Consistently inconsistent?

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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 that when example captions and citations are given, they are often for known artworks, not necessarily the kind of images used or the type of sources used by school and college students, especially in presentations and posters as against formal academic papers.

Weinraub’s distinction between caption and citation/ reference is useful. The caption for the image is placed with the image; it might be below, above or at the side of the image on the page; it serves to provide details about the image including title and artist/creator, and perhaps other information which can add to one’s understanding of the images.  The citation/ reference, on the other hand, should enable the reader to locate the image itself and/or the source that the writer used, be that gallery, book or periodical, website, and so on. Sometimes, she notes, style guides recommend that the citation/ reference is merged into the caption.

The main purpose of Weinraub’s paper is to advocate a common citation standard along with plentiful examples of captions and citations/ references for different types of images in all style guides – certainly in MLA and Chicago, her particular concerns in this paper.  She is especially critical of MLA8, which provides very few examples indeed.  Nor is it just images: it’s other kinds of non-narrative text as well, graphical representations such as maps and charts and graphs and tables and so on.

I am sympathetic to Weinraub’s plea – but not sure of the practicalities. it becomes difficult for the style guides to keep up with the many new apps and formats and the very creativity of those who make images (especially if we take this further to include other forms of illustration and presentation generally).  We could end up with many many examples for many many situations, and still be playing catch-up.  This is one of the reasons why the Modern Language Association (MLA) gave up trying to provide examples of any and every kind of source a writer might need to document, and instead offers principles which will guide the compilation of citations and references, principles which will guide in any situation.   More on this below.

A problem for the user of style guides: when faced with too many examples, the user may find it difficult to find the exact example that matches the current situation – which includes the intended audience for the paper or presentation in which the image is used.  In a Visual Arts essay, the size of a painting can be important, as can the medium used, the materials used, the techniques used and more. If it’s a photograph being discussed, then exposure details such as the lens used, the aperture, the speed, the filters, the time of day or year, any digital effects used, and so on might be important.  Such details will ideally be provided in the caption alongside the image, there for the interested reader at point of use because they add to our understanding.

These additional details might be of less significance if the painting is used, for instance, in a History essay or the photograph in a Geography paper.  They might not be needed at all if the image is used in a paper or a presentation in which they are illustrations rather than of textual importance. Audience and purpose present variables, examples of details to be included in captions cannot cover all combinations and situations.

Captions are used to increase our understanding, along with the Fig. numbers which allow quick reference to particular illustrations in the course of the text.  Citations/ references, on the other hand, give us location details. They tell us where to find the painting, the gallery in which it hangs or the web page on which the image used was found, the database or collection, the article in which the photograph or chart can be found, and so on. Again, the  variables are many.  It strikes me that MLA8’s notion of containers can be used to build a reference – whatever the actual style guide being followed.  Start with the image itself (creator and title) and work outwards in whatever type of source material is used.

[More on the notion of containers can be found in my post, Back to basics – MLA8 revisited – or try the Noodletools tutorial, How to teach MLA8 containers.]

This distinction between caption and location details is helpful, and is also very much in line with the principles of MLA8, especially principles 2 and 3:

Remember that there is often
more than one correct way to document a source.
Make your documentation useful to your readers.
(MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 4).

For those who need it, a checklist approach might help, a list of features and information about different types of image, something similar to the table on the last few pages of Effective citing and referencing (downloadable from the IB’s Digiital Toolkit : Brochures, flyers and posters : General Materials).  Writers could then decide which of the listed features can be identified in regard to the image they are working with and then which of these are necessary and/or helpful for their readers.  Indeed, this could apply to any kind of source material, not just images – as in the Digital Toolkit brochure. 

Once those elements which will be helpful to readers have been identified, for captions and/or for citations/references, the “rules” of the style guide can be applied, Upper Case or lower case, titles in quotation marks or titles in italics, medium, size, materials, location, and so on and so on.

Ideally, such a checklist will serve as temporary support or scaffolding for students new to a subject. As they learn the conventions and are exposed to the literature of the subject, as good examples of captions and references are discussed with them (and poor examples too), so they will gain awareness of what is helpful, why it can be helpful to know the details used. They might become more discriminating, aware when details are missing and they ache to know them the better to understand what they are looking at. It would need to be understood that the checklist cannot be comprehensive, cannot cover every type of image or illustration or audience and so on; it is for the writer to extrapolate and decide: “What will help my readers?”

