How to Cite the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

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Published October 23, 2020. Updated October 4, 2021.

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In honor of the fourth of July and the most patriotic month of the year, let’s look at some tips on how to cite the Declaration of Independence and similar important historical documents in MLA format and APA format. USA!

  1. If you are citing a website with information about the Declaration or the Constitution (even if you can read the document on the site), you should use the source type “website” to make the citation in your works cited or reference list. 
  2. If you are citing the Declaration or Constitution itself, do not cite it in the works cited list. This is because both are considered well-known, or common knowledge documents. They should only be referenced in an in-text or parenthetical citation.
  3. In your text, do not underline or use quotation marks for the words Declaration of Independence or Constitution of the United States. Simply use a parenthetical citation like the examples below. Try to be as specific as possible, and use the section, clause, or amendment numbers. For example:

…in the Declaration of Independence (US 1776).

…In the Constitution of the United States, Article III refers to the “….” (sec. 1, cl. 3)

…in the U.S. Constitution (art. II, sec. 1, cl. 3.).

…slavery was finally abolished in December 1865 (US Const., amend. XIII)

  1. The most important tip is to be consistent with your citations throughout your paper. Try to maintain some sort of uniformity throughout your references of the Declaration or Constitution, and be sure to include as much information as possible.

Creating bibliography entries 

Even though you do not need to cite these documents in your bibliography, you may want to. For those cases, let’s talk about how you construct a reference list or works cited list entry.

Create a reference based on the source type you are using. For example, say you are using a printed copy of the Constitution or a digital transcription of the Declaration of Independence.

APA format: U.S. Constitution

Reference
Structure

U.S. Const. amendment # OR article #, section #.

Examples

U.S. Const. art. III, § 1.

U.S. Const. amend. X

 

In-text Citations
Structure

(U.S. Const. amendment # or article #, section #)

Examples

(U.S. Const. art. III, § 1.)

(U.S. Const. amend. X)

 

APA format: Declaration of Independence

Reference
Structure

Name of Website OR Government Agency. (Year, Month Day). Article title. URL

Examples

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. (2020, July 24). Declaration of Independence: A transcription. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

 

In-text Citations
Structure

(Name of Website or Government Agency, Year)

Example

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 2020)

 

MLA format: U.S. Constitution

Reference
Structure

“Article Title.” Name of Website, publisher (if different from website name), date published, URL.

Examples

“The U.S. Constitution (Full Text).” Interactive Constitution, National Constitution Center, 2021, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text.

In-text citations
Structure

(Shortened Title amendment # or article #, section #)

Examples

(U.S. Constitution art. III, § 1.)

(U.S. Constitution amend. X)

MLA format: Declaration of Independence

Reference
Structure

“Article title.” Name of Website, publisher (if different from website name), date published, URL.

Examples

“Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” National Archives, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 24 July 2020, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.

In-text citations
Structure

(Shortened Title)

Examples

(Declaration)

 

*Note: If the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution is named on its own (rather than as a published book or an article online), it should be listed in regular text, not italicized or in quotation marks.


Updated June 5, 2021.

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Do I need to cite the Declaration of Independence?

If you want to cite the Declaration, do not cite it in the reference list or works cited list, as it is a popular document. Include it only in in-text citations. However, do not italicize the Declaration of Independence or enclose it in quotes.

APA in-text citations

Template:

(Name of Government Agency, Publication Year)

. . . as stated In the Declaration of Independence (US 1772)

MLA in-text citations

Shorten the title of the government agency in parenthetical citations.

Template:

(Name of Government Agency)

(Declaration)

How do I cite the Declaration of Independence in text?

If you want to cite the Declaration of Independence, do not cite it in the reference list or works cited list, as it is a well-known document. Include it only in in-text citations. Do not italicize Declaration of Independence in your citation or enclose the words in quotes.

APA in-text citations

Template:

(Name of Government Agency, Publication Year)

Example:

. . . as stated In the Declaration of Independence (US, 1776)

MLA in-text citations

Shorten the title of the document (or the article, if the Declaration was accessed through a website) in parenthetical citations.

Template:

(Shortened title)

Example:

(Declaration)