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Department of History

Citations and Plagiarism

In academic papers, the rules governing documentation are very strict. You must give credit for ALL words and ideas not your own.

The one exception involves ideas in the public domain—information that is common knowledge or purely factual information over which there is no dispute and no “ownership”: the date of Lincoln’s death, the distance between the earth and the sun, the atomic number of nitrogen. In addition, in some classes you may treat ideas developed in class discussions and in lectures as ideas in the public domain. (Check with your professors.)

Historians follow the citations rules outlined in The Chicago Manual of Style, available in full online via the Olin Library database list. The basic points are as follows:
  • In academic papers, the unit of documentation is the sentence. Any sentence that does not contain an attribution is assumed to be composed entirely of your own words and your own ideas. You must footnote material throughout the paragraph, or else your reader will assume that the ideas are all your own and that you have no support for them.
  • Use footnotes or endnotes for your citations. Use the ‘insert footnote’ function to create your footnotes. Do not improvise your own numbering or layout system.
  • The note number for a footnote or endnote normally goes after punctuation in Chicago style.
  • The first time you use a source, give the full citation in the note. After this, you can shorten the citation to just the author’s last name, a shortened title, and a page number.
  • All research papers should also have a bibliography, which should also adhere to The Chicago Manual of Style. Your sources should be separated into primary and secondary and, within each category, should be listed alphabetically by the author’s last name.
  • Bibliographic form is similar, but not identical, to footnoting format. (The most important differences are that authors are listed last name first, there are more periods and fewer commas, and the publishing information is not in parentheses.)
  • Bibliography entries are indented so that the first line of each entry is flush with the left margin and subsequent lines in each entry are indented one half-inch (see examples below). Use the indentation ruler to achieve this format.

To help you cite correctly, consider these citation examples of most common types of works you might use as sources in a history paper. Both note and bibliographic versions are included for each type of material—note the differences!


Note (first reference):
Wayne Flynt, Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989), 17-18.

Flynt, Wayne. Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989.


Note (first reference):
Melvin G. Herndon, “Naval Stores in Colonial Georgia,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 52, no. 4 (December 1968): 426-28.

FYI: if the article appears in print anywhere, you do not need to supply a URL or DOI, even if you read the article online. It is still a print source, not an electronic one.

Herndon, Melvin G. “Naval Stores in Colonial Georgia.” Georgia Historical Quarterly 52, no. 4 (December 1968): 426-33.

FYI: For the bibliography, you must give the page-range of the full article.

Multivolume Works

Note (first reference):
Stephen Hawkings, Reader’s Companion, 4 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 1:324.

Hawking, Stephen. Reader’s Companion. 4 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Document or Essay in an Edited Collection or Anthology

Note (first reference):
Steven Hahn, “Common Right and the Commonwealth: The Stock-Law Struggle and the Roots of Southern Populism,” in Region, Race, and Reconstruction, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 54.

FYI: ed. is used rather than eds. as it stands for “edited by” in this situation.

Hahn, Steven. “Common Right and the Commonwealth: The Stock-Law Struggle and the Roots of Southern Populism.” In Region, Race, and Reconstruction, edited by J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson, 51-88. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Article in a Major Reference Work

Note (first reference):
Luciano Chiappini, “Este, House of,” Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia. 1974 ed.

Chiappini, Luciano. “Este, House of.” Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia. 1974 ed.

FYI: If you’re using a specialist reference work, add publication information.

Internet Sources

With an Author—Note (first reference):
Peter Tudebode, “The Battle for Antioch in the First Crusade (1097-98),” De Re Militari, accessed July 24, 2016,

With an Author—Bibliography:
Tudebode, Peter. “The Battle for Antioch in the First Crusade (1097-98).” De Re Militari. Last accessed July 24, 2016.

No Given Author— Note (first reference):
“About Zika: Overview,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed July 27, 2016,

No Given Author—Bibliography:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “About Zika: Overview.” Last accessed July 27, 2016.

