by Chelsea Lee
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union....” —U.S. Constitution, pmbl.
Those immortal words open the U.S. Constitution. But how to cite it in an APA Style paper? The answer is in the Bluebook—no, not that cheery blue-covered 6th edition Publication Manual, but The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18th ed., 2005; www.legalbluebook.com). The Bluebook sets the standard for all legal citations, and the style for legal citations that you see in the Publication Manual (see Appendix 7.1: References to Legal Materials, pp. 216–224) comes directly from the Bluebook. Although the Publication Manual includes a variety of legal citation examples (cases, statutes, bills, and more), citing constitutions is not among them. So before we continue please note that if you need further guidance on legal citations you should consult the Bluebook directly or your friendly local law librarian.
First, if you simply want to make passing reference to the U.S. Constitution in an APA Style paper, you can mention it in text without a reference list entry.
|Law students described a great affinity for the U.S. Constitution in their |
However, if you are using some part of the U.S. Constitution as evidence to support a point you are making in your paper, you should construct the citation using Bluebook Rule 11, which covers federal and state constitutions.
All citations of the U.S. Constitution begin with U.S. Const., followed by the article, amendment, section, and/or clause numbers as relevant. The terms article, amendment, section, and clause are always abbreviated art., amend., §, and cl., respectively. Preamble is abbreviated pmbl. (as in my opening quotation). Article and amendment numbers are given in Roman numerals (I, II, III); section and clause numbers are given in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3). The Bluebook states that for parts of the Constitution currently in force, do not include a date. If you are referring to a part of the Constitution that has been repealed or amended, include the year that the part in question was repealed or amended in parentheses.
Using Rule 11, here are example in-text citation and reference list entries. Note how similar they are:
|In text: The founding fathers addressed the process by which new states|
may join the union (U.S. Const. art. I, § 3).
Reference list: U.S. Const. art. I, § 3.
|In text: Women gained the right to vote in 1920 (U.S. Const. amend. XIX).|
Reference list: U.S. Const. amend. XIX.
|In text: During prohibition, the sale of liquor was made illegal (U.S. |
Const. amend. XVIII, repealed 1933).
Reference list: U.S. Const. amend. XVIII (repealed 1933).
Thanks for citing the Constitution with us!
How to Cite This Site
Jump to: Citing the Constitution
It is very important when writing a paper for a school project (at any level, from elementary school to graduate school) to properly cite your sources. Where did you find your information? Citations are placed in the text as footnotes or endnotes, and/or placed at the end of your work in a bibliography. This page will handle a few different possibilities. The first is to answer the question "How do I cite a page on this site?" or, as I like to say, "How to cite the site."There are two main areas that someone might wish to cite on this site. The first is one of the pages found on the site. Several are simply electronic copies of historical documents, while others are research pages or opinion pages. You should be able to discern which is which pretty easily. Unless the information is a copy of a historical document, and unless otherwise noted, everything here is written by the Webmaster, Steve Mount.
Here is a standard way to cite an HTML page published on the Internet, according to the Columbia Guide to Online Style:
- Mount, Steve. "Constitutional Topic: Martial Law." USConstitution.net. 30 Nov 2001. //www.usconstitution.net/consttop_mlaw.html%20(3 Dec 2001)
Specifically, the data is as follows: Author, Title, Site, Modification Date (found at the bottom of every page), URL, and the date the page was accessed. The two dates are critical because of the changeable nature of the Web.
The next citation uses the APA format. This standard comes from the American Psychological Association, and is often used in psychology and other social sciences:
- Mount, S. (2010). Constitutional topic: due process. Retrieved February 23, 2011 from //www.usconstitution.net/consttop_duep.html
Specifically, the data is as follows: Author, Modification Year (found at the bottom of every page), page title, the date the page was accessed, and the URL.
Finally, the MLA style is often used. This style comes from The Modern Language Association. With this style, citations are noted in the text and full references are given in a Works Cited list at the end of the paper.
- Inline: (Mount)
- Works Cited: Mount, Steve. "Constitutional Topic: The Census." USConstitution.net. 3 Jan. 2011. 27 Feb. 2011
Specifically, the data is as follows: Author, Title, Site, Modification Date, thee date the page was accessed, and URL.
The second source of information is this site's Message Boards. The primary information available in the Message Boards is opinion. Because the opinions are those of the posters, the citation of a message needs to include the name or handle of the poster. Here is an example, in the Columbia Style, for a posting from the Classic Boards on this site:
- Ian. "Re: Question regarding Law." 2 Dec 2001. USConstitution.net Q&A Board. //www.usconstitution.net/cgi-bin/wwwbmsg.cgi?const&001280.wwb (3 Dec 2001)
The data is as follows: Poster, Subject, Date Posted, Board Name, URL, and date accessed.
All posts created after November 2003 used the new messaging software. Here is an example for a posting using the new software:
- Andy. "Re: Impeach Scalia?" 5 Feb 2004. Debate Archives. //www.usconstitution.net/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=debarch;action=display;num=1077548457 (25 Feb 2004)
Citing the U.S. Constitution
Another common question involves how to cite the Constitution itself. There are two forms, a long form and a short form. In a legal document, the short form will suffice in all instances, whereas in a non-legal paper, the long form should be used once, and the short form can be used thereafter.
- "The Constitution of the United States," Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5.
- "The Constitution of the United States," Amendment 5.
- U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 5.
- U.S. Const. am. 5.
In place of the "§" symbol, the abbreviation "sect." can be used. In a paper dealing primarily with the Constitution, there is no need to mention "U.S. Const."
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