How to Avoid Getting Skunked

Elizabeth Shown Mills

On another list, a researcher just wrote (and I paraphrase here for simplicity): “How much citation is enough? I can personally get bogged down in the multiple citations and lose my enthusiasm for the hunt.”

EE’s response was a long Hmhh—followed by a short history lesson.

When our ancestors arrived in North America, they encountered a small black and white animal that they considered quite beautiful—until it, er, "bombed" them. Sources are no different. The fun of discovery can turn into a quite unpleasant situation, when we trust information from a source that we shouldn't.

That, in a nutshell is why EE argues that source citation is not and should not be something we do in order to meet somebody else's expectations. The best reason to identify the source of each and every assertion we take from whatever-the-source is to help ourselves understand what we're using and what we're accepting. That understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each source is how we ensure that we don't end up getting skunked.



PHOTO CREDIT: Dan and Lin Dzurisn, "Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) DSC 0030," originally posted to Flickr as Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) DSC_0030; posted at "Striped Skunk," Wikipedia (" : downloaded 18 October 2015); used under Creative Commons License 2.0.