Just a matter of time

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A recent post in a closed Facebook group for IB Diploma Programme Extended Essay Coordinators asked, “Would this be a complete reference for a painting?”

There followed a curious discussion, some 20 comments long.  The discussion inspired this blog post – and also got me reviving a post I started earlier this year on the same theme but had not managed to finish. I have now. My earlier thoughts are weaved in below, but let’s start with this recent, curious discussion.

The very first response declared,

The EE guide specifies that all online sources must have [Date accessed etc]

and thereafter the discussion focused on the date of access and its formatting and placement. After the person who posted the original question pointed out that the suggested reference did include the date of access (“Retrieved July 30, 2019)” that first responder came back with

(the Guide) requests a specific format for this and this point was reiterated in a workshop.

This same responder said in a later comment that the workshop leader had explained that having the date accessed in square brackets at the end of the reference enabled the examiner quickly to determine that the date of access had been included.

This raises a number of points – as it did in the discussion.  Yes, on the page headed Acknowledging the ideas or work of another person—minimum requirements, the Guide states that date of access must be included in any reference to an electronic source (whatever that means, the starting point for my original blog post as taken up below)

Regardless of the reference style adopted by the school for a given subject, it is expected that the minimum information given includes:

        • name of author
        • date of publication
        • title of source
        • page numbers as applicable
        • date of access (electronic sources)
        • URL.

and goes on to state

Examiners are required to alert the IB when minimum requirements are not met by a student, and the work is investigated accordingly.

IB has its own requirements for referencing.  While the IB does not legislate which referencing style is used,  it does require that the style used is used consistently.  IB also advises that when its own requirements are different to those in a published style guide, then IB requirements must be followed.  This is acceptable.  Many if not most of the published style guides state explicitly that, if an instructor’s, school’s, institution’s or publisher’s requirements are different to the suggestions in the style guide, writers should meet the requirements of the instructor (etc).  Say it loud: even if a style guide recommends that date of access is not needed, for IB assessments the date of access is needed.

But, despite our workshop’s participant’s protestation, the IB does not prescribe how the date of access should be presented, whether in square, angled, round or any other shape brackets, or noted as “Retrieved from…” or “Accessed…” or any other term, nor its placement in the reference.  There is no prescription stated in the Extended Essay Guide and no prescription in any other IB documentation.

So yes, I accept that having the date of access at the end of the reference might make it easy for the examiner to determine if it has been included, but this is a matter of preference, not a requirement.

It has also to be said that workshop leaders sometimes get it wrong. They sometimes make mistakes. And sometimes participants in workshops misunderstand or mis-remember what is actually said.  In the same way, textbooks sometimes get it wrong – or are misunderstood by their readers. Sometimes the technology gets it wrong.  The guide is not what the workshop leader said, the guide must be The Guide – in this case, the Extended Essay Guide.

[As I said at the start of this post, most of the comments on the Facebook post revolved around the question of the date of access.  There were just two comments (one of them mine) regarding the rest of the reference, either as example for the referencing of a work of art or this specific reference.   I wondered if there might be a need for the type of painting/ medium used (oil, acrylic, water-colour etc) and suggested that that might depend on the intended audience for the essay; an essay in Visual Arts might require more detail than an essay in History, for example.  I did not need to ponder on whether the artist’s name was “Davinci, Leonardo” or “da Vinci, Leonardo” or “Leonardo da Vinci” – this point had already been raised by another participant in the discussion.]

More importantly, there is the question as to whether omission of the date of access amounts to academic misconduct with referral to the Awards Committee – which brings me back to the post I started earlier.

What is an “electronic source”?

As noted at the start of this piece, one of the IB’s minimum requirements when Acknowledging the ideas or work of another person is the date of access of electronic sources.

Here it is again, the full list of minimum requirements:

Regardless of the reference style adopted by the school for a given subject, it is expected that the minimum information given includes:

      • name of author
      • date of publication
      • title of source
      • page numbers as applicable
      • date of access (electronic sources)
      • URL.

So, what is an electronic source?  This question featured in a recent forum discussion in Programme Communities in My IB (a password-protected platform available only to the IB community).

It may not be as easy as it perhaps should be to provide a comprehensive definition.  Most will agree that it includes items and information found online, on web pages and web sites and in online databases, and that is good.

But what about CD-ROMs or DVDs? They are digital resources, but are they electronic sources?

Personal or group emails found or generated online?

Material found on online databases including journal, magazine and newspaper articles? E-books?  Indeed any print or recorded material which might be downloaded and viewed offline –  sometimes these are scanned or facsimile transmissions of print sources such as can be found in Google Books or the Internet Archive, sometimes they are changeable or flowing, such as ePub versions; are these electronic resources too?

What of other filetypes such as PDF or PPT files?

Come to that, are there differences between journals and other material which may be available in print and electronically – and journals which are online only?

