit where credit is due, and future historians can build on the research you did by consulting your sources. Additionally, all quotes must be accurate and paraphrases must fairly represent the meaning and intent of their original author.

The general rule is that unless it is general knowledge, you should include a citation. When in doubt, cite the source. It is better to err on the side of caution than be accused of plagiarism for not including a citation.

Citations in your writing should take the form of footnotes or endnotes. Do not use the parenthetical author-page number style of citation, unless your instructor specifically requests it. A full bibliography (list of sources) should also be included at the end of your paper. The preferred citation style in the field of history is Chicago Style, sometimes called Turabian Style.

It is important to closely follow the Chicago Manual of Style because there are many different types of sources used in historical writing. Books and journal articles are some of the most common sources, but sources also include sound recordings, oral interviews, photographs, financial records, personal letters and diaries, government documents and many other things. There is a correct method to cite each different type of source, so follow the manual carefully.