I am using a family letter as a source.  It is several pages and covers different topics.  In my work I'm writing about different topics, and separating those into paragraphs.  I feel uncomfortable leaving a paragraph "naked" (uncited) so I site the source at the end of each, but consequently I'm ending up with a lot of Ibids.  Can there be too many ibids?    If I just did the citation at the end of 5 paragraphs, all of which draw on the same source, would it be a problem to have the earlier paragraphs uncited, or would/should a reader recognize that the source at the end of the 5 paragraphs refers to all the points?

Submitted byEEon Wed, 04/24/2019 - 15:21

mroddyn3, we understand your concern. A string of ibids does suggest to our readers that we are drawing too heavily upon one source and need to find other perspectives to measure this one source against. There are other workarounds for situations when outside sources aren't appropriate, starting with the presentation of the letter as a whole, indented, with a single source citation at the end.

The genealogical standard  for citing all sources (discussed and illustrated at EE 2.42) is to put one reference note at the end of the material that is taken from the source. That standard holds, regardless of the number of paragraphs. One way to ensure that a reader stays cognizant of the fact that you are taking this from a specific letter would be to introduce the letter in the first paragraph and, in each subsequent paragraph, make a brief mention of it or the letter writer, so that readers grasp the continuity of the material as it goes through several paragraphs.

The most prevalent issue that has to be dealt with, when several paragraphs are taken from one source, is our tendency as writers to inject details into that discussion that are not actually found in the original.  EE 2.42 also demonstrates how to handle that point.


Submitted bymroddyn3@gmail.comon Wed, 04/24/2019 - 18:35
Thank you. Things like family letters provide character and quirks of our ancestors that bring them to life in ways few other documents can. I can cite plenty of scholarly works to provide overall themes but none of them can really capture the day-to-day living that occurred on my great-grandfather's farm. I hope my writing gives his descendants a sense for the character of the man they've only seen in photographs. I like your idea to introduce the letter and then allude to it in subsequent paragraphs as I build the story.