Is anything and everything delivered electronically an “electronic source”?  Are there perhaps categories or types of electronic sources such as “fixed” and “changeable”?

Librarians, teachers and students are often puzzled, confused and frustrated by these “minimum requirements” for citation and referencing – especially when those minimum requirements differ from the requirements of the style guide in use – and much of the discussion in My IB Programme Communities focused on this point.

What are probably the three most frequently used published referencing style guides used in schools offer similar advice – and they keep their options open.

MLA8, for instance, makes inclusion of the date of access optional – but it also offers this piece of advice:

Since online works typically can be changed or removed at any time, the date on which you accessed online material is often an important indicator of the version you consulted…

The date of access is especially crucial if the source provides no date specifying when it was produced or published (MLA Handbook 8th ed, p. 53)

It is worth noting in passing that the previous edition of the MLA Handbook, MLA7, made use of the URL optional with the default being no URL. This advice was reversed in MLA8:  it is once again the preferred option.  In many respects, there are no hard-and-fast “rules,” nothing is set in stone – a notion reinforced by MLA8’s basic principles #2 and #3:

There is often more than one correct way to document a source.
Make your documentation useful to your readers (MLA8, p. 4).

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th edition (APA6) advises

When a DOI is used, no further retrieval information is needed to identify or locate the content (p. 191)

and also

do not include retrieval dates unless the source material may change over time (e.g., Wikis) (p. 192).

The advice of the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is again similar (note especially the last sentence here:

To cite original website content other than the types of formally published sources discussed elsewhere in this chapter, include as much of the following as can be determined: the title or description of the specific page (if cited); the title or description of the site as a whole (see 14.206); the owner or sponsor of the site; and a URL. The word website (or web page) may be added (in parentheses) after the title or description of the site if the nature of the source may otherwise be unclear. Also include a publication date or date of revision or modification (see 14.13); if no such date can be determined, include an access date (see 14.12). For frequently updated resources, a time stamp may be included (as in the Wikipedia example, which records the time as it was listed with the source; see also 9.39) (CMOS17, pp. 845-846).

with additional advice regarding “formally published electronic sources” such as journals:

Access dates are not required by Chicago in citations of formally published electronic sources, for the reasons discussed in 14.12. Some publishers and some disciplines, however, may require them (CMOS17, p. 833).

Again, note that final caveat.

In short, there are times when it may not be necessary to include a date of access and times when the date of access can be helpful indeed.  Chicago’s distinction, “formal publication,” gives us a useful term, a helpful category, which contrasts nicely against possibly less formal, less stable, less edited web pages.

But … the IB requires dates of access for electronic sources – and presumably for all electronic sources, regardless of whether they are formally published or not.  As noted, this can lead to confusion and frustration, since “The IB does not specify which style(s) of referencing or in-text citation should be used by candidates. This is left to the discretion of the school” (Diploma Programme Assessment Procedures 2019, A4.2.1) – but (again as noted earlier) the IB also demands elements which may not be required by the chosen style.

This point is reinforced in the General Extended Essay Report, May 2018, where we read (p. 6):

    • References and bibliography
      o These must meet the minimum requirements as summarized on the final page of the Effective citing and referencing document. Regardless of the referencing convention used, the IB have minimum requirements that supersede any other norms.

Nor is it a light matter. For better or for worse, in the Extended Essay Guide and many other documents, matters of citation and referencing are conflated with notions of academic honesty.  The minimum requirements at the centre of this discussion  are in a section on Academic Honesty, and include the note:

Examiners are required to alert the IB when minimum requirements are not met by a student, and the work is investigated accordingly (Extended Essay : Guide, (Feb 2016, [last] updated May 2019), p. 33.)

Of course, investigation does not necessarily mean that academic misconduct has taken place.  Many, possibly most, cases will be dropped. But the fear is there, the angst is there, the confusion is there, the uncertainty is there.

Helpful to the reader?  the examiner?  the writer?

So let’s recap: the first four items in the IB list of minimum requirements are probably standard, used in most if not all bibliographical/ referencing style guides:

      • name of author
      • date of publication
      • title of source
      • page numbers as applicable

It is the last two items which cause the most anguish, because not all style guides require a date of access for electronic sources and not all style guides require a URL – and the IB requires both of them.

      • date of access (electronic sources)
      • URL.

We have not discussed the URL yet.  Among the pieces of advice that students are given when Accessing sources: technology literacy—using electronic sources, the Extended Essay Guide advises students to

keep a detailed record of all references, in accordance with the IB’s minimum requirements, ensuring that the URL of where the source was located is written down correctly. This includes recording the date that the site was accessed.

The URL is wanted because it enables the readers to look for themselves at the webpage from which cited material can be found;  the date of access can be important in case the webpage and the information on it is different to the webpage when the reader looks at it.  The date of access can be helpful if it is earlier than an Updated note on the page – it might explain any discrepancy between the text cited and the web page itself.  The URL and then the date of access are useful when checking earlier copies of the page in the Internet Archive (or similar cache or curating platform) – if copies are available in the archive.

