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Legal, Public and Unpublished Materials

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General Guidelines for Public and Unpublished Materials

Notes and bibliographic entries for public documents, like other documents, should include the elements needed to locate the items. These essential elements often include the following:

  • Country, city, state, province, county, etc.
  • Legislative body, executive department, court, bureau, board commission or committee, etc.
  • Subsidiary divisions
  • Title, if any, of the document or collection
  • Individual author (editor or compiler), if given
  • Report number or any other identification necessary or useful in finding the specific document
  • Publisher, if different from issuing body

Footnote or Endnote (N):

1. Firstname Lastname, “Title of Document” (source type identifier, Place of Publication, year of publication), page number(s).

Corresponding Bibliographic Entry (B):

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Document.” Source type identifier, Place of Publication, year of publication.

Legal Materials and Government Documents

Legal materials and other government documents should be cited using footnotes, endnotes, and/or citation sentences (with clauses including the same information required in a footnote). Print copies of the sources tend to be preferred to digital, though verified digital sources are acceptable.

When writing for law journals or other legal publications, these sources are not usually required to be cited in a bibliography or on a references page. Citation sentences alone are an acceptable form of citation, so long as the document has only a few legal citations (for more information, see The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., sections 14.269-305 and 15.58.)

Court Decisions and Cases

Notes for court cases should include case name, number, volume number, abbreviated name(s) of reporter, and, in parentheses, the abbreviated name of the court and the date. Case names written in full are typeset in roman, while in subsequent shortened citations the short form of the case name is italicized. Citations are assumed to refer to decisions as a whole unless a particular page is cited using “at” (see example 3 below). The CMOS offers the following note examples in section 14.276:

  1. United States v. Christmas, 222 F.3d 141, 145 (4th Cir. 2000).

  2. Profit Sharing Plan v. Mbank Dallas, N.A., 683 F. Supp. 592 (N.D. Tex. 1988).

  3. Christmas, 222 F.3d at 145. The court also noted that under United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989), police may briefly detain a person without probable cause if the officer believes criminal activity “may be afoot.” Christmas, 222 F.3d at 143; see also Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

Theses and Dissertations

Thesis and dissertation titles appear in quotation marks, not in italics, but are cited in all other ways like books. Include name, title, type of document, academic institution, and date, in that order. If the item was found online, include a URL or DOI (see guidelines for citing online sources).


1. Tara Hostetler, “Bodies at War: Bacteriology and the Carrier Narratives of ‘Typhoid Mary’” (master’s thesis, Florida State University, 2007), 15-16.


Hostetler, Tara. "Bodies at War: Bacteriology and the Carrier Narratives of ‘Typhoid Mary.’” Master’s thesis, Florida State University, 2007.

Letters and Unpublished Manuscripts

Letters and unpublished materials that have not been archived may be cited like other unpublished material, with information on location replaced by wording such as “private collection of Trinity Overmyer” or “in the author’s possession.” The location is not mentioned.