Cite an Online Forum?

 
 
 
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debbiepelletier21
debbiepelletier21's picture
Cite an Online Forum?

I would like to preface my question by explaining I’m continuing the daunting task of cleaning up my family tree.  Normally, I would put an answer to a forum question in my research notes then go off to find the documentation.  But in this case, because of the author, I feel the need to give credit where it is due.  And yes, I have gone on and found documentation backing this information up. 

 

So, how do I write the First (Full) Reference note?

Following “Core elements to cite 2.33” I have the following:

Genealogy.com, GenForum, discussion list, "Pelletier Family Genealogy Forum", (http://genforum.genealogy.com/ : accessed 24 May 1999). Association des Familles Pelletier, "Re: Pelletier siblings in Fall River, MA", Genforum response no. 246, 24 May 1999.

But when I follow The QuickCheck Model page 789 I get

Association des Familles Pelletier, "Re: Pelletier siblings in Fall River, MA," discussion list, 24 May 1999, Genealogy.com, GenForum, (http://genforum.genealogy.com : accessed 24 May 1999), no. 246.

Why do I think I’m not even close?

Thanks,

EE
EE's picture

Debbie, it appears that your first citation follows the bulleted list of elements given at 2.33 for websites that offer just one thing--i.e., the equivalent of a basic book. Look below that and you'll see the following:

"If the website offers multiple items by different creators ... it is the equivalent of a book with chapters by different authors. That calls for citations of two additional items:

  • title of database, article, image collection, personal page, etc.;
  • name of the item's creator

When we cite a chapter within a book or a database at a website that contains other materials (or an article in a journal), we always identify first the specific item we are using; then we cite the larger publication in which it appears

Name of Individual Author/Creator, "Title of Individual Item," Name of the Larger Publication, Title of the Larger Publication (Publication Data), specific info of interest.

The QuickCheck model that you followed on p. 789 (and many other examples throughout the book) demonstrate this pattern. Your second example follows it well. We would tinker with only one thing.  GenForum is the name of the website (which means italics are appropriate). Genealogy.com is the name of the company that created GenForum (hence, it should not be italicized.  I.e.:

Debbie, it appears that your first citation follows the order of the bulleted list of elements given at 2.33 for websites that offer just one thing--i.e., the equivalent of a basic book. Look below that and you'll see the following:

"If the website offers multiple items by different creators ... it is the equivalent of a book with chapters by different authors. That calls for citations of two additional items:

  • title of database, article, image collection, personal page, etc.;
  • name of the item's creator"

When we cite a chapter within a book or a database at a website that contains other materials (or an article in a journal), we always identify first the specific item we are using; then we cite the larger publication in which it appears

Name of Individual Author/Creator, "Title of Individual Item," Name of the Larger Publication, Title of the Larger Publication

The QuickCheck model on p. 789 (and many other examples throughout the book) demonstrate this pattern. Your second version of the citation follows it almost perfectly, with one exception.

  • GenForum is the core website for these messages (and you have appropriately italicized it), but Genealogy.com is the company that created GenForum. The creator's name should not be italicized.

EE would also tinker in one other wee way. Well, two.

  • In your citation "no. 246" goes unexplained. For clarity, the citation should identify what it represents.
  • No comma should appear before the opening parens. The data that is in parens modifies what comes before it. Putting a comma between the two splices the two apart. In fact, there's a rule of thumb here that applies to virtually all types of writing: Parentheses should not be prefaced by a comma because a comma serves no function there. It's just extraneous punctuation.

All things considered, EE's tinkering would render this:

Association des Familles Pelletier, "Re: Pelletier siblings in Fall River, MA," discussion list, 24 May 1999, Genealogy.com, GenForum (http://genforum.genealogy.com : accessed 24 May 1999), message 246.

The Editor

debbiepelletier21
debbiepelletier21's picture

Thank you so much. 

I knew I missed the obvious by overthinking.

As for the ‘comma’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, I’m hanging my head in shame.

Debbie

EE
EE's picture

smiley

The Editor

eevande
eevande's picture

Thank you, debbiepelletier21, for starting this thread 2.5 years ago on the topic I was going to question. I can just pick up where it left off with a question of my own. I will do that in a separate comment.

