Evaluating Other People's Citations—Answers to the Test

Yvette nailed it. Yesterday's list of “reference notes” represents a cut-and-paste from the “recommended" citations created by various archives who helpfully tell users how to cite what they have found there. All but one of them represent a document that is online, so that no travel is needed.

All together, it “looks impressive,” as Susan says. But then, when we thoughtfully consider what we're looking at, it’s enough to make an editor like Sue choke on those source notes she says she eats for breakfast. Among the issues:

  • Some notes are in reference note format (all elements separated by commas or semicolons, with a period at the end) and some are in bibliographic format (with a period—a full stop—between each element in the citation.
  • Some citations, even in referemce notes, stop with the box number or collection name, without identifying the actual document used.
  • One archive wants us to start with the largest element (the name of the archive) and work down to the smallest element (the box number). That's the pattern used in most Western nations. But other citations follow the traditional U.S. pattern of starting with the smallest element (the document) and working up to the largest (the archive and its location).
  • One note cites named court cases in the standard “Firstname Lastname” format while two (which actually cite the same collection) invert the names to create Lastname, Firstname.
  • Those two files that are from the same archive also differ in the way they cite the link to the online image. The Dred Scott case was accessed through the State Historical Society of Missouri, who simply named the online “project” that imaged the documents and created a hot link out of the name. The Clark v. Brazeau case was accessed through the State Archives which gave an explicit URL but did not identify the actual provider of the document in the event that someone dropped a character from the URL and created an unworkable link

And the list goes on …

The conclusion we're left with is this:

  • The sources are exceptional.
  • The whole is a hodgepodge.
  • The result is usable but begs for consistency so readers won’t be confused or, worse, decide that we are careless schlubs.

HOW TO CITE: Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Evaluating Other People's Citations—Answers to the Test," blog post, QuickTips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained.com (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/quicktips/evaluating-other-peoples-citations-answers-test : posted 27 July 2018).