Out of step footnotes – 2

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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 (for the footnoting style), the bibliography may be optional – check with the supervisor or organisation.  IB requires bibliographies (lists of references/ lists of works cited), no two ways about it.

I have to say that, as a reader, I do like a bibliography;  it can be useful to see how many times specific authors have  been mentioned. It can be illuminating to see how prolific specific authors are, it can be a guide to the authorities in a particular topic, it can show how reliant the author of the piece in hand is on particular authors.  If I know something about the subject, I can quickly see for myself how widely the author has traversed, whether different views have been considered in the discussion, whether the authors I know of have been considered.  If I come across a short footnote (author, short title only) as when full details have been given in an earlier footnote, I can use the bibliography to learn more – the date of publication is most likely to be my interest here.

These exceptions are not a problem for me. But they are not the only ones. And I know that, for the most common types of source, Chicago comes; with practice, the main patterns are learned.  It helps, both as writer and reader, when the reasons for the different practices are explained and understood, for instance, the conversational nature of footnotes (single sentence, firstname lastname order and so on), or knowing how to distinguish article titles from main titles.  Once understood, the signals can be helpful.

Too often, however, there is need to look up particular types of source.  Consistency is sometimes inconsistent, this is not an intuitive system.  This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.  It is an advantage when there is an element of option, the writer can choose what best suits the writing.  But when there is no element of option, it is a disadvantage and the lack of consistency can confuse, hinder the memorising of the format required:

Article titles, for instance: if the article is in English, we should use Title Case With Every Main Word in Upper Case

– but this is not the case with articles not in English:  for these, we should use Sentence case with only the first word in upper case – except any words normally in upper case in the language, such as Nouns in German;  what’s more, if the writer includes a translation of the article title, this too is in Sentence case.

It’s a niggly point – but especially in international schools, our students may well use articles written in their own tongue rather than in English, they may well translate the title of their own-language articles into English for the benefit of English-speaking examiners.

There are inconsistencies too in the advice given for journals (p. 187 ff) magazine articles (p. 191), and newspaper articles (p. 192).

The advice for Magazine articles starts

Articles in magazines are cited much like journal articles … but date and page numbers are treated differently…

while page numbers can be ignored when using newspapers on the grounds that

a newspaper may have several editions in which items may appear on different pages.

That’s true, of course, but not necessarily true only of newspapers. I once had huge problems reconciling a print edition of The Economist magazine in my hand with the reference given in an Ebsco database – until I realised that Ebsco used the Canadian edition of the magazine and my print edition was the London edition.

It may make sense to someone versed in Turabian – but for IB examiners looking for consistency, it’s a minefield, and students are not necessarily aware.

In short the differences here are:

for a journal: include the source in the bibliography, include the volume/issue details and date and page numbers; use specific page number/s in the citation in the text;

for a magazine: Include the source in the bibliography, but not volume/issue details and not the page numbers; use specific page number/s in the citation in the text;

for a newspaper: it is not always necessary to include the source in the bibliography; specific page number/s are not used in the in-text citation.

Now that’s intuitive, easy to remember, isn’t it?  (No, it isn’t.)

And then there’s the case of oft-repeated citations.  The advice is, first time of use, use a footnote but if use of the source is frequent, subsequent citations can be in footnotes or in parentheses, it’s up to the writer.

Nor is it clear whether the citation has to be in parentheses or if, for variety or perhaps for emphasis or to demonstrate authority, the writer wants to use the citation in the text.  Is an in-text citation such as “According to Smith and Wesson, ‘…..'” accepted as a citation in Turabian style (I suspect not) or must the citation appear as an after-thought parenthetical citation “(Smith and Wesson)”?

Turabian (and Chicago?) is confusing and inconsistent enough to cause angst and confusion.  It may be a good thing that IB’s requirements out-rank any advice given in style guides, else confusion could well be complete.

Just to sum up my views (and I accept that Chicago/Turabian has its fans and they are entitled to their preferences), I do not like footnoting systems. I do not like them as a writer. I do not like them as a reader.

I’ve had my rant. Thank you.

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