HomeResources for ContributorsAdding Your Work to OmekaDeveloping Your Introduction

Developing Your Introduction

This page provides guidelines for developing an introduction to the document(s) you are editing.


Your introduction should succinctly provide the background a reader needs to understand the document(s). What this entails will vary by item, of course. Some discussion of the historical context in which the document(s) emerged is almost certainly in order. Likewise, basic biographical information about the author and/or any identifiable individuals mentioned is desirable, when it can be ascertained. You might consider how the document(s) came to reside at the repository where it is now found, if that can be determined, or any other information that can be gathered about the history of the object(s). Your introduction is also potentially a place to point out questions that may merit further investigation, or to consider any editorial challenges that the document presents. 

In some rare cases, a project may focus more on exploring an approach to editing than on transmitting the particular document in question. In such instances, the focus of the introduction may be different. Please consult with Dr. McCarl if you believe this applies to you.

If you are the only individual working on a particular collection or author, you will do this work independently. In cases where more than one student is working with the same collection/author, we may decide to group some of the general information into one common, brief introductory text, and then have each contributor discuss separately the document(s) they are editing.

As you think about how to structure your introduction, you should review the page Building Your Exhibit, which explains how we will implement your introduction on Omeka.


Your introduction should be 500-1,000 words, not counting your Works Cited. If you would like to produce an introduction that is longer than 1,000 words, please consult first with Dr. McCarl.


Your introduction should be informed by your use of at least three secondary sources. Generally, these should be books and journal articles, but could also include information provided by the archives themselves, through finding aids, email correspondence with the archivists, or personal interviews with those individuals.

For guidance on finding information, please refer back to Researching Historical Context.

Citation Format

General Format

We will use the MLA format for citing sources in the introductions. Consult the Purdue OWL's MLA Formatting and Style Guide to review the format for the parenthetical citations you will use in the body of your text, as well as the entries you will place in your list of Works Cited.

Some Specific Situations

Online Finding Aids and Container Lists

If you are citing the online finding aids or container lists provided by the UNF Library, please follow this example:

UNF Thomas G. Carpenter Library. “Letters from Elisa Hatch to Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Comings. Jacksonville, Fla., 1842-1843. Finding Aid.” UNF Thomas G. Carpenter Library, https://www.unf.edu/library/specialcollections/manuscripts/collections/Letters_from_Elisa_Hatch_to_Mr__and_Mrs__Benjamin_Comings___Jacksonville,_Fla_,_1842-1843_.aspx. Accessed 6 July 2020.

Unpublished Documents

If you are citing as sources other unpublished documents (aside from the item or items you are discussing in your introduction), please follow the example that the Purdue OWL offers on this page about citing archival materials. Some archives may provide a "recommended citation," but for the sake of consistency, please adapt that information into the format on that page.

Personal Interviews

If you have gathered information through conversations with archivists or other experts, please use the MLA format for interviews. See this page on the Purdue OWL. Follow this example:

Smith, Jane. Personal interview. 6 July 2020.

In the body of your text, you would want to make it clear who Jane Smith is.

Personal Correspondence

Likewise, if you have gathered such information through email exchanges with archivists or other experts, see this page and the following example:

Smith, Jane. "Re: Questions regarding Elisa Hatch letters." Received by [your name]. 6 July 2020.

Again, in the body of your text, you would want to make it clear who Jane Smith is.