How to Cite Primary Sources

It’s that familiar, time-tested assignment again: the research paper. You already know that it’s critical to include a variety of sources as evidence to back up your argument or ideas. Sources of information like books, websites, and academic journals are easy to access and can help you locate pertinent information to your topic. But how do you include information from sources that provide first-hand evidence, such as maps, letters, etc.? 

These types of sources are called “primary” sources, and citing them can be a bit more challenging than citing those that are “secondary” (sources that interpret primary sources or information). However, primary sources are strong resources to use.

First, primary sources help you relate directly to the content. Instead of reading an “outsider’s” analysis of a topic or event, you can explore it for yourself through primary sources. Second, primary sources allow you to create your own opinions and analysis of a topic, without the bias of a secondary analyzer. Finally, there is less chance of miscommunication or misinformation with primary sources.

Now that you know the value of primary sources, here are some tips on how to properly include them in your next bibliography or MLA works cited.

No matter what you are citing, the key thing to remember is that the overall objective is to lead your readers directly to the sources you have consulted. Here are some of the pieces of information you should include from your primary source in order to accomplish this goal:

  1. Author or creator’s name
  2. Title of the source or a description
  3. Date the source was written/created
  4. Publication information, such as the database you accessed it from
  5. Collection name, if there is one
  6. Box and folder, if the source was housed in a place that uses such a system
  7. Repository/archive that holds the source

Here is an example for citing a letter as a primary source in MLA format:

Benton, Alice. Letter to Charles Friend. 24 Jan 1789. Charles Friend Collection, State University Library, New York, MS 511, box 15, folder 9.

And here is how you would cite the same letter in APA format:

Benton, A. (1789, October 24). Letter to Charles Friend. Charles Friend Collection (MS 511, Box 15, Folder 9). State University Archives, New York.

If you are unsure about how to cite a primary source for your paper, talk to your instructor or consult the manual for your citation style. also has helpful citation forms for many types of primary sources like interviews, photography, maps, federal bills, and more! 

Preparing to write a paper? Why review BibMe grammar guides and brush up on how to use an adverb, what is plagiarism, how to define “conjunction,” and more!

Easily Cite a Summer (or any) Concert

If you are writing a paper about a musical artist or band, you may want to use a concert you saw in person as a reference. But how do you go about adding a live concert to your bibliography or sources page? This article will tell you everything you need to know in order to properly cite a concert in MLA format, APA and Chicago styles. offers thousands of other specialty citation styles, dozens of source types, and an annotated bibliography sample to help you cite just about anything in any way you need it! Also, check your music review for unintentional plagiarism and tighten up your writing with the BibMe grammar and plagiarism tool!

What you will need

The information required to cite a concert is different from what you would need to cite a book, although the citation formats are similar. To cite a live concert you will need:

1. The name of the artist

2. The name of the concert tour

3. The date, month, and year of the performance

4. The name of the venue where the concert took place

5. The city and state where the concert took place

MLA references for a concert

Formula for MLA references:

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Concert. Day Month Year, Venue, City.

Example in MLA style:

Eilish, Billie. Concert. 7 June 2019, Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Independence.

Formatting notes

Artist’s name

Write the artist’s name with their last name first followed by a comma and then their first name followed by a period, just as you would the author of a book. If the artist is a band with multiple musicians put the full name of the band instead. Add a period following the artist, and follow this information with the word, “Concert.”

Date and location

Next you will need to write the date of the concert in the format of day-month-year followed by a comma. Then put the name of the concert venue followed by a comma and the city of the venue followed by a period.

APA references for a concert

The concert was viewed in person, and isn’t accessible to the reader, so it would fall into the category of “personal communication.” Personal communication references are only cited in the text of the paper. Include the name of the artist and the date the concert took place. 

If, however, the concert is accessible to the reader, perhaps on YouTube or another viewing or listening website, cite the source by following the instructions for citing a video, streamed music, or music recording. 

APA citation format in the text:

Include the artist’s name and the year. 


The use of blue fluorescent lights throughout the Billie Eilish concert in 2019 promoted a feeling of calmness and serenity. 

Chicago references for a concert:

This specific style recommends including information about the live performance in the text of the paper, or in footnotes, and excluding it from a bibliography. 

Chicago style citation in the text of the paper:

Include the performer, the date of the performance, and the name and location of the venue in the writing of the paper. 


Billie Eilish’s concert at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri, on June 7, 2019, was filled with bright fluorescent lights that promoted a feeling of calmness and serenity. 

Chicago Style Format in the footnotes:

  1. Name of Performance, music and lyrics by Performer’s Name, Name of Venue, Location City, State, Month Day, Year. 


  1. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, music and lyrics by Billie Eilish, Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Independence, Missouri, June 7, 2019.

