How to Cite the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

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In honor of the Fourth of July and the most patriotic month of the year in America, let’s look at some tips on how to cite the Declaration of Independence and similar important historical documents in MLA format and APA format.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 follow the format for 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 If you are citing the Declaration or Constitution itself as a whole (not specific parts), do not cite it in your APA 7 bibliography or Chicago-style bibliography. This is because both are considered well-known, or common knowledge, documents. They should only be referenced in narrative or parenthetical citations. For additional specifics on style requirements, see the sections below for each particular style manual.
  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 (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 to the Declaration or Constitution, and be sure to include as much information as possible.

Creating bibliography entries 

Though you’re not always required to cite a whole federal or state constitution in APA or Chicago styles, you must include in-text citations and reference entries when you refer to specific articles, amendments, and/or sections of a federal constitution or state charter. If you’re following MLA 9 style, you can include a works-cited list entry and in-text citation both for the entire constitution or for specific parts (see examples below).

Create a reference following the correct format for the specific source type. For example, a printed copy of the Constitution found in a book or a digital transcription of the Declaration of Independence found on a website.

APA 7 format: U.S. Constitution

Again, if you’re citing the U.S. Constitution as a whole, not a certain part, a citation isn’t required in APA 7 style. Instead, refer to the Constitution in the text.

However, if you’re citing a specific part, follow the format below, depending on the part you’re citing.

References
Structure

U.S. Const. art. xxx. § x.

U.S. Const. amend. xxx

Examples

U.S. Const. art. III, § 1.

U.S. Const. amend. X.

 

In-text Citations
Structure (U.S. Const. art. xxx. § x)

(U.S. Const. amend. xxx )

Examples

(U.S. Const. art. III, § 1)

(U.S. Const. amend. X)

For narrative citations of specific parts of the Constitution, capitalize the specific parts and use the roman numeral or Arabic numeral. For example, Article II, Amendment V, or Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

APA 7 format: Declaration of Independence

As with the U.S. Constitution, APA 7 doesn’t require including a reference entry when you’re citing the Declaration of Independence as a whole. Generally, when citing the Declaration of Independence, you would do so in the text. For example, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Paragraph 4 (1776) states…

However, if you’re referencing a website that contains a copy of the Declaration, follow the webpage on a website format of APA 7.

Reference
Structure

Group Author. (Year, Month Day). Webpage 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

(Group Author, Year)

Example

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

 

MLA 9 format: U.S. Constitution

Works Cited Entry
Structures

Title of the Constitution. Name of Website,  Name of Publisher (if different from website name), Date Mon. Year Published, URL. (remove http:// or https://)

When appropriate, include the article, amendment, and/or section numbers to indicate the part of the constitution you discuss in your project:

Title of the Constitution. Art. #/Amend. #, Sec. #. Name of Website,  Name of Publisher (if different from website name), Date Mon. Year Published, URL. (remove http:// or https://)

 

Examples

The Constitution of the United States: Full Text. National Constitution Center, 2022, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text.

When appropriate, include the article, amendment, and/or section numbers to indicate the part of the constitution you discuss in your project:

The Constitution of the United States: Full Text. Art VII/Amend. I.  National Constitution Center, 2022, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text.

In-text Citations
Structure (Title of the Constitution)

(Shortened Title. art. # amend. #, section #)

Examples

(The Constitution of the United States)

(U.S. Constit. art. VII amend. I)

MLA 9 format: Declaration of Independence

Works Cited Entry
Structure

Declaration of Independence: Subtitle (if included on webpage title). Name of Website,  Name of Publisher (if different from website name), Date Mon. Year Published, URL. (remove http:// or https://)

Examples

Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.  National Archives, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 8 June 2022, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.

In-text Citations
Structures (Declaration of Independence Title)

(Shortened Title)

Examples

(Declaration of Independence)

(Declaration)

In MLA 9 style, follow the usual styling of titles of laws when writing them in your prose or the body of your essay (the Constitution not The Constitution).

Chicago-style format: U.S. Constitution

Do not include a bibliography entry for a constitution when using The Chicago Manual of Style. Instead, include the information in the text or in a footnote or endnote, using note-bibliography style.

If you’re citing a specific part, follow the format below, depending on the part you’re citing. The format below follows Chicago’s note-bibliography style.

Notes
Structure

1. U.S. Const. art. #, § #, cl. #.

1. U.S. Const. amend. #, § #.

 

Examples

1. U.S. Const. art. III, § 1, cl. 2.

1. U.S. Const. amend. X, § 1.

 

Narrative Citations
Structure

The Constitution of the United States

article #  or Article #

section #  or Section #

The # Amendment or Amendment #

Examples

In The Constitution of the United States, article 2, section 3 states…

According to the Second Amendment…

According to Amendment II…

Chicago-style format: Declaration of Independence

As with the Constitution, if you’re citing the Declaration of Independence as a whole when using Chicago style, you don’t typically include a bibliography entry. You would include the information in the text or in a footnote or endnote. However, if you find a copy of the Declaration of Independence in a format that requires a bibliography entry, a book or a transcript found on a website, for example, you would follow the format for that particular source. The examples and templates below follow the format for website content.

Note-Bibliography
Note

Shortened Note

Bibliography

1. “Webpage Title,” Webpage Category Name (if available), Organization Author Name/Website Name, last modified Month Day, Year, URL.

2. Organization Author, “Webpage Title.”

Organization Author Name. “Webpage Title.” Webpage Category Name (if available). Last Modified Month Day, Year. URL.

Examples

1. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” America’s Founding Documents, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, last modified June 8, 2022, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.

2. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.”

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” America’s Founding Documents. Last Modified June 8, 2022. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.

Narrative Citations
Structures The Declaration of Independence
Examples According to the Declaration of Independence…

*Note: If the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution is a standalone publication (not published as a published book or an article online), it should be cited in the text, not italicized or in quotation marks.


Updated July 14, 2022.

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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)