I’ll venture a little further: date of access can be akin to the edition number of print materials.  If you are reading a paper and want to check the context of a quotation, you need first to find a copy of the item referenced;  if having found a copy you cannot find the quotation on the page cited, you next check whether the edition in your hand is the same as that recorded in the reference.  If you are using a different edition, this could well explain the discrepancy (and your task of verifying the quotation may be all the harder).  Your edition might be earlier or later than the edition used by the writer of the paper; you need to check the edition number, the date of publication, the publisher, the place of publication.  Differences in any of these bibliographic elements could explain the discrepancy – the reason why the style guides (usually) advise including these elements in one’s references.

Yes, there are exceptions. Not all style guides require all elements – and there are times when their absence in a reference is unhelpful.

There remains the question, is date of access really necessary when referencing a formally published document found online, does it serve any helpful purpose?  Or is it an unnecessary demand by IB, an element which adds nothing to a reader’s understanding?  A URL, possibly, since URLs change and URLs disappear.  But journal articles published in journals with fixed publication dates, especially if they have fixed DOIs – Digital Object Identifiers?

DOIs are, after all, intended to provide a unique digital identification of objects (which might be physical, digital or abstract). In the field of academia, they are used to identify documents, media, articles, datasets and more.  It matters not where these are stored or published or posted, a DOI always points to the same “object;” an online search for a given DOI will always find copies of the same object, wherever it is posted. The URLs of  journal articles may change but the DOI often (but not always) remains constant.  When MLA8, APA6 and CMOS17 say there is no need for dates of access (other than when content might change or be changed), is there need for date of access?

Does IB need to catch up, perhaps to clarify its requirements?

I am in two minds. I was in two minds. I might even have changed my mind.

Better safe than sorry?

Until recently, the only reason I could think of for including date of access for journals found online is to satisfy IB examiners’ need to see consistency in the formatting of bibliographic references.  After all, IB does not care for the rationale behind the recommendations of the style guides; IB makes its own rules and requirements. And, regardless of what IB demands, omission of the date of access is not of itself an indication of plagiarism (or any other form of academic misconduct), cannot be – else the style guides would not suggest that it is optional and/or not require it at all.

Additionally, examiners may not have awareness of the nuances between a journal article with a stable unchanging DOI and (say) a newspaper report or a web-page whose content might change and whose URL might change.   We know only that IB examiners want to see consistent (and complete) formatting of references; they do not (at least they should not) care for notional correctness of the reference (and they don’t know which bibliographic style is in use).  So the danger is that students may be penalised for inconsistent referencing if some online sources include dates of access and some do not.  Better safe than sorry.

It’s not the best of reasons for including date of access, it has nothing to do with academic writing, nor with helping the reader.

BUT … there is another reason (at least one other reason) why it might be helpful to include a date of access for articles and papers with DOI location indicators. The DOI might not change – but the content might. And sometimes it does, sometimes the content changes.

Publishing of academic papers has evolved at great pace in recent years; the traditional model, based on print publication, no longer holds.  In days of yore, an academic paper would go through several stages of editing and peer-review before being accepted as final and published; it was not available to the public until publication in print. If it needed to be amended in any way, a correction might be published in a later issue of the same journal.

Online publication has changed the model. Now it is common for journals to post papers in a pre-print version open to peer-comment and review, then to publish the finalised print version which would be posted online, replacing the pre-print version, and then (if necessary) to publish a corrected version online, replacing the print version.

It can be even more complicated:  DRIVER – the Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research – recognises five possible stages of the e-publication process, tabulated here in this adapted table of  VERSION-MAPPING

traditional version e-print version DRIVER GL v2.0 version
working paper non-peer reviewed draft
pre-print non-peer reviewed submitted version
post-print peer reviewed accepted version
journal article peer reviewed published version
reprint peer reviewed updated version

The page also lists the Journal Article Versions (JAV) Technical Working Group’s taxonomy of seven possible versions:

traditional version DRIVER GL v2.0 version Journal Article Version (JAV)
working paper draft author’s original
pre-print submitted version submitted manuscript
accepted version accepted manuscript
post-print accepted version proof
journal article published version version of record
journal article published version corrected version of record
reprint updated version enhanced version of record


Where this concerns us with regard to the date of access, is that all versions may carry the same DOI.  If a writer references a document with a DOI but does not state which version is used, then the date of access may be the only way to determine the version.

The nuances of stages in the publication process may be lost on our secondary school students. If they find a paper they can use, they’ll want to use it. Oft-times and in many journals, in many disciplines, it may well be the pre-print version that they find because, once published, the paper disappears behind a pay-wall.

I have come round to thinking, perhaps the style guides have got it wrong. Perhaps they should be advising that it the date of access should be included as a rule rather than as an exception, whatever type of online publication is referenced, formally published or otherwise.

