How to Cite the Constitution

The method for citing the Constitution will vary based on whether you are using the APA or MLA formats, but both are easy to use and are described fully below.

An Introduction to Citing the Constitution

citing the constitution
If you would like to cite the constitution in any works, then there are specific ways to do it.

ConstitutionUS.com provides a full-text copy of the United States Constitution. This site includes the Bill of Rights and all twenty-seven Amendments, plus indexes to help you find specific details throughout the text.

You can cite the Constitution in any document by using a few standards. But the rules for citing the Constitution will vary surrounding whether you use the APA or MLA format.

Before making a citation, be sure to know which of the two formats you should be using.

A Note About Passing References

You must cite the Constitution if you’re using it to support a point you wish to make when writing. However, you do not have to reference the Constitution if you make a passing reference to the document without mentioning any precise points in your work.

You can tell that you need to reference the Constitution by looking at how specific you are when referencing the overall content in question.

How to cite the constitution using APA

citation spelt out
You must cite the constitution in the correct way.

The first way to cite the constitution is through the APA format. The American Psychological Association format is for scholarly journal reports and academic documents.

Basic APA Constitution Citations

The following items will be included in your APA citation. You’ll need to use the proper abbreviations and standards for writing:

  • The U.S. Constitution name – U.S. Const. You do not need to add a comma after that part, although you will need to add one after each other section.
  • Article – Art. When citing an article, it is always written in Roman numerals.
  • Amendment – Amend. Citing an amendment is also written in Roman numerals.
  • Section – §. Use Arabic numerals for citing a section of an article or amendment. You can write § by using Alt-21 in your word processing tool.
  • Clause – cl. This part also uses Arabic numerals when citing a clause.
  • Preamble – pmbl. This is for cases where you will cite the preamble of the constitution.

For example, you might cite a detail in the Constitution about when the President and Vice President’s terms end. An example would come in this form:

“The Twentieth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that the President and Vice President’s terms will expire on January 20 at noon, while Congressional members’ terms end on January 3 at noon (U.S. Const. Amend. XX, §1).”

The citation lists the specific amendment you are citing and the section in that amendment, showing that you understand the subject matter.

The APA format does not require you to list the ConstitutionUS.com website or any other URL in your reference.

Citing Articles And Amendments That Were Repealed or Amended

You will need to add the proper year when something in the Constitution was repealed or amended if you refer to something that was altered through such means. You will cite this by including at the end of your reference in parentheses the year when that part was repealed or amended.

An example of the in-text use of the citation entails how Article 1, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution was amended by Section 1 of the Seventeenth Amendment. You could write in this case:

“The Senate was established with the Legislature intending to choose the two senators for each state for six-year terms (U.S. Const. Art. I, §3, cl. 1, amended 1919).”

You are referencing the part of the Constitution that was utilized at the start while also mentioning that the rule was amended in 1919, as the Seventeenth Amendment gave people the right to elect their senators through popular elections.

How It Appears In Your Reference List

The next part of the APA citation entails how the Constitution will appear in your reference list. You will use the same listing you utilized in your in-text citation in your reference list.

For the Twentieth Amendment example listed above, you will write

“U.S. Const. Amend. XX, §1.”

For repealed or amended content, you would need to add parentheses around the time the change took place. For the earlier example, you would list

“U.S. Const. Art. I, §3, cl. 1 (amended 1919).”

You can also use a similar format when citing the Bill of Rights.

How to cite the constitution using MLA

The Modern Language Association or MLA is another format you might utilize to cite some documents. The MLA standard for citing the Constitution is different from what you would use with the APA format, most notably in that you’ll need to list the URL or other source that features the copy of the Constitution you are using.

In-Text Citations

The in-text MLA citation will entail listing the name of the webpage where you viewed the Constitution. You will list these points:

  • The webpage title or name of another source you are using
  • The article or amendment in Roman numerals; use the same Art. or Amend. abbreviations
  • The section that you should write as Sec.

For example, when referring to a copy of the Constitution on Constitutionus.com, you can use a citation like this:

Article III of the United States Constitution states that impeachment cases do not have to be subject to a trial by jury like with all other crimes (“US Constitution,” Art. III, Sec. 3).”

How It Appears In Your Reference List

The most noticeable difference here is that you’ll need to provide details on where you found the Constitution in your MLA citation. You will use this standard:

“Page Title.” Name of Website, Day, month, and year of publication (without commas), URL. Accessed (day, month, and year of access without commas in between).

You can use this example when referring to the earlier example of the Constitution from the last segment:

“US Constitution.” ConstitutionUS.com, 2020, https://constitutionus.com/. Accessed 10 March 2021.

What About Book Versions of the Constitution?

You could always use a book version of the Constitution if you don’t have access to ConstitutionUS.com. For this case, you would use the following format in your works cited space:

Book title. Edited by (First and last names), edition, publisher, year.

You would also refer to the Constitution within the text by (U.S. Constitution, (amendment or article), (section)).

If you are referring specifically to the Bill of Rights, then you can use a similar citation method.

A Final Word on Citing the Constitution

Be sure you use the right standards when referencing the United States Constitution in your work, whether that is APA or MLA. Failing to use the correct citation standard could result in penalties in your papers or even allegations of plagiarism.

Watch the following video to learn more about constitution citation:
https://youtu.be/62uI-pmKJ84

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