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MARCH 21, 2006 4:59 PM

Citations are like cigarettes. Everyone, especially people who smoke, know that cigarettes stink, taste horrible, seriously mess up your teeth and the make you die quicker. Despite the abundance of factual information highlighting how little sense they make, people get hooked and simply can’t stop.

Citing your sources certainly won’t cause an early death, unless of course you are quoting the fella who told you about their plans to “Whack” somebody. The thing that has always irritated me about citations is that there are several different styles and each style’s adherents fail to see the merits in the other. Occasionally, I have encountered a professor who does not care which style I use, but simply that I pick a style and stay constant. While I cannot fault their desire for consistency, this request solidly discredits the need to adhere to any style, in my mind.

I could, with far greater efficiency and accuracy, provide my professors with an electronic link to the site of origin, the electronic database or a library catalog holding for every source I cite. Interviews and other oddballs are a separate beast; a fact which is borne out by the multitude of citation examples available within each style. Think about it. If my prof. really wanted to make sure I wasn’t plagiarizing or was interested in the original source. She could click a link and request the book from a local library.

In the business school, I once had a group paper severely penalized for improper MLA citations. The fact that it was a management class and it was BS to begin with helped cushion the blow of that little slap of ridiculousness across my face.

Instead of embracing new technology like students have (and you know you use the internets for all kinds of research, be it reputable journals or google searches), we are only offered stoic requirements that call for strange tidbits. Please tell me why it is necessary for me to tell my professor that the anthology I used was printed in New York. It was probably written in Boston published by a company with a couple of cubicles in NYC, printed in Thailand and then sent to libraries all over the world, but the location of the publishing house is somehow relevant to my academic pursuits.

MLA, Chicago, AP and my personal favorite, the APA style of writing and citing are contradictory and crass. I can track down obscure songs based on two lines of lyrics, but my professors need to know where a book from the Oxford University press was published? I want some reform. I want a liberated academia. I am all for credit where credit is due, but enough is enough.

“When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.” –Bruce Lee

Citations may not seem important to the author of a paper or book, but they are very helpful for the reader. Not only do citation validate your writing as being credible, but they also offer the reader an oppurtunity for further reading.

When I am doing research I often find one very helpful text and then attack its bibliography for other sources.

I say YAY to citations. Though they seem pointless sometimes, especially Chicago Style.

I say BOO to Chicago Style.

benner | March 21, 2006 7:01 PM

I agree. I just think having all these different styles is counter productive. Why not set a universal minimum; author, title, publisher and date of first publication?

Anything else can be added for further clarification when necessary.

Anthony | March 21, 2006 8:51 PM

Just be consistent and intuitive. If I publish a research paper (or any paper that requires formal citations), I'll use footnotes (or even endnotes), which are fully supported by modern word processing software. I'll also make sure to include sufficient information to locate the source material, but nothing superfluous.

Like much of academia, MLA and Chicago style guides are embarrassingly antique.

jdawe | March 22, 2006 9:32 AM

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