We hope your summer concert was a blast! Even if it wasn’t, you’ll want your review to sparkle, so check out the BibMe grammar guides for inspiration! They can help you with everything writing, including a list of adjectives, how to use conjunctive adverbs, examples of interjections, and more!

Citation Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

Citations, along with grammar, punctuation, research, and exam preparation, are an essential part of academic life. However, with different citation rules for different institutions, different subjects, and different types of sources, it can be hard to keep track of the terminology involved.

Don’t worry! We’ve put together a quick citation vocabulary cheat sheet which should come in handy if your tutor or classmates mention a term that leaves you feeling confused. To keep things simple, all examples will refer to a book as the source. When using a different source type, you can find citing help via


Ok, this one should be easy. A citation is a way to reference any sources that you’ve used while researching and writing your paper, project, or any other piece of academic work. You need to think about both in-text citations and also supplying a full citation (sometimes called a reference in some citation styles) on a reference list, works cited list, or bibliography.

APA style

Short for American Psychological Association, APA is one of the most popular citation styles. It’s most commonly used within science subjects.

MLA style

Short for Modern Language Association, MLA is one of the most popular citation styles. It’s most commonly used within English and humanities subjects.

Chicago style

Chicago Manual of Style citations are most commonly used within history and humanities subjects. There are two different types of citations which fall under Chicago style: author/date and footnote/bibliography.

In-text citation

In-text citations sit within the body of your work (often within parentheses), usually following a direct quote or paraphrased information. They give the reader basic information about the source, which may include the author, the date of publication (for some styles of citation), and the page number if relevant.

APA style in-text citation example:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” said Gandalf (Tolkien, 1954, p. 20).

MLA style in-text citation example:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” said Gandalf (Tolkien 20).

Note that, if the author is referenced within the sentence, you don’t need to include the author’s name in parentheses.

Reference list / Works cited list

Your reference list or works cited list is where the full information on your sources is included. All of the  in-text citations in the body of your paper should have a corresponding full citation in the reference/works cited list.

The information given on the reference/works cited list should allow the reader to easily look up your source. Additional information that might be given here could include the author’s full name, the full title of the source, the name of an editor or translator, publisher, and place of publication, depending on the citation style being used.

APA citation example:

Shakespeare, W. (1996). Hamlet. T. J. Spencer (Ed.). London, England: Penguin Books.

MLA citation example:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by George Richard Hibbard, Oxford University Press, 2008, pp 18-22.


A bibliography differs from a reference list or works cited list in that it includes details of every source that you used when writing your paper or essay, even if you haven’t quoted or paraphrased from that source. For example, a tutor might request a bibliography if you’re writing a paper that requires a lot of background reading and research. It would show them exactly what materials you have consulted, and prove that you’ve put in the hard work, even if you don’t have in-text citations referring to every source.

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography includes a citation for each source, followed by a brief paragraph. Information within this paragraph could include anything that you feel might be useful for the reader to know. For example, you could include some information on why you feel the source is relevant to your work, or report on the accuracy or quality of the source.

Source type

This term refers to the type of material that you have used within your work (and wish to cite). Common source types include books, images, websites, and articles, but you can cite anything from a political speech to a movie.

Primary source

A primary source is an original work such as a recording, photograph, newspaper article written from a firsthand experience, or letter. An example of a primary source is actual text of the Magna Carta or photographs of King Tut’s tomb taken by Howard Carter and his team.

Secondary source

A secondary source is an interpretation or evaluation of a primary source, such as a biographical work, analysis of a study, or review. An example of a secondary source is an interpretation of the Magna Carta. Another example is a present day article analyzing Howard Carter’s photographs.

Tertiary source

A tertiary source is a collection/interpretation of primary and secondary sources, such as a textbook, manual, or directory. Note that some types of sources, such as textbooks for example, can be either secondary or tertiary, depending on their content. An example of a tertiary source is a book all about the Magna Carta and its effects on the world.


An online database is a collection of digital information. In libraries, databases are usually comprised of digital articles, research papers, videos, or photographs. These sources are useful when researching for a paper.


Paraphrasing refers to the expression of an idea in your own words. It’s important to remember to still cite your sources when paraphrasing.


When you repeat someone else’s words, work, or idea exactly as it appears in your source, this is known as quoting. Put quotes in quotation marks and include an in-text citation.


Summarizing refers to the condensing of an idea to express it more succinctly. If you’re summarizing someone else’s work or ideas, you still must cite your source.


