Wednesday, 21 September 2011

On referencing

If my old blog had a major flaw, it inconsistent referencing styles. Not just in the styles I chose, but in the inconsistent way I deployed them. Not that anyone seemed to notice.

In that blog's early days, I was using the Modern Language Association style. Later, I utilised the author-date 'Harvard system' outlined in the Style manual: for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn (John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2002).

Referencing in blogs, however, isn't an easy thing to do, as it's not aesthetically-pleasing. For an example, see the way I've cited the e-mails in the previous entry. Unlike Wikipedia, in most cases, you're unable to jump back and forth between the reference and the text. Unless, of course, you're good with HTML coding. I'm not.

That said, the author-date system probably isn't the best to use, either. At least, in a blog. It's not interactive; it involves scrolling down a page to double-check the source. The documentary-note system (also outlined in Style manual), on the other hand, involves footnote citations. Wikipedia's probably most famous for this method. Click on the superscripted number near the text, jump to a citation—or note—near the bottom of the page. Click the little upwards arrow, and you're back to the text. Perfect. That's the citation method I want to use with this thing.

I've even found an article which explains how to add footnotes to Blogger entries. If only I could get my head around it. Gah.

Referencing is an invaluable tool for writers. I've previously explained the importance of paper trails and why lack of references is a 'plot hole' in a famous vampire case

There are many different referencing formats, but they're generally designed for specific 'fields'. Diana Hacker and Barbara Fister have published a handy, general guide on which citation style to use in which field (humanities, social sciences, history and sciences).

Incidentally, style guides don't just refer to referencing, but 'a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field.' Their purpose is to introduce consistency in writings in specific fields. And maybe blogs, too, once I get a handle on that bloody footnote coding.

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