Failure to include date of access with a DOI or permalinked source might contribute towards loss of a mark if students are unlucky enough to be marked by an examiner who does not appreciate the nuances – especially if some online sources include the date of access and others do not.  Inclusion of date of access might not be necessary, but it might avoid loss of a mark for inconsistent formatting of references.


A long post this. Congratulations if you are still reading.  We are almost there – but there is a footnote.  The person who wrote the post in Programme Communities, asking What is an “electronic source”?  also asked the IB for clarification.  She got a reply and posted it in the forum:

I just received this reply from The IB Senior Curriculum Manager who conferred with the Academic Honesty Manager:

The reason we ask for the extra info on online sources is just to try to avoid confusion/ problems where the online source has changed or been updated, and also to try to encourage students to be more aware of the origins and purpose of the online sources they are using.

I spoke to our academic honesty manager in Cardiff about your query and she clarified that we would never take action/ penalise a student for not providing a date stamp for an online source. She confirmed that as long as the students use a formal referencing style, and do so consistently across the entire piece of work, that is fine.”

In other words, Catch-22:  failure to include dates of access may lead to an investigation for academic misconduct (failing to meet the minimum requirements) – but of itself, students will not be guilty of academic misconduct if they fail to provide dates of access.

My thought stands: if you want to play safe, give the IB what it wants, always include the date of access regardless of what the style guide says.   You won’t be wrong always to include the date of access when submitting work for IB purposes,  better too much detail in the reference than too little.

Good for a hangover

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speaking through the Dean in Hogfather, Terry Pratchett remarked that what is good for a hangover is drinking heavily the night before.

I get that feeling thinking about Cite This For Me (a Chegg product).  It works, every time, and I don’t even need the alcohol.

Join me on this voyage of serendipity (if you dare).

It starts with the May 2018 subject report on the IB MYP Personal Project.  On page 3 we read

Those candidates who did not include an evaluation of their sources (which could be done through a CARRDS or OPVL tool) limited their achievement; there was often insufficient identification and evidence of other research skills

I know that OVPL is an evaluation tool often used in history and similar disciplines; you consider the Origin, Purpose, Value and Limitation of sources.  I could not recall meeting CARRDS before, but the context suggests that it is similar to the CRAAP tool, the acronym standing for Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority and Purpose.

A quick search Google on Google confirms this: Continue reading

Selling me softly…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


An oddity.

A link in an online workshop took me to 7 Alternative Technology in the Classroom Presentation Tools, an article by Daniela McVicker posted in TeachHub, a wing of the K-12 Teachers Alliance.

Probably published in March 2017 (that’s when Internet Archive first saved the page), it provides a quick introduction to 7 presentation tools, alternatives to PowerPoint. Some were new to me, some I already knew, one is my presentation tool of choice. McVicker gives us recommendations for Emaze, Google Presentations, Keynote, Prezi, Nearpod, Tellagami, Haiku Deck and Powtoon.

What jumped out at me as I read was her critique of Keynote (that’s my own preference for presentation). It’s the last paragraph which Continue reading

Not such a wise OWL

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It came as a bit of a shock, a press release declaring The Purdue University Online Writing Lab and Chegg Partner to Make World-Class Writing Education Tools More Accessible.

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, often referred to as “the OWL at Purdue.” is a much-respected service, providing advice on academic writing in all its aspects, most especially for its comprehensive guidance on the formatting of MLA, APA and Chicago references. .  For many, it is the number-one go-to guide.

I have to admit, the OWL at Purdue is not my number-one source.  For my own referencing queries, I go Continue reading

Finding my voice

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A few years ago, I wrote (in Somewhere, over the spectrum …) of an AHA! moment, a realisation that understanding of academic citation practices may best be imaged, not just by a straight-line continuum from black to white with shades of grey between, but by a spectrum, all shades of the rainbow and anywhere in between.

It was Teddi Fishman, then director of the International Center for Academic Integrity, who gave me this insight.  In a plagiarism case in which she was asked for her opinion, had a published piece of work had been plagiarised, Fishman said

With regard to citation errors and plagiarism, there is a wide spectrum and certainly not all are created equal. The main defining characteristic in cases that we’d classify as citation errors is that there is an attempt to identify the source of the information rather than to make it appear as if the words or ideas are those of the person using them in the document.

(The full article from which this quotation is taken is no longer available on the Cambridge Chronicle site.  Fortunately, it can still be found in the Internet Archive;  the quotation of Fishman’s response as reported by journalist Sara Feijo is on page 3 of this article.)

Fig. 1 – Black and white and shades of grey

In the continuum imagery, the white end comprises writers who know the rules, know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and do them!  Ideally they will observe the conventions of citation and referrencing because they have integrity, they wouldn’t – couldn’t – do otherwise.

