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Friday, July 20, 2007

The Citation Gods are Watching...

So, I have been semi-lurking on a list of librarians that have been addressing bibliographic citation. (By semi-lurking, I mean reading everyone else's comments and limiting myself to only one.) Yes, even we librarians understand that for most (read: normal) folks, working on citations is just left of the sort of fun represented by, say, a pitbull attached to the left cheek of your Levis. We understand that. We strive to make you understand WHY you need to purchase the MLA and APA handbooks, and know about Turabian and various other nifty styles of citation. Not because we enjoy torturing you - that's hardly the case. (Have you ever noticed that the folks teaching this look almost worse off than the students?) It's because we - okay, I - feel that citation is necessary to not become academic whores.

That's right, I said it. I like bibliographic citation. It requires a bit of effort, yes, which apparently everyone has become allergic to. (Good thing we are now an information economy; I'd hate to see how this place would look if the US had to go back to farming. ("We have to get up HOW early??") But it keeps us honest. Particularly since, in academia, and especially undergraduate academia, there are very few truly novel and original ideas put onto paper. (That's what dissertations and journal articles are for.) In essence, if somebody else said something that made you write something, you should probably give them credit. It's the way it works. Otherwise, when you write that paper on the history of the Flabiticus, you don't get irate emails from the folks demanding to know where you got those dates from. If you inventing a new corn-fed car, would you claim you had done it without even glancing at how engines and cars worked, or the development of cornfed machinery? Of course not. At least, I hope not, or I'd doubt your car would work...

You wouldn't buy a painting and then claim it was your own work, would you? Are you the sort who would spout poetry from an unknown author just so you looked clever, and never let anyone know they weren't your words? Of course not. And if you are, you are not invited to my next dinner party. The Librarian is not amused.

And the librarian who is asked to hunt down where the original data came from in some author's claim will be the first to praise the author and consider him for book of the month...if he worked his citations properly. You can trace the whole history of research with properly done citations, and what with the various authors, countries of publication (note: the US and UK versions of Harry Potter are markedly different, and could result in some dramatically different quotes!), editions, etc., it is highly likely that in order to verify your research, someone will eventually go back to your citations, if only to beef up on subject matter they would like to know more about. See, you might've piqued someone's interest, and gotten them reading! Don't disappoint them. Go ahead, slog through and figure out where that next period goes. It's worth it. The Guardienne promises.

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