Tuesday, February 25, 2014


So this post got under my skin in the way that only "a right topic, you couldn't be more wrong" post does.  It's a link to encourage students to change the way they do citation.  Yay!  I'm all for getting students to do better citation practices in the digital age.  And it points out that modern technologies, like prezis, might require us to change the way we do citation.  Well, of course they do.  Duh.  But the solution proposed is very least common denominator.  Clickable links?  Really?  That's the very bottom baseline of what would be acceptable.  A clickable link doesn't tell me a whole lot just looking at it, and I don't even know if I want to click on it.  I can't assess reliability by looking at a bunch of tinyurls.  Did you find that Jefferson quote in a secondary article?  Reading the Notes on the State of Virginia, or from a "Jefferson Quotes" website? So when I assign a project where students might be doing something with unguided internet research or images that they find on the internet I now require three levels of citation:

  1.  what the heck is it originally:  here I want to see the author's name, date, original place of publication etc. if it's a document.  For an image, I want artist, date, venue it first appeared in if commercial art etc.    Anything that helps me understand the context of the original piece needs to be represented.  
  2. where did you find it:  here you can give me a website if you have a clickable link.  But remember not every URL is clickable. Make sure you are using a stable URL. 
  3. if it also exists as a print source in a collection or database, I need that knowledge too.  If you found it in ABC-CLIO, or JSTOR, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I might want to search it myself.  Because the first rule of finding stuff in research is that where you found one thing, you will probably find more.  Using other people's footnotes and bibliographies is pretty much a junior-senior year of college thing.  But it doesn't hurt my students to make them aware of this practice for later.  Sometimes, they even get to use it now. 
So make sure you've got all three levels of citation going on with your online projects, people!

PS.  Don't even get me started on e-texts that don't have clickable footnotes/endnotes that pop up next to the notation when you click on it.  What's the point of having a digital text if not to make things easier for readers?  Yet does anybody do this?  Anyone?  

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Dave.

    I'm in the midst of working on a big student research project and instilling the habits of mind to have students ask questions about author, recency, perspective, sponsoring institution, intended audience, etc. is so vital – citations can help one answer so many of those questions and determine whether a source or solid or crappy.

    Here's the fighting the good fight! Soon enough I'll post once again about some citation exercises I've been trying this year with the goal of having students know how to use the Chicago Style guide and how to seek out the right type of info when building citations. It's funny to see how much resistance this generates, particularly as it's the only really objective part of the discipline.