And finally, this is a really important one. Plagiarism refers to the passing off of someone else’s work, words, or ideas as your own, and is the very thing that citation is designed to avoid. Using a plagiarism checker and citation creator like the ones at is an easy way to ensure that all of your sources are properly cited and your paper is 100% plagiarism free.

Now that you’ve got citation terms down, brush up on your grammatical ones! Read up on irregular verbs, relative pronouns, conjunctive adverbs, and more with our free grammar guides.

Fun Citation Trivia!

Citations isn’t a word that screams fun. You wouldn’t choose to do citations over watching a video or texting a friend. And yet, citations at their core are anything but boring! They are so much more than just their style rules, and are an incredibly effective tool in most academic disciplines.  

Have you ever wanted to know why there are so many citation styles or how citations came to be in the first place? Keep reading to discover the answers and other interesting facts about citations!

1. Citations have been around for a long time

Making citations for sources is anything but new. In the 1600s, the act of making citations became defined as the “act of quoting a passage from a book, etc.” The word “citations” can trace its roots to the Latin word “citare,” which means “to summon, urge, call; put in sudden motion, call forward; rouse, excite.” It is interesting to think about how authors have been making citations for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years! 

2. There are thousands of citation style options

You likely find yourself needing to cite in one or two of the same citation styles, such as APA or MLA format. But did you know that there are over 7,000 citation styles to choose from? And the list grows regularly. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide which to use. If you’re unsure which one to select for your next paper, it is always a good idea to consult with your professor.

3. Some citation styles are very unique

Citation styles can be very uniquely named, or apply to a very specific publication or industry. For example, the style “Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society” is a style that is only used by that particular organization. There are also citation styles that have unusual names, such as “Blood.” This citation style is used by a journal for the study of hematology.

4. There are citation styles named for people

Most citation styles are named for organizations that publish them. For example, APA is named for the American Psychological Association.  Did you know, however, that some citation styles are named for individual people? The best example of this is Turabian style, which was named for its author Kate L. Turabian, who modeled the style after Chicago Manual of Style rules.

5. Citation styles can change over time

While citations are always an important piece of the writing process, the specific citation style rules can change over time. For example, just this year, nearly 50 new citation styles were added, and there were over 100 edits to existing citation styles. This is another reason why it is super important to confirm your needed citation style with your professor before handing in your paper.

6. Millions of citations are created on BibMe each year

This past fall semester alone, there were approximately 11.8 million citations made on BibMe. That’s over 8 times more citations than there are people living in the state of Hawaii. That’s a lot of citations!

Finished with your citations and paper? Check out the handy BibMe Plus grammar checker and plagiarism tool! It can help you find mistakes and improve your paper. Haven’t started writing yet? Read our grammar guides to learn what is a verb, an adjective definition, gender pronouns, and other grammar-related topics.

3 Types of Plagiarism We Forget About

By Michele Kirschenbaum, Library Media Specialist

You’ve seen it in the news. A musician accused of stealing a song, a politician’s speech picked apart for being similar to another’s, or a plagiarism inquiry into a well-known scientist’s research report. No doubt, being accused of plagiarism is the worst. It’s embarrassing, totally humiliating, and undermines an individual’s talent and authority.

Learning how to prevent plagiarism (and citing in MLA and APA) is something you’ve probably spent time learning in school before. But, did you know there are a few, often overlooked ways to plagiarize? Check out these three types of plagiarism that tend to sneak into assignments:


You might be shocked when you read this, but you can plagiarize yourself! It sounds crazy, but it’s 100% true. Self-plagiarism is the result of recycling your own material without citing it.

It’s totally tempting to hand in a previously submitted research paper as a “new” project, but doing that means you’re not developing the fresh, current research your teacher expects. Also, if your research paper was picked up by an academic journal for publishing, it can become the property of the journal publication.

Can you reuse projects and information from previously written assignments? You sure can! You simply have to cite it the same way you’d cite other sources. Or, if there’s an old paper that would work perfectly for a new assignment, ask your teacher or professor if you can repurpose it and expand upon it in a new way. If you decide to do this, try out BibMe’s thesis citation form.

Poor paraphrasing or patchwriting

Ever tried rewriting an author’s sentence, but it ended up too close to the original? That’s exactly what patchwriting is. In a nutshell, it’s a poor attempt at paraphrasing. While it’s often an innocent mistake, patchwriting usually happens when a writer doesn’t completely comprehend the original author’s words. The writer uses the original author’s idea, but replaces the original text with synonyms. Even if the writer includes an in-text or parenthetical citation, if the paraphrase is too close to the original, then it’s patchwriting, resulting in plagiarism.