At the black end we have the writers who know the rules, who know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and they knowingly break the rules! They copy, they paraphrase without acknowledgement, they use other people’s work and claim it as their own, they use their own work over and over and claim Continue reading

Consistently inconsistent?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I’ve got a bit behind in my reading lately. Although it was published in May 2018, I came across Jennifer Yao Weinraub’s  Harder to Find than Nemo: The Elusive Image Citation Standard only recently.  In this paper, Weinraub discusses confusion and inconsistencies in the citation of images and the lack of good examples, with particular reference to MLA8 and Chicago. She also discusses other style guides and citation generators, the recommendations of some specific image collections. She points to tutorials and libguides which also attempt to give guidance.

Coming across this article is timely.  Over the last few weeks I seem to have received a steady stream of image citation questions in my inbox. Some notifications originate in online groups and forums, some are emails sent to me directly. It’s a hot topic!  The images presented by questioners are rarely straight-forward, rarely textbook examples. I suppose if they were, there would be less doubt as to how to cite them, the questions would not be asked.  So it is good to find Weinraub’s article, if only to confirm the difficulties and the contradictory or missing advice.

Weinraub suggests confusion in the use of the terms caption and citation (which I would call “reference” – the location details which specify edition (etc) and enable retrieval). She also suggests differences, uncertainty and inconsistencies as to what might or should be included in these. She also notes Continue reading

Names will never hurt me (perhaps)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I am halfway through my next article but just had to come back to the theme of my last few posts, confusing terminology.

A post today on Int’l School Library Connection, a FaceBook group, asked whether and how IB MYP students writing their Personal Projects can include sources they have read but have not cited in their Projects.

Yes they can, and the advice is to include both a list of Works Cited (which includes a list of all the works cited in the text) and a separate Bibliography (comprising a list of all works used to inform the project).

In the course of the conversation, I looked up the MYP Projects Guide (March 2018 edition) which makes a very clear distinction. In the Glossary (page 61), we see: Continue reading

Bibliographical footnote

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This is a follow up to my last post None too sweet. There I discussed different understandings of the term “bibliography” – I said inter alia that different understandings of what this word means can confuse students and other writers, and may even underlie some instances of unintended plagiarism.

A week later, catching up on my reading, I came across a review of Jason Puckett’s  Zotero: a guide for librarians, researchers and educators by Keith Daniels in CILIP’s Information Professional (October 2018). My eye was caught by a paragraph which reads:

Published by the Association of College and Research Libraries, the book does have an American slant, using the terms “bibliography” to encompass what UK-based students and educators would usually refer to as “references” and teaching staff as “professors”.

It seems a curious point to pick up on in a short review, the use of “bibliography” instead of “references.”  But, given my background in international education, perhaps I have become less aware of such distinctions, or maybe more aware of different and other terms in different style guides and/or in different countries.

Is “references” a British usage?  Maybe.  Many British universities use varieties of Harvard.  Although there is no single definitive version of Harvard (as detailed in the three-part-post Harvard on my mind), they all use the term “References.”     Certainly, this is so at the University of Bedfordshire, the stated affiliation of Keith Daniels, the author of the review. The University’s page Using the correct referencing system suggests Continue reading

None too sweet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I have remarked before on possible problems raised by conflicting definitions and usages of the terms “reference” and “citation.”

Some style guides use the term “reference” to mean the short form in the text which links to what they call a “citation”, the full details in the list at the end; some call that short form in the text “citation” and use “reference” for the full details in the list at the end; some use both terms interchangeably; some use reference to mean the quotation (or paraphrase or summary) from someone else’s work, acknowledged with a short-citation in the text which links to the full citation at the end.

It makes for confusion. In workshops, I often tell Lori’s story:  her teacher kept reminding her to check that she had citations for all her sources and she thought she had … except that the teacher meant Continue reading

Rewrite Redraft Rework Revise Reword Rephrase … Refrain

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

My GoogleAlert has just presented me with an anonymous article (“By Guest Contributor”) posted on TechGenYZ, a media company which started just over three years ago (according to its About Us page). They claim,

Our core values are Integrity, Innovation, Quality, Honesty and Excellence.

Perhaps they need to apply these values to their guest contributors.

The article I was directed to carries the title Get unique content with the help of article rewriterIt is a review, of sorts, promoting use of Article Rewriter. This is an application developed by SmallSEOTools. As the name suggests, it rewrites text: it is a paraphrasing tool, a synonymizer.  The anonymous guest contributor claims that Article Rewriter will take text and rewrite it so that the content is totally original and plagiarism-free.  It is recommended for Continue reading

A critical criterion

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Over the last few weeks, The IB has been publishing Extended Essay reports for the May 2018 exams.  They are available for most subjects now.

I’ve been looking through them.  Some of them make sad reading, marks thrown away needlessly.  Most students should score in the top mark band for Criterion D, Presentation, at least for the elements of structural presentation.  And yet, and yet…  too many don’t.

