Multiple confusion

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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 on the always reliable APA style blog: in How to Cite Multiple Pages From the Same Website, Timothy McAdoo advises that the reference list would be on the lines of:

Name of Organisation. (n.d.-a). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (n.d.-b). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (n.d.-c). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (n.d.-d). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page

(In my answer on the forum, I added that IB requires the Date accessed after the URL so advised that the student be sure to include it.)

In the text, the parenthetical citation would be (Name of Organisation, n.d.-a) or just (n.d.-a) if the organisation is named in the text.

In response to comments on the article, McAdoo advises that the hyphen in the date is not used is not used if the date is known – it is used only when there is no date found. In other words,

Name of Organisation. (2018a). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (2018b). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (2018c). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page
Name of Organisation. (2018d). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL of page

I think – for secondary school students – this is nit-pickingly troublesome.  I’ll probably get criticised, but I would not be upset if a student had (2018-a) and (2018-b) … as long as this was done consistently throughout the essay and in the reference list.

MLA style

For once, the MLA approach may be more straight-forward.

In the MLA Style Centre’s Ask the MLA pages, in an unsigned response in to the question Do I need to create a works-cited-list entry for each Web page that I am using from the same Web site? the advice is to use the title of each page separately in the Works Cited list and to use a shortened form of the page title in the in-text citation, along the lines of

“First page.” Name of Organisation, date, URL of page.
“Fourth page.” Name of Organisation, date, URL of page.
“Second page.” Name of Organisation, date, URL of page.
“Third page.” Name of Organisation, date, URL of page.

In the text, the citations would be (“First”), (“Second”), (“Third”) and so on.

The example given in the MLA Style pages is

The advice is also given not to cite the entire web-site and cross-refer, as one would with poems or short stories from a print anthology.

It seems a more simple approach than that suggested for APA style.

My reservations about APA’s date formatting aside, I see advantages and disadvantages to both forms suggested.  One major advantage of APA is that it keeps all references to the same website together in the alphabetical list of References.  The reader can quickly gauge how much use has been made of the same source. This is not so easy in the MLA’s list of Works Cited – the entries are separate in the alphabetical list.

However, using the title of the page in MLA in-text citations tells the reader where one is in the website, it gives a sense of place or direction.  This awareness is lost in the APA in-text citation, the (Organisation, date-letter) citation tells us nothing – although the author is free to include the name of the page in the text if this is felt helpful.

Are there other advantages and disadvantages? I am still pondering.

Chicago/ Turabian footnote-bibliography style

I did not mention Chicago in my response to the question on My IB. For the sake of completeness, I took a look at Chicago as I wrote this blog post.

I have to admit, I dislike Chicago/ Turabian footnoting because it requires writers to learn two different styles of referencing. When so many students in our schools and colleges have difficulty learning to use one style with consistency and completeness, learning two different styles seems to be added torture, overload.  There are added twists to Chicago which sometimes make me wonder if Chicago sets out to be especially unhelpful to writers and to readers too.  It’s almost as if you have to know the answer before you know the question

What I found following up the My IB query is that, sure enough, Chicago/ Turabian requires two different styles – plus…

There’s the style for footnoting in the text:

1.  “First Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.
2.  “Second Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.
3.  “Third Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.
4.  “Fourth Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.

There’s an added twist with Chicago/ Turabian. If the date of publication is not known, then you use the date of access instead:

5.  “Fifth Page,” Name of Organisation, accessed month day, year, URL

[IB, of course, requires both publication date AND date of access. Let’s leave discussion of that for another time.]

Now, in APA and MLA, the in-text citation links directly to the reference.

Thus APA:

(Name of Organisation, n.d.-a)

in the text links directly to

Name of Organisation. (n.d.-a). Title of the page. Retrieved from URL

in the list of References.

Thus MLA:

(“First”)

in the text links directly to

“First page.” Name of Organisation, date, URL of page.

in the list of Works Cited.

Not so, Chicago/ Turabian.

Here,

1.  “First Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.

does NOT link straightforwardly to

       Name of Organisation. “First Page.” Publication Date. URL.

in the Bibliography.

The order of elements is different. The punctuation is different.  And (to my mind, worst of all) the link is indirect.