I thought I’d test the citation format recommended by The Editor. With respect to your citation from GenForum, GenForum is no longer the official and has been replaced with Genealogy.com. It is now owned by Ancestry.com, which makes me wonder if in the citation, we should include that information.

“Association des Familles Pelletier” as a user no longer exists and is now called the standard “genealogy.com user.”

The message is on the “Pelletier” surname forum, and without that information, the message number is of little use. Actually, the message number may be of little use for this particular website anyway because it is only shown in the URL for the page of the message (http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/pelletier/246/).

Just showing how much can change in a few years. The good news is that I was still able to find your source, debbiepelletier21, even with the changes, and that is one of the points of citation. I did so by typing the subject as you quoted in your citation within double quotes in the Search field of Genealogy.com.

So perhaps a person accessing the same message in today’s world would format the citation as such:

31. “genealogy.com user,” “Re: Pelletier siblings in Fall River, MA," discussion list message, 24 May 1999 01:00:52, Ancestry, Genealogy.com (http://www.genealogy.com : accessed 17 March 2017).

I put the exact time of the message because it is unique to the second and I don’t see how it would change.

Thoughts anyone?

 

 

eevande
eevande's picture

Using the example that I created in my previous comment:

31. “genealogy.com user,” “Re: Pelletier siblings in Fall River, MA," discussion list message, 24 May 1999 01:00:52, Ancestry, Genealogy.com (http://www.genealogy.com : accessed 17 March 2017).

To cite a comment from the Evidence Explained forum:

49. “EE,” “Find A Grave,” discussion list message, 18 September 2016 15:12, Evidence Explained, Evidence Explained (http://www.evidenceexplained.com : accessed 17 March 2017).

I tend to think that the message number is not necessary within this citation from the Evidence Explained forum, even though it is available, because I am using the timestamp of the message.

I wonder if it would be valuable or smart to include the "/forums" at the end of the citation webpage. And/Or I could even specify that the message I am citing is in the "Citation Issues" forum.

Thoughts and input welcomed. The more the merrier.

EE
EE's picture

eevande, you certainly demonstrate the tumultuous nature of citations to online material. You also underscore why certain pieces of information are needed to help others retrieve material after a website has undergone an upheaval. 

There is another reason why "message number" is problematic in a dynamic forum such as this one. Anyone, at any time, can insert a new message immediately after an old one and thereby change all numbers from that point to the end of the thread.  

The date and time of the message is a viable substitute—even when a thread has 64 messages, as does the one you reference—because it's easy to scan the date:time stamp. On the other hand (as with citing any set of numbers), it's not failproof because someone can still make a typo and type, say, 15:12 rather than 14:12, or 28 September rather than 18 September.

As for whether you should (or may) add "/forums" after the base URL, that addition would help those who are not familiar with the organization of the website. On the other hand, since there are three different forums, you might be more specific. For example:

https://evidenceexplained.com/forums/citation-issues    (for the specific forum)

https://evidenceexplained.com/content/find-grave   (for the specific thread)

Specific URLs, of course, run the risk of going bad if the website is reorganized.  Here, let's knock on wood, but EE's website is just a few days short of five years old and, while we've upgraded numerous times, we haven't reorganized. (We did delete the online store, but there was no content there that would end up in citations.  Aside from that, the only other unworkable URLs have occurred when the website's distracted editor posts a link on Facebook without realizing that she was within the "administrative" mode when she copied the link—and, in those cases, someone usually straightens her out in a hurry.)

 

The Editor

eevande
eevande's picture

Dear Sometimes Distracted EE Editor,

Again, thanks a bunch.

I will in my citation use the /forums or /content qualifiers (as they apply) in my citation. Thanks for the warm and fuzzy feeling that this will be okay.

Regarding the date, yep, typos can always be a problem. Regarding the time stamp, I personally copy and paste pretty much everything (when I need it for a citation) including date and time stamps. Hopefully, with enough identifiers, someone in the future could find the correct topic and comment even if one or more elements of the citation are incorrect.

Elizabeth Ballard