The method for citing the Constitution will vary based on the APA or MLA formats, but both are easy to handle.
ConstitutionUS.com provides a full-text listing of the United States Constitution. The transcript includes the Bill of Rights and all twenty-seven Amendments, plus indexes to help people find specific details throughout the text. You can cite the Constitution and ConstitutionUS.com 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.
A Note About Passing References
You must cite the Constitution if you’re using it to support a point you wish to make in your 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 the 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.
The first way for how to cite the constitution on ConstitutionUS.com is through the APA format. The American Psychological Association format is for scholarly journal reports and academic documents.
You will incorporate these items in your APA citation. You’ll need to use the proper abbreviations and standards for writing as listed in this brief look:
- 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. The article is always written in Roman numerals.
- Amendment – Amend. This is also written in Roman numerals.
- Section – §. Use Arabic numerals for this point. You can write § by using Alt-21 in your word processing tool.
- Clause – cl. The part also uses Arabic numerals.
- Preamble – pmbl. This is for cases where you will cite the preamble.
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 referring to 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 Things 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).”
The Modern Language Association or MLA is another format you might utilize for 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.
The in-text MLA citation will entail listing the name of the webpage where you acquired 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; you can write this as “Sec.”
For example, when referring to a copy of the Constitution on Constitutionus.com, you can use a model 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?
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)).
A Final Word
Be sure you use the right standards when referencing the United States Constitution in your work. Failing to use the correct citation standard could result in penalties in your papers or even allegations of plagiarism.