Our alphabetical Bibliography would run:

Name of Organization. “Fifth Page.” Accessed month day, year. URL
——  “First Page.”  Publication Date. URL.
——  “Fourth Page,” Publication Date. URL.
——  “Second Page.” Publication Date. URL.
——  “Third Page.” Publication Date. URL.

As if this is not enough, subsequent uses of the same page use a shortened footnote:

1.  “First Page,” Name of Organisation, Publication Date, URL.
……. …… …….
6.  Name of Organisation. “First Page.”

There is a disconnect between the first footnote (on the one hand) and subsequent uses of the same page and with the bibliography (on the other).

[The above thoughts are based on the advice from Turabian … Citation Quick Style Guide : Notes and Bibliography: Sample Citations, supplemented by guidance in Turabian: A manual for Writers 9th ed., section 17.5.1 (page 194).

With all that, it may be invidious to mention another issue (that I have) with footnote and endnote styles.  I’ll go ahead anyway. One reason often put forward for use of footnotes is that in author and author-date styles, the in-text citation affects readability;  parenthetical citations especially disturb the flow.  In footnoting, the footnote signal (especially when it is a superscript number) is almost invisible, it does not disturb the flow of the reader.

Except that it does. Sometimes the superscript number 1 is printed so faintly that it is not appreciated until one gets to the bottom of the page and one puzzles as to what is being referenced.  Even when it isn’t faint 2, one looks to the bottom of the page to check on the footnote – and then cannot find the way back to that number in the text.  It can be even worse when, as in books, the notes are at the end of the chapter or the end of the book, and one is sent flicking from one page to another and back again.

Helping the reader

I have long held that a major purpose of citation and referencing is to help the writer AND to help the reader. They help the writer reading someone else’s work, they help the reader reading the writer’s work. Principle 3 of MLA8 spells it out: Make your documentation useful to readers (MLA Handbook, 8th ed. 4).

I’m not sure how helpful the MLA or the APA suggestions are with regard to multiple pages from the same website, It could depend on the reader, and different readers read with different purposes in mind; the teacher or examiner may read differently to someone reading for interest.

But Chicago/ Turabian, it seems to me, almost gets the best of both styles – and then complicates it, for both writer and reader

I think, overall, I prefer the APA approach but would, in practice, mention the title of the page as well as the organisation name in the text, and use their (date-letter) parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence or paragraph.  That, I suggest, keeps to the spirit of the style while helping the reader – and anything which helps the reader helps the writer

What do you think?

[Typo corrected and a title italicised, 21 Sept. 2018.]

3 thoughts on “Multiple confusion

  1. I too vastly prefer APA to MLA, mainly because I like the in-text “author, date” format because to me currency is very important – particularly as students like to rely on google rather than up to date journal articles (that are usually behind the research friction of paywalls).
    I think there is a further element to using multiple pages of APA websites in the context of direct quotation and that is having to cite the paragraph within the page so for example you’d be saying:

    In the text, the parenthetical citation would be: “direct quotation from the page” (Name of Organisation, n.d.-a, para. 6) or just (n.d.-a, para. 6) if the organisation is named in the text.

    Not that encouraging direct quotations is best writing form, but at that age it’s probably more common.

    • It’s a good point, thank you, Nadine.

      Both APA and MLA suggest including section names and/or paragraph numbers in the text when citing material without page numbers found online. It helps readers pinpoint the place in the text from which the quotation (or paraphrase or summary) is taken.

      That’s another advantage over Chicago/Turabian notes, writers are not advised to include such detail, the web-page address is seen as help enough.

      Your point about the date in the APA format is well-taken : another reason for my (our) preference for APA: if you use the author’s name (or the page title or other indicator) as you start a paraphrase and the date (in parentheses) at the end, it is very clear where the paraphrase starts and ends. Without this device (as with MLA), it can be difficult to discern this in student writing, distinguishing between someone else’s thoughts and the writer’s own thoughts.

      There is of course nothing to prevent an MLA user from including the date in the text if it is felt to be important, as in:

      A study in 2015 found that … … … (Johnson).
      J

  2. Pingback: To quote or not to quote | Honesty, honestly…

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