How do you paraphrase properly? Here are a few step-by-step guidelines:

  1. Take some time to fully comprehend the original author’s words or idea. If you’re having difficulty with comprehension, use a search engine to read up on tricky words or subject-specific language. Sometimes it helps to ask a friend to clarify what you’re reading.
  2. Once you’ve fully grasped the author’s meaning, put his or her words to the side, and rewrite what you’ve read. Use your own words and style of writing, but weave in the original author’s concepts and ideas.
  3. Include an in-text or parenthetical citation, along with a full text citation at the end of your project.

Here’s an example of a paraphrase that isn’t patchwriting:

Original text from the book, Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson:

“The very first problem the Ptolemies faced was acquisitions. Egypt boasted a long and distinguished culture, and there were books aplenty throughout the land—in Egyptian. There were Greek books to be bought in Athens and Rhodes and other established centers of Greek culture, but not in newly fledged Alexandria. The Ptolomies’ solution was money and royal high handedness.”


As a new, flourishing cultural center, The Library of Alexandria was in need of rich literature from other prominent areas. Where did the Ptolomies look? Greece. The Ptolomies used their money and power to obtain books from nearby Athens and Rhodes (Casson, 2002, p.34).

Full text citation at the end of the assignment:

Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World. Yale UP, 2002, p. 34.

Including full-text citations and forgetting in-text citations

What goes together like peanut butter and jelly? Peas and carrots? Chips and salsa? Let’s give it up for the beautiful duo of in-text and full-text citations. Where there’s one, there has to be the other. Unfortunately, students and scholars sometimes forget to include the total package in their work. Many are guilty of including only full text citations at the end of a project. While that’s helpful, that’s only half the battle.

In-text and parenthetical citations are found in the body of a project, next to a direct quote or paraphrase. They provide readers with a quick glimpse as to who created the original idea, when it was created, and sometimes the page number, depending on the citation style being used. Readers can quickly see the origin of the quote or paraphrased information, and continue reading the research paper, without disturbing the natural flow of the writing.

The in-text citation in the research paper corresponds with the full citation at the end of the assignment.

Here’s an example of an MLA citation in the body of a project :

In the beginning of the novel, the reader is made aware that the father’s business is somewhat corrupt, when young Tabby shares, “Daddy likes to have business talks outdoors, away from prying ears” (Egan 32).

The full MLA citation at the end of the assignment looks like this:

Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach, Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Remember, if you include a full citation at the end of the project, there should be a brief citation in the actual text of the paper. And vice versa. Always include both. Don’t leave one citation without its trusty old friend.

Next time you’re prepping for research paper, keep these pesky plagiarism villains at bay. Being accused of plagiarism is pretty embarrassing, but it’s 100% preventable.

When your research is complete, don’t forget to run your writing assignment through a plagiarism checker, like the one you can find right here on BibMe Plus! This will help you not miss a citation or accidentally pick up text from your research. You can also check your assignment for grammar errors like a misspelled pronoun, incorrect subject-verb agreement, an uncapitalized proper noun, and more!

How to Cite Your Teacher’s (or Anyone’s) Email

In today’s world, it’s super common for teachers to communicate with students via email. Assignments and papers are often submitted this way, and lecture notes can be easily shared with the entire class all at once. So, how would you cite this type of communication in your paper?

To cite an email from your teacher, you should make note of the following pieces of information:

  1. Your teacher’s name
  2. Title/subject of the email
  3. Recipient’s name (You!)
  4. Date sent

Below, we present the citation structure and an example in MLA, APA, and Chicago style format.

Need help citing other types of sources? Check our our helpful guides on, such as this one, on how to write an annotated bibliography.


Structure for MLA style:

Teacher’s Last Name, First Name. “Subject Line of Email.” Received by Your First Name Last Name, Date Sent.


Olsen, Mary. “Re: Midterm Homework Assignment.” Received by Jonas Bonds, 15 Mar. 2015.


In APA style, no personal communication is included as an entry in your reference list. Instead, parenthetically cite your teacher’s name, the phrase “personal communication,” and the date of the communication as an in-text citation.


(Teacher’s First Initial. Last Name, personal communication, date sent).

(E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).


Like in APA style, you do not need to include a reference in your bibliography for personal communications like emails. Instead, include the reference as a footnote at the bottom of the page.


  1. Teacher’s First Name Last Name, e-mail message to class, Date sent.


  1. Patricia Burns, e-mail message to class, December 15, 2008.

Need an extra set of eyes to review your paper? Run your assignment through our grammar and plagiarism checker. We’ll provide instant feedback on any spelling, grammar, and plagiarism issues we see in your paper. If you’ve just started writing, it may pay to read our free grammar guides on pronouns, what is an adjective, a prepositional phrase, and other parts of speech.