Are the students who don’t get maximum points here careless?   Don’t they know what’s required? Are supervisors letting them down by not advising what to check?  Care here with that last though, of course:  supervisors are not permitted to tell students that the page number for (say) the Discussion section does not match the page number given on the Table of Contents page; they are permitted to advise students to check that numbers on the pages match those in the Table of Contents page.  The first situation is being specific and amounts to proof-reading and/or editing (neither of which are permitted); the second is general and generic, and advises the student to do the work of finding errors and correcting them.

Examiner comments regarding page-numbers bother me.  Not the comments themselves but Continue reading

Out of step footnotes – 2

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In recent weeks, I’ve been indulging a footnote fetish – last week’s post was part 1 of a 2-post mini-critique of the Chicago/Turabian style. I am almost over my obsession, just this last blast to go.  It’s a particularly pertinent piece for readers in IB schools, in that it focuses on inconsistencies in Turabian.  While they do  (are supposed to) accept any referencing style, IB examiners are well-concerned to have references and citations recorded completely and consistently within each individual assessment.  Given that IB requirements are sometimes inconsistent with the guidance of particular style guides, confusion can be compounded when the chosen style guide is inconsistent within itself.

[All references and scans used in this piece are from Turabian, 9th edition – more properly Kate L. Turabian’s A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers 9th. ed., University of Chicago, 2017.]

First, a general note, not specific to Turabian.  Turabian advises that many items should be cited in the text but not in the bibliography, for instance:

personal interviews, correspondence, blog posts and other social media, newspaper articles, reviews (of books, performances), well-known reference works, the Bible and other sacred works etc. etc.
(Turabian, section 16.2.3, lists many more…)

Turabian is not alone in suggesting that writers give details of certain types of source in the text but not in the bibliography; many style guides list exceptions to the general rule.  In all instances, when writing for IB, IB requirements overrule the advice of any style guide: if you cite it in the text, be sure to give a full reference in the list at the end.

Similarly, Turabian advises that Continue reading

Out of step footnotes – 1

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A couple of posts ago, I declared myself Not a friend of footnotes. I don’t like them as a reader, I don’t like them as a writer.

I appreciate that many, many people, readers and writers, do like footnotes and endnotes, and that’s fine with me. I’ll put up with them if what I read is interesting, I’ll use them as a writer if my editors demand them.  I’ll agree that they may well suit particular forms of writing and different media. But I do not like them.  In this post and the next, I’ll detail some of the reasons why I don’t like them, particularly as a writer.

[I’ve been told that my two-weeks-ago post was unfair. Here I described some of my problems as a reader, and I used some illustrations from Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens to make my point, illustrations I used in a workshop soon after. “But he’s not using endnotes properly!” I was told.  “He shouldn’t use several authors in one endnote, they should be distinct.”

[Far be it for me to suggest that Harari is using endnotes wrongly, especially as Turabian (9th ed.) states Continue reading

Transferable skills

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

If you were hoping for more thoughts on footnotes and endnotes this week, my apologies. The thoughts I had in mind are still to come.  This post is still about footnotes, but not quite what I thought I’d be saying.

The IB has begun posting the May 2018 DP subject reports in the Programme Resource Centre and I have spent some time this past week looking through them.

This is not something I do as a matter of course. I do look at the Extended Essay reports for all subjects – and eagerly await publication, they must surely be posted any day now. But I don’t follow the subject reports that carefully.

My look at the subject reports was impelled by a comment made in a workshop I led last week – a history teacher insistent that the subject guide for History says that students are required to use footnotes.  I was sure that the subject guide says no such thing; IB allows the use of any documentation system as long as Continue reading

Not a friend of footnotes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

There – I’ve made clear my bias, I’m not a fan of footnotes.  Or endnotes.

For one thing, they get in the way of my reading.   That’s ironic, in that one of the claimed virtues of footnotes is that they don’t get in the way of the reader, unnecessary details such as authorship or extra detail or explanation can be relegated to the foot of the page (or the end of the paper/ book).  If readers wish to follow up or find out more, the footnote is there to give the necessary information; if readers do not want to follow up, then they just carry on reading.  The Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale Universtity puts it this way, in a page titled Why Are there Different Citation Styles?

When developing a historical explanation from multiple primary sources, using footnotes instead of inserting parenthetical information allows the reader to focus on the evidence instead of being distracted by the publication information about that evidence. The footnotes can be consulted if someone wants to track down your source for further research.

If the writer thinks the author or the source cited is important, then that information can still be mentioned in the narrative in the text, with full details in the footnote. When the author or source is not considered important, why intrude on the flow of the reading?

While footnotes are often used in the humanities, especially history, they are often used in the sciences as well.  It could be that both disciplines deal in facts and a well-read reader in the field will know the facts, so don’t break up the reading.

Science isn’t all about facts, it’s about theories and ideas, thus the notion that knowing the team behind the research and the recency of the research makes author-date citation systems popular Continue reading

To quote or not to quote

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A couple of weeks ago, Nadine wrote a comment on my post Multiple confusion in which she noted, ” Not that encouraging direct quotations is best writing form, but at that age it’s probably more common.”

