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Why and How to Cite

Citations, aka, references give credit to others for their work and ideas and allow readers to track down the original work if they choose. By preparing your citations properly, you are taking part in scholarly discourse. Besides giving credit where credit is due, the reference list (also called bibliography, or works cited list) does several things:

  • Suggests a list of further reading for those who are interested in learning more about your topic
  • Provides a way to check facts and verify accuracy 
  • Supports the tracing backwards (and forwards) of the development of ideas over time

The library has prepared a guide on How to Cite and evaluate your sources

Citing Archival Materials & Primary Sources

Citing archival materials

Citing Archival Sources (UBC Wiki)

How to Cite Archival Sources (Library and Archives Canada)

Primary Sources in Archives & Special Collections: Citing Archival Sources (Purdue University)

Citing Archival Resources: OWL at Purdue University

Citing an archival finding aid as its own document

Follow the same conventions with the four elements of author(s), title, year, and source in whatever format required by your citation style. In AtoM, scroll to the bottom of the top-level description for the "Dates of creation, revision and deletion" note to get these details. For PDFs, this information should be on the title page. It is possible that details may be missing, in which case  do your best with the information available.

For example, citing the finding aid as published in AtoM (not the actual archives) for the McLennan Family Fonds in APA style:

Shiver, C. (2015, February). McLennan Family fonds [finding aid]. Vancouver, BC: UBC Library: Rare Books and Special Collections. Retrieved [insert URL].


Citing the finding aid published as a PDF (not the actual archives ) for the A.M. Pound Collection in MLA style:

Gore, Robert. A.M. Pound. 1869-1932: An Inventory of His Papers in the Library of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: UBC Library: Rare Books and Special Collections, 1978. Web. [Date of retrieval].


For print finding aids which are not found online, use the rules for unpublished manuscripts.

APA  - used most frequently in the social sciences

MLA  - used most frequently in the humanities

Chicago - used most frequently in the historical disciplines

Getting Help

Questions about copyright? Not sure if you're allowed to use an image? Tricky citation problem?

Contact UBC's Copyright Office

Questions about plagiarism, style, and the writing process?

See resources from the Chapman Learning Commons' Writing Centre

Curious about citation management software?

Attend a workshop

Style Guides


The OWL at Purdue

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and provides them as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects.

MLA Style (OWL)

APA Style (OWL)

Chicago Style (OWL)

The APA Style Blog

The APA Style Blog is the official companion to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition. It's run by a group of experts who work with APA Style every day.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online