Newspaper Articles

With an Author—Note (first reference):
Ceylan Yeginsu, “Turkey’s President Accuses Advocates of Birth Control of Being Traitors,” New York Times, Dec. 22, 2014.

With an Author—Bibliography:
Yeginsu, Ceylan. “Turkey’s President Accuses Advocates of Birth Control of Being Traitors.” New York Times. Dec. 22, 2014.

No Given Author—Note (first reference):
“Not Constantinople Any More,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), Dec. 15, 1929.

No Given Author—Bibliography:
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH). “Not Constantinople Any More.”  Dec. 15, 1929.


With films, the Chicago Manual of Style urges you to include as much information as possible to identify the writers, recording, and medium to which you are referring.

Note (first reference):
Arif Aliyev and Sergei Bodrov, Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, directed by Sergei Bodrov (2007; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2008), DVD.

Aliyev, Arif and Sergei Bodrov. Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan. Directed by Sergei Bodrov. 2007. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2008. DVD.

Archival Sources

Note (first reference):
Itemized bill, June 1, 1945, Morse Museum Collection, Folder 5, Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

Morse Museum Collection. Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

Multiple Authors

Note (first reference):
Alexander P. Kazhdan and Ann Wharton Epstein, Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 120-32.

Kazhdan, Alexander P. and Ann Wharton Epstein. Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Same Author of Multiple Works Cited

Cite as usual in your footnote.

Otto, John Solomon. “Florida’s Cattle Ranching Frontier.” Florida Historical Quarterly 63:1 (1984): 71-83.

__________. “Florida’s Cattle Ranching Frontier: Manatee & Brevard Counties.” Florida Historical Quarterly 64:1 (1985): 48-61.

__________. “Hillsborough County (1850): A Community in the South Florida Flatwoods.” Florida Historical Quarterly 62:2 (1983): 180-93.

FYI: make sure the number of underlines you use is consistent throughout the bibliography—ten is good.

Unknown or Anonymous Author

Note (first reference):
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, trans. Seamus Heaney (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000), 55.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Translated by Seamus Heaney. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

Material Quoted within Another Source

Occasionally you will find in a work by Pat Smith a quotation by Jay Jones whose words or ideas you wish to use. When you cannot locate the original, you can handle that situation as follows:

Note (first reference):
Jay Jones as quoted in Pat Smith, The Life of Jones (New York: Hill & Wang, 2000), 23.

Smith, Pat. The Life of Jones. New York: Hill & Wang, 2000.

Plagiarism is 1) the intellectual theft of ideas, which you avoid by citing the origins of your information and concepts as outlined above and 2) the intellectual theft of words, phrases, and sentence structures, which you avoid both by citing the origin and using quotation marks or paraphrasing.

If you use a phrase that is recognizable as coming from another author (maybe as little as three words, depending on the words) and do not put it in quotation marks, you have committed plagiarism. If you fail to paraphrase effectively—your sentence structure remains the same and/or you merely change a word or two—you have committed plagiarism.

To test whether you understand plagiarism, complete this Plagiarism Recognition Tutorial.

To avoid plagiarism:

  • Try to use as many sources as possible for any one point and synthesize the information from the multiple sources.
  • If you are using statistics or facts from another source, convert them into a different framework. So, “10 percent of slaves in Virginia came from Gambia, while over 60 percent came from the Gold Coast,” could be stated as “in Virginia, most slaves originated in the Gold Coast, with a measurable percentage coming from Gambia.” Or “Nat Turner was an evangelical African-American minister who led a nearly successful slave rebellion in Virginia in 1832,” could become, “in 1832, Nat Turner, a slave and minister, nearly overturned the Virginian slave regime.”
  • Think about what you need the information for—what is the point YOU are trying to make—this might help you eliminate unnecessary facts and refocus the necessary ones.
  • When in doubt about a paraphrase, ask your professor.

Guidelines in this section are adapted from J. Cording, “Suggestions for Snappier Writing,” English Department, Rollins College.