That got me thinking. When teaching citation and referencing, we often start with quotations.  Is this because it is easy to demonstrate, based on something that most students can and do already do?  When you copy-and-paste, you are using someone else’s exact words, you are quoting someone. When you quote someone, you need quotation marks. You use quotation marks around the copy-pasted words to show you are quoting, and you also say who that someone is, whose words you have borrowed.

From there we go on to say that, when you use your own words to put over someone else’s thoughts and ideas and findings, you need also to cite them;  they may be your own words but they are NOT your own thoughts.  You still need to say whose thoughts or ideas or findings you are using.

It’s a common complaint, that although most students know how and when to quote someone else’s material, it is when they paraphrase or summarise someone else’s work that they often forget that they need also to cite the source of that work.  It might be because they confuse using their own words with their own original words and ideas… they are using their own words so a citation is not necessary?

I won’t go too far down that track today. What I do want to do is to go back to Nadine’s comment, that “encouraging direct quotations” is not “best writing form.”  My first thought was, why then do we teach how to quote and cite?  But a second thought quickly followed Continue reading

Cite check

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I’ve just finished an online workshop for librarians. Good fun as usual and very worthwhile. The participants made really great strides over the four weeks and they knew it, they had so much new awareness by the end of the month.  it was very encouraging.

Many went beyond the bounds of the workshop readings to find information and opinion elsewhere, the spirit of inquiry was strong.  Many quoted from the articles they found – great!  Quite a few copied graphics and images from articles and other materials found – and most did not need to be reminded to cite the sources of those graphics as well as of the text.

But … perhaps because there were larger numbers of newcomers to librarianship on the course than usual, there seemed to be a rash of participants who would simply cite their images as “Google” or “Google Images” or present the Google image search URL.

That’s not helpful and it’s not right either. I would send a personal message Continue reading

Multiple confusion

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A question came up in Programme Communities in My IB just recently:

My student is using a book and a website as her primary sources about the organisation she is researching for her extended essay.  When there are several quotations or summaries from the same book or article, it is easy to show in the in-text citation from which page the quotation/ summary/ parahrase is taken.  What about the website, how does she indicate the different pages used from within the same website?  (This is a slightly edited version of the question as posed.)

I checked the manuals and was able to answer the question fairly quickly.  But it’s been bugging me, because the approaches taken by MLA and APA are very different.

APA style

Usually, I prefer APA to MLA. There are several reasons, one of which is that APA is nicely straightforward with its WHO-WHEN-WHAT-WHERE approach.  In this instance, though, I think the APA is confusing.

The answer is not spelt out in the Publications handbook so I checked Continue reading

Smile, please – it’s for real

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I came across this news item in the i newspaper (page 13 of the 29 August 2018 edition, a short article by John von Radowitz). The article reports on a study in which “Scientists showed 20 goats unfamiliar photos of the same human face looking happy or angry;”  they found that “goats preferred to interact with the smiling face.”

It sounds fun, it sounds odd, it almost sounds improbable.

Two things struck me immediately.  The first was that phrase, “unfamiliar photos.”  When you’re a goat, who’s to say whether a photo is familiar or unfamiliar?

The second was a memory – a memory of the academic paper Feline Reactions to Bearded Men.  You might remember it: the researchers claimed to have held cats in front of photos of bearded men and observed their reactions.  The paper suggests that ” Cats do not like men with long beards, especially long dark beards.”

The cats “paper” was first published in 1999, maybe earlier.  It is frequently used in website evaluation exercises to make students aware of web pages which look authentic but could be big hoaxes.

The name of the site – Improbable Research – is claimed as a warning signal (though as this is the site responsible for the annual Ig Nobel Prizes, a very real event, one might not be so sure). The biggest giveaway in the cats paper is probably the bibliography, which includes entries for Pat Boone, Madonna, Yul Brynner, Sinead O’Connor, Mary Quant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the if-only Dr Seuss (responsible for the paper “Feline Responses to Hats”).  How much of a giveaway, 20 years on, might be questionable; many of the names are probably unknown Continue reading

The memory hole gets deeper

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The news that the respected Forbes magazine published an opinion (op-ed) article by Panos Mourdoukoutas, Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University, with the title “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money” a few days ago is hardly news any more. It has been shared widely and commented on in the mainstream media and in social media too. It’s old news.

Mourdoukoutas’s argument is studded with dubious and irrelevant claims and arguments such as


(“Third places” like Starbucks) provide residents with a comfortable place to read, surf the web, meet their friends and associates, and enjoy a great drink. This is why some people have started using their loyalty card at Starbucks more than they use their library card…

Then there’s the rise of digital technology. Technology has turned physical books into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services…

Amazon Books is a chain of bookstores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local bookstore. It improves on the bookstore model by adding online searches and coffee shops. Amazon Go basically combines a library with a Starbucks…


The article concludes Continue reading


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

On 19 April 2016, Kendra Perkins wrote an article for the RefME blog with the title The CRAAP Test: An Easy & Fun Way to Evaluate Research Sources. RefME was taken over by Chegg and subsumed into the Cite This For Me service in 2017 and her original post is no longer available. Fortunately, you can still find the original post, preserved by the Wayback Machine (the Internet Archive).