In short, distinguish between caption and location.  In the caption, as well as stating the creator of the image and the title, give as many or as few details as necessary for the reader to understand and appreciate the image – and link the caption with the reference, which gives the location details.  Make it helpful, make it useful.

Names will never hurt me (perhaps)

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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:

Bibliography: An alphabetical list of every source used to research the project.

List of references: An alphabetical list of only those sources that are cited in the presentation or report.

That strikes me as simple, easy to follow, easy to distinguish between the two kinds of list.

So why, I ask myself, is the definition used in the Extended Essay Guide so difficult – and saying (perhaps) the almost exact opposite?

We read:

A bibliography is an alphabetical list of every source used to research and write the essay.

and we read:

The bibliography must list only those sources cited.

And in between those two directly contradictory statements is the advice:

Sources that are not cited in the body of the essay but were important in informing the approach taken should be cited in the introduction or in an acknowledgment.

For IB MYP students, a bibliography includes all sources, whether cited or not.
For IB DP students, a bibliography includes only the sources which are cited in the text.

It is as confusing as the advice in the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed) which, as I noted in my last post Bibliographical footnote, uses the term “Bibliography” to refer both to a list which includes only the works cited in the text (on the one hand) and also a list which includes works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text (on the other hand) (CMOS17, section 14.64, note 1).

APA6 is almost as confusing in that it advises writers to:

Choose references judiciously and include only the sources that you used in the research and preparation of the article. APA journals and other journals using APA style generally require reference lists, not bibliographies … Because a reference list includes only references that document the article and provide recoverable data, do not include in the list personal communications, such as letters, memoranda, and informal electronic communications. Instead, cite personal communications only in the text (page 180).

This appears first to suggest that all materials used in the research are included in the list of References but then says that the reference list is not a bibliography – which a footnote tells us “cites works for background or for further reading” whereas the reference list “cites works that specifically support a particular article.”

APA’s preference for non-retrievable data to be cited in the text but not included in the list of references may be sensible for readers of journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA) but should be disregarded by writers of IB assessments; IB wants that

citation <<< >>> reference

linkage (and failure to comply could lead to loss of marks and/or referral to the Awards Committee as a case of potential academic misconduct).

For sanity’s sake, my sanity, MLA8 makes clear distinction, worth adapting and/or adopting:

The list titled “Works Cited” identifies the sources you borrow from – and therefore cite – in the body of your research project. Works that you consult during your research but do not borrow from are not included (if you want to document them as well and your instructor approves their inclusion, give the list a broader title such as “Works Consulted”) (page 20).

What all this adds up to (for those in IB schools) is that

1: we must be very clear in our use of these terms – don’t assume that our students have the same understanding that we do;

2: when IB requirements contradict the suggestions in style guides, we should ignore the style guide and give IB what IB is looking for.



Bibliographical footnote

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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 that unless otherwise required by specific courses and departments, UB’s default referencing style is Harvard – and References is the name given to their list of references in their Harvard Referencing Guidelines for Students. It could be all to easy to think this is The-Right-Way-And-Perhaps-The-Only-Way to title the list of references that comes at the end of an article or paper.

In double-checking my thoughts about Harvard’s widespread use across UK, I came across a FAQ in the Bath Spa University guide BSU Harvard Referencing System which contrasts with Turabian’s unhelpful advice (as detailed in None too sweet), that the term “Bibliography” can refer not only to a list which includes only the works cited in the text but also a list which includes both works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text. *

What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?
Technically, a bibliography lists all the sources of information you have accessed in the course of your study about the topic, while a reference list will only list the sources you actually refer to in your in-text citations. HOWEVER…it is common for people to use the term ‘bibliography’ when they really mean a reference list. Check with your tutor if you are unsure whether to include sources in the reference list that you have not explicitly referred to using an in-text citation.

So there we are. The most helpful advice then, be aware that the term “bibliography” may cause confusion, so be clear what you mean when you use the term, be sure that your reader/ listener has the same understanding and, if assessment and grades are involved, seek clarification.

* I have since confirmed that the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, on which Turabian’s manual is based, uses the term “Bibliography” in its bibliography-notes style to refer not only to a list which includes only the works cited in the text (on the one hand) but also for a list which includes both works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text (on the other hand) (see CMOS17, section 14.64, note 1).


None too sweet

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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

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 Continue reading

Out of step footnotes – 1

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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

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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

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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

Cite check

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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

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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 Continue reading