Kendra had long been a fan of RefME and frequently recommended it in librarian listservs and forums such as iSkoodle. Towards the end of her RefME blog, she declared that she had compiled her list of References using the RefME referencing generator.

A year later, May 2017, Kendra posted an article in her own blog, The Inspired Librarian, a piece with the title Cite This for Me Changed my RefME Blog Post. Here she relates how her RefME post had been reposted on the Cite This For Me site. Her article now read: Continue reading

How many…?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It’s a fascinating and possibly pointless exercise, trying to work out how search engines work.  Although this article was inspired by a news story on beating (so-called) plagiarism detectors, I found myself more interested in what the story told us about Google and (presumably) other search engines.

The story starts withn an article in Hoax-Alert: Forget Russian Bots: Fake Native Americans Are Using Russian Characters To Avoid Fake News and Plagiarism DetectorsThe story relates how a number of websites which appear to be promoted by Native Americans are in fact sites originating in Kosovo and other countries. It seems that they are stealing content, disguising it (to escape similarity detectors) and getting away with it. The way they disguise the content is to substitute Cyrillic characters which look like Latin alphabet characters in text, in order to beat text-matching software.  The HoaxAlert story shows this illustration: Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 3

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

[In part 1 of this 3 part article we looked at Wineburg and McGrew’s study which suggests that a fresh look at the way we evaluate web pages and sites could be valuable.]
[In part 2, we looked at a rebuttal of Wineburg and McGrew’s study – and rebutted the rebuttal.]
[In this third part, we look at reasons why we may need a compromise between the “old” and the “new” ways of evaluating pages and sites online.]

In my last two posts, I discussed a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew into different methods of search-and-find as employed by three distinct groups, professional fact-checkers, professional historians and first-year undergraduates. The researchers found that the methods used and the thinking processes of the historians and the students were different to the strategies and the thinking processes of the fact-checkers – and that the methods used by these historians and the students could be among the reasons why many of them made incomplete analyses of the sites visited and made flawed conclusions.

In one particular task, a comparison and evaluation of two articles both of which dealt with bullying, the researchers found that historians and students tended to spend much time considering the actual articles before they moved elsewhere; some never left the target sites, some left them to look elsewhere. By contrast, the fact-checkers spent very little time on the target pages – sometimes just seconds; they all quickly looked elsewhere, often outside the publishing sites. That is not necessarily (at least in my eyes) a concern. What does concern is that the evaluations made by the two groups were very different. Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 2

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In part 1 of this three-part article, I discussed a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew into different methods of search-and-find as employed by three distinct groups, professional fact-checkers, professional historians and first-year undergraduates.  The researchers found that the methods used and the thinking processes of the historians and the students were different to the strategies and the thinking processes of the fact-checkers – and that the methods used by these historians and the students could be among the reasons why many of them made incomplete analyses of the sites visited and made flawed conclusions.

The three groups were asked to complete six tasks in timed conditions. The findings and ensuing discussion are detailed in the paper Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information.

In this earlier post (Not just CRAAP – 1), I invited readers to try one of the tasks for themselves. If you haven’t already done this, it might be a good idea to try before reading on here.

The task asked participants to imagine they looking for information on bullying, and describe their thought processes as they considered two particular articles on two different websites.  The articles were Bullying at School: Never Acceptable on the site of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds – the College) and then  Stigma: At the Root of Ostracism and Bullying on the site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP – the Academy).

Participants were allowed to look elsewhere on the sites and anywhere else online that they wished.  They had to decide which website was the more reliable and trustworthy.

What the researchers found was that Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 1

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Over the weekend, a newsletter item in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention, One way to fight fake news by Dan Berrett and Beckie Supiano.  It was originally published in November 2017;  I’ve got behind in my reading.

The item reports on a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew.  Wineburg and McGrew compared the search habits and evaluation techniques of three different groups, professional historians, professional fact-checkers, and students at Stanford University.  They found that :

  • the historians and the students mostly used very different techniques of search and evaluation to the techniques of the fact-checkers;
  • the historians and the students could not always find the information they were asked to search for;
  • the historians and the students took longer to decide on the validity and reliability of the sites they were asked to look at;
  • most disturbingly, the historians and the students came by-and-large to diametrically opposite conclusions to those of the fact-checkers as to the validity and reliability of the various sites; the two groups could not both be right.

Before reading further, you might want to try an approximation of one of the tasks undertaken by the participants (there were six tasks in all, in